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A group of Democratic senators are asking the State Department to "do everything it can to expeditiously process student visas" and provided 10 recommendations for streamlining processing in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent last week.

The senators, led by Senator Alex Padilla from California, said the State Department needs to provide predictable and consistent consular services, provide waivers and virtual interviews to maximize alternatives to in-person visa interviews, extend visa eligibility waivers, increase hiring and authorize staff overtime, and meaningfully engage with outside stakeholders and agencies.

"We are at a critical point in the academic calendar when international students and scholars must make visa appointments and plan their travel to the United States," the senators wrote. "While some U.S. consulates are reopening, most are still operating at lower capacity levels, and there remains limited access to visa appointments. Prospective students cannot be certain about whether their visas will be processed in time for them to travel to the United States to begin their studies."

The letter invites a conversation between lawmakers and the State Department about how Congress can help clear the backlog of student visas and asks the department to describe how it plans to address their concerns.