Dear Foreign Seniors: If there were one piece of advice I could give to you, it would be to avoid putting all your proverbial eggs in one basket. As you approach the midpoint of your last year as sheltered undergraduates at Yale, it is important to have many options to choose from while deciding how to spend your first year as alumni. Out of personal experience, I encourage you to apply for jobs or to graduate schools in more than just one country. Do not only apply to American schools or American firms, especially if your student visa will expire on graduation (as mine did).
If your visa will expire this summer, you have up to 60 days to leave the country. Otherwise, you will be overstaying and could face the threat of deportation. When you return back to your home country in order to reapply for a visa, there is no guarantee that your visa application will be processed by the U.S. consulate in time for you to return to America in the fall. The consular officers may tell you that your visa will take an average of 45 days, but they offer no guarantees. Initially, only Arab or Muslim students applying for visas faced the delays. Today, everyone must wait indefinitely.
When I applied for my new student visa on June 24 (the earliest date that I could), I was told to come back to the consulate on July 26 to pick up my stamped passport. It is almost December and yet I remain without a visa for reasons beyond comprehension. The FBI still needs to give the State Department a security clearance before the U.S. consulate in Beirut, Lebanon, can issue my visa. So far I’ve missed a semester of my first-year doctoral program in financial economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, I really did not need to go through all this aggravation, and neither should you. It would have been far easier for me to apply to schools in the United Kingdom (London School of Economics, Oxford, Cambridge) or Canada (McGill, Concordia) and get a student visa from the British or Canadian consulates.
In the end, MIT was and still remains my first choice among all schools offering the program I’m interested in. For reasons that should be clear to you, American schools appealed to me far more than European schools. Why else did you and I decide to spend four years as undergraduates at Yale? Despite the strong appeal of American graduate schools and jobs, I urge you to maintain a backup plan in case you end up unable to return to America next fall. The post-Sept. 11, 2001 procedures at the State Department might cause you to waste a semester or year of your life. Don’t become a victim of senseless bureaucratic delays. Broaden your horizons and keep your options open.
Fadi Kanaan ’02 is the former vice president of the International Students Organization.