The following are some guidelines to ensure that you have a smooth and successful student visa application.
It takes time to get a student visa and study in the United States but the process itself is quite easy. It’s also worth all the effort of course. The amount of student visas issued by the United States was up significantly last year.
While it can be confusing to navigate the process for international students and exchange visitors to get their visa, hundreds of thousands of students meet the requirements to get their visas. Some 471,712 F-1 student visas were issued last year, and now 1,208,074 students are housed in the United States with F and M visas.
After being accepted as a full-time student by a college, university, or English language school, you will receive an I-20 form, which is how one applies for the F-1 visa. If you are an exchange visitor, then you will receive a DS-2019 form by the organization or US Government Agency sponsoring you. This is the application form for a J-I visa.
Head on over to usaembassy.gov to view the website for the United States Embassy or Consulate for your country and read about Nonimmigrant Visas. Head to the visas section and learn more about how to apply for a Nonimmigrant Visa.
First: The first thing that will happen is that you will receive a form from the university or school that says you have been accepted at an institute that is authorized by the US Citizenship and Naturalization Service (USCIS) to enrol a non-immigrant student through an F-1 visa (I-20 form) or a J-1 visa (DS-2019 form). Read through the form and sign it.
Make sure that the name and spelling on your passport matches the name and spelling on the application for acceptance to the school, and that the school has entered your name exactly as it is entered on the I-20 or DS-2019 form.
The names of applicants must be submitted for security clearance. Citizens of certain countries and students taking certain subjects at university may be subjected to additional screenings that could take a few weeks to process. This is why it’s so important that you apply for your visa well within time just in case.
Second: Book a visa interview appointment and pay any related fees. A revision to the regulations mean that student visas may be issued up to 120 days before the start date on the I-20 form. An exchange visitor visa may be issued any time before the data from the DS-2019 form. Apply for the visa as soon as you possibly can.
Each American embassy has their own website with instructions on how to book an appointment for a visa interview, along with additional information about the visa application process. Find the website for your country and embassy by visiting www.usembassy.gov
You can also learn how long you can expect to wait for a visa from your country at the website. Those applying for international student visas should be considered a priority by the embassy or consulate if your program of study begins soon, so make sure to explain all of this during the visa application.
You may want to contact or visit the US Department of State-Affiliated Education or USA Advising Center Office for your country. These can be found throughout the world and can be found at educationusa.info. The staff with these centers will explain to applicants where they can pay visa fees and how to schedule an interview.
There will be a US$200 fee, which will suppor the cost of the computer system for recording your stay in the United States (SEVIS). This fee can be paid with an internationally valid credit card. Head to FMJFEE to pay these fees. Make sure that you print out a receipt for the payment. The SEVIS fee should be paid at least three days before the visa interview. Take the copy of your receipt with you to this interview.
There is another fee – this one for US$160 – for the visa application fee for your country. This can be paid at a bank designated by the Embassy or at the Embassy/Consulate itself. The website of the US Embassy in your country will have additional information on where you can pay your visa application fee.
Third: The United States changed the non-immigrant visa application form. The new form is the DS-160 and it must be completed online. The form has replaced any other form. Learn more about how to complete the form and find links to it at state.gov
The DS-109 form must be completed entirely online. Once again, make sure that your name is ordered and spelled on the form just how it is in your passport. You will then print the form out and take it with you to the Embassy for your visa interview.
A part of the DS-170 application process is uploading a photo of yourself. The photo should meet the requirements set out in the Photograph Requirements section at travel.state.gov
If you are unable to upload your photo then you should bring it with you to the interview and hand it over there.
Fourth: Begin preparing for your visa interview. You must apply for the visa well before the studies are set to begin. Try to apply three months before you will be travelling to the United States. This ensures you have enough time if there are delays with the embassy, or if you are denied and wish to appeal the decision.
Make sure to dress properly. The interview should be considered a formal event, meaning it’s appropriate to wear business attire. First impressions count for a lot, because you may not have much time to discuss things with the officer, who has just a few minutes to hold the interview and make the decision.
Be ready to provide information as quickly and completely as possible. If you aren’t able to answer questions in English, and the visa officer isn’t able to speak your language, then ask for an interpreter. You don’t need to be able to speak English to receive a student visa. Many students enter the United States and learn how to speak English in the country.
The visa officer will need to be provided with your specific academic and professional objectives for studying in the United States. Understand you will have to explain why the United States is a better place for you to study than your home country. Explain what you are going to study, what career you hope to have, and how you will be prepared for this by studying in the United States. Be clear, concise, and calm when explaining your education plans.
If you’re entering the states to learn English before pursuing your degree then you have to explain the complete program of study. Just saying that studying in the United States is better won’t be enough. Give clear and valid reasons why studying in the US would be better for you. A visa office will want to hear honest and direct responses to their questions. They don’t respond well to students that offer vague answers, are giving clearly memorized speeches, or make comments about how great the United States is.
You will be expected to clearly explain why you picked the specific school to study at and provide information about the school and your living arrangements; whether it’s a dorm, a host family, or an apartment.
If you have to return home to complete your university studies once you study English in the United States, then bring proof that you are a student in your home country. It helps if you have a letter from a university professor that supports your study plan. It’s only natural for young people to be unsure of their future plans, no matter where they live. Even so, it’s best to always give definitive answers in a visa interview. If you are unsure about what you’re going to do, then it may leave the visa officer believing you have other reasons for wanting to enter the United States.
Your grades will certainly make a difference. If you have below-average grades, then you’re going to be expected to explain how you plan to succeed in the United States. A letter from a teacher or school director, or from the United States school that explains the proposed study plan for the United States, as well as what makes you a good prospect for success, can be of great help. If there are contributing factors for the poor grade – such as a death in the family – then make sure the school explains these circumstances.
The US Department of State (DOS) implemented and online tool for non-immigrant and immigrant visa applicants to check the current status of their application. Find it at state.gov