US student Visa procedure
Obtaining a visa while applying to pursue an International degree, is just one of the many procedures that need to be done. Although many students don't know much about the process and learn it only once the need arises, you can get an edge over them by knowing all the details much in advance.
Although you might think that the process is long, once you receive the invite from the university, obtaining a visa will not take much time thereafter.
To obtain a student visa, one must go to a US embassy or consulate in India who will initiate the process. Before applying, it makes sense to keep in mind that that the requisite I-20 or IAP-66 form from the educational institution you have been accepted to is already received.
Student visas are basically of 2 types:
- F-1 (Student Visa) which is for full-time students enrolled in an academic or language program. and who stay in the US for the full length of their academic program plus 60 days. The students must maintain a full-time course load & complete their studies by the expiration date listed on the I-20 form.
- J-1 (Exchange Visitor Visa)- is issued for students needing practical training that is not otherwise available in their home country to complete their academic program. The training must be directly related to the academic program & the student has to return to their home country for a minimum of two years after the end of their studies in the US before being eligible to apply for an immigrant (permanent residence) visa.
There are also list of documents that are required to be furnished while applying which include:
- Valid Passport
- One Passport size photograph (Black and White or Colour)
- A Non-immigrant Visa Application (Form 156) available from the Consular section.
- Form I-20 executed by the authorizing official of institution concerned, signed by the applicant.
- Evidence of financial ability to cover the costs of the education and maintenance involved
- Visa fee to be paid in Indian Rupees by Bank Draft
When to apply for the visa is also very important, since for a student visa, application should be submitted not earlier than 90 days before the registration date specified on the FORM I-20. If for some reason, the registration date has already passed or you cannot join the school in time, an amended I-20 or a letter of extension from the issuing institution should be obtained, stating by what date he may arrive.
Usually, the visa is issued within a few hours or days of the submission of the application. In some instances, the process may take longer depending on the time of year, consular caseload or other factors.
If for some reason, the application is denied which could have happened because of many factors like insufficient annual income, other educational disparities etc, it is imperative to ask the Consular Officer for a "written denial decision' before deciding your next move.
An important point that should be remembered and is crucial for the Visa to go through, is the personal interview that happens at the US consulate, which although not difficult, can make or break your chances.
To give an insight into this, below is a very good response given by the New Delhi-based United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) that might help,
"Our advice is, no matter what happens, tell the truth. If you lie, it casts into doubt your entire application -- even if you are a good applicant. It's important to emphasize that we evaluate cases on an individual basis. That is why we place so much emphasis on the personal interview.
During the interview students must articulate a credible, coherent plan for returning to their home country. If, after they complete school, students decide to avail themselves of work opportunities in America, they are free to do so provided they follow the law."
To summarise the entire US visa application process:
- Dowload the F-1 Student Visa Application Guide from the website
- Select where in the Unites States of America you would like to live and study.
- Choose the type of school you would like to attend, such as: University, College, Graduate School, ESL (English as Second Language) or Vocational School.
- Contact the school and start the admission process.
- Upon acceptance by school, the school will issue you an I-20 form (the required document you need to apply for F-1 student visa).
- With the I-20 form and the F-1 Visa Application Guide, you can apply for a student visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are already in the Unites States you may be allowed to change your immigration status to student.
- You may be legally authorized to work in the United States while on an F-1 student visa.