US visa is one of the most discussed, and often feared, entity in the entire study abroad journey! In this mini-series, we have promised to provide you with a simple-and-truthful step-by-step guide to student visas and here we go with the US!
Types Of US Student Visas
International students taking up a full-time academic program need a student visa. F1 is the default visa type unless you fall into one of the following categories.
- You are an exchange student studying in a US institution for short-term. In this case, you need a J1 student visa.
- You are attending a vocational or a non-academic study program. In this case, you need an M1 student visa.
Any dependents – spouses and children – that are accompanying the primary student visa holder need to get an F2/J2/M2 visa.
What Can You Do On A Student Visa?
Apart from studying, students on F1 visa can work up to 20 hrs per week, on or off campus. F2 holders are not allowed to work.
When Should You Apply?
It is estimated that a couple of weeks of preparation to arrange all required documents is necessary. Also, since student visa applications are seasonal, they tend to spike during a few weeks before each academic session. Considering the rush, it is advisable to apply a couple of months before your program starts.
US Student Visa Process
Here is what you need to do to get your US student visa.
- Apply and get admitted to a Student and Exchange Visitor (SERP) certified institution.
- Receive an I-20 (F1 visa) or a DS-2019 (J1 and M1) document from the university. This document is the official, legal invitation for you to study in the program and is issued once you confirm your spot and ask the university to start the visa process.
- Pay the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee, which is around USD 200. Print out the receipt/confirmation message.
- Apply for a visa appointment by filling up the DS-160 form. Take the appointment at your local US embassy or consulate as per the availability.
- Pay for the visa interview appointment. The fee is around USD 160. Bring this receipt to the interview.
- Some embassies require you to appear for biometrics before your visa interview. Confirm this with your embassy.
- Appear for the visa interview with all the necessary original documents. The comprehensive list of all documents is given below.
- Valid passport
- Visa photograph as required by the embassy
- DS-160 confirmation
- I-901 SEVIS fee confirmation
- Visa application fee payment receipt
- Form I-20 for F-1/M-1 students, or Form DS-2019 for J-1 students
- Proof of relationship (marriage/birth certificates) if you are applying for F2 visas for dependents
- Official transcripts from colleges/universities
- Diploma/degree certificates
- Standardized test scores
- Proof of funds: These documents are required to ascertain that you have the financial means to pay for and survive during the course of your study. Proof for one year of tuition fee and living expenses is required in liquid assets. The following documents are accepted.
- Tax returns/Form 16s for the past 3 years
- Bank statements for the past 3 years
- Original payslips and letters of employment
- Solvency certificate from a certified CA
- Scholarship letter from your institution, if available
- Loan approval letter by a bank/financial institution, if available
The Visa Interview
Honestly, the visa interview is nothing to be alarmed about. If you have a valid admission, you are appearing for a program that goes with your background and career goals, and have the necessary financial means, the visa officer cannot deny you a student visa. However, failure to provide any of the required documents, or explain any particular detail about your case will put you in a bad light. A must-ensure aspect is to mention that you have ties back home and intend to return to your country after your study. This is your best response to alleviate any concern regarding potential permanent migration.
If your visa is approved during the interview, the visa officer will keep the passport for stamping. You will receive the passport by mail and are ready to fly any time thereafter! Before traveling, ensure that you get the vaccination and insurance requirements fulfilled as per your university’s recommendations.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) Status
After you complete your studies, you have an option of applying for OPT status, which will allow you to work for up to 365 days. This is a necessary intermediate step until you get a work visa (H1B).
So, ready to climb the last obstacle in your study abroad dream? Go, get your visa and let us know if you have any questions!
At Beyond Consultant, we help you bring your dreams to life, by guiding in your overseas education journey. For a free consultation, please get in touch with us here.