The student visa process can be daunting to say the least- but the experience of studying in the US is worth the paperwork.
As with most bureaucratic processes, the rules can change at any time. It is crucial, therefore, that you contact your local consulate or embassy for up-to-date information on the student visa process. Remember, there is no cap on student visas issued. The US wants the best and brightest to come study here, enrich our classrooms and both impart and gain knowledge during their studies.
Some helpful definitions:
I-20 – “Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Status”
You will receive this document from the college/university once you have been accepted. It is a paper record of your information in the SEVIS database.
F – You will apply for an F -1 Visa if you are studying at a “university, college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, or another academic institution including a language training program.”
M – You will apply for an M-1 Visa if you are studying at a “Vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution, other than a language training program”
Here are ten common questions asked about the student visa process:
1) Are any universities or colleges denied consideration in the student visa process?
No. The US accepts I-20 forms from all accredited American colleges and universities. Search for your school here.
2) When should I apply for my student visa?
As early as possible, starting 120 days prior to the enrollment date stated on the I-20.
3) What if I applied for a student visa with an I-20 from a university, but then got a second I-20 from a university that I would rather attend?
Apply again with the second I-20.
4) Do I need proof of a medical exam or a police report?
You will not need either a medical exam or a police report.
5) Does having a sibling who is studying in the US hurt my chances of being issued a student visa?
No, your application will be reviewed and evaluated based on your own individual merits.
6) Will it hurt my application if I need to take out a loan to support myself during my studies?
Be sure that you can explain how you intend to pay back your loan. Anecdotally, it seems that having a smaller loan is preferable to a larger one.
7) What is the order in which I should arrange my documents?
Start with your academic records and arrange them in chronological order, with the most recent being on top. Next should be your financial documents, followed by any supporting documents. Do not use fake documents.
8) How long is the interview for a student visa?
Generally, interviews are quick and to the point, lasting only a few minutes. Plan on spending 2 – 10 minutes with the interviewer.
9) What are some examples of interview questions?
You will probably be asked questions about the universities that you applied to, whether you were accepted at each one, and why you chose those particular institutions. Also be ready to explain your financial situation and what motivates you to return home after your studies. Interviewers are looking for students who have the ability, intent, and means to study in the US, but who also have strong ties to their home country, and can demonstrate their resolve to return. Be ready to explain your career hopes, why you chose study in America, and what you intend to do after graduation. Be honest and genuine and avoid (as much as possible) rehearsed speeches.
10) What can I do if my application was denied?
Apply again. The Consulate tries to assign a different interviewing officer for any subsequent applications.
Finally, don't panic! This process can seem overwhelming, but take it step-by-step and be sure that you are following the up-to-date instructions found on the US website or distributed through your local embassy or consulate.