The US State Department’s visa restriction policy against several categories of Bangaladeshi nationals is, seemingly, having an effect among authorities in countries that are strategically aligned with America – in this case Australia.
Mohammad Azizur Rahman (name changed), a 21-year-old Bangladeshi student who secured admission to a three-year Bachelor of Business Enterprise programme at the Southern Cross University in New South Wales, Queensland, was denied visa by the Australian authorities on September 25. Rahman had applied for visa on September 13.
The ground for rejection of Rahman’s visa application, which was for a “Student (Temporary) (Class TU) Student (subclass 500) visa”, was: “The applicant did not satisfy the provisions of the Migration Regulations 1994”. This decision was made by the Australian Department of Home Affairs. Rahman was made aware of “detailed information” related to the visa rejection decision.
A resident of Barishal district, Rahman’s dream of being a student in Australia, where he could possibly have found firmer feet in the future, has clearly been dashed. The timing of his visa application was certainly not propitious as his country of birth remains under tremendous pressure from the US authorities who have initiated punitive action against several categories of Bangladeshi individuals suspected to be involved in vitiating the democratic and electoral processes in that country.
What may have added to the visa rejection blow was Rahman’s credentials as a prospective student. He secured a cumulative average score of 6 for the English Language Testing System (IELTS) test which he had taken on May 27 this year. Besides, he was also informed that he had been “granted eligibility for our Merit Based Scholarship” which entitled him to “receive an $8000 Scholarship for the first year (6 terms) of your enrolment provided” he “met the requirements outlined in the Terms and Conditions”.
The impact of the US visa restriction policy on Bangladeshi individuals was recently felt in Canada too and at least two months before the American decision actually began to be implemented on the ground. In July this year, Dhaka University vice-chancellor Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman’s visa application at the Canadian high commission in the Bangladesh capital was reportedly rejected, making him one of the first academics who could not travel to that country.
Although the Canadian mission in Dhaka clarified that its decision not to grant visa to Professor Akhtaruzzaman was an outcome of the US visa restriction policy, first announced in May 2023, speculation mounted among Bangladeshis about the potential impact of the American move on academia which seemingly was not involved in overt political activities or was linked to activities that could potentially prejudice or impact the electoral process.