The Problem with International Student Visas

Amy Suiter is an American student in her second year of the MFA. She spends her time writing a novel, juggling the PG Cert and a part-time job, and trying to cut down to two cups of coffee per day. She occasionally finds time for random musings on her blog, A Minnesota Yankee. Today, she explains the visa difficulties that international students face and considers the effect this situation has on UK higher education.


Of all the issues I have battled as an international student – adjusting to a new culture, shopping, weather, and finances – none has caused me more stress and anxiety than my ongoing need for a visa. Even working out my exorbitant fees as an overseas student does not compare to the energy and effort I have had to expend to live and work in the United Kingdom legally.

This, I believe, is a horrible shame.

International students have been said to bring along their own set of issues, three in particular: ‘Socio-cultural adjustment…Language…[and] Learning/teaching problems due to “culture”’ (Biggs, 2003, pp.121-122). Despite these issues, I believe studying abroad should be encouraged across the globe, both to develop the lives and minds of the students, but also to inspire growth and new ideas in teachers.

Anything that adds to the difficulties that are already ubiquitous amongst foreign students is foolish. While it may not be the fault of any particular university that many countries present rigorous visa applications, something may still be done to lessen the burden. My course leader has offered to write a letter to the UK Border Agency, for example. He is an American legal resident of the UK, and faced none of these problems when he originally came into this country.

International students bring in revenue. We are charged twice as much for our fees on average, sending hundreds of thousands of dollars into the coffers of universities each year. Losing overseas students due to impossible visa regulations is a mistake that universities can ill afford.

Teachers and staff would do well to take a stand against making life any more difficult for international students. The development of their own minds and teaching methods, as well as the cultural scope of the next generation, may depend on it.


Biggs, J. (2003) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 2nd Edition. Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press.


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