The student visa process can be daunting to say the least – but the overall experience of studying in the U.S. is definitely worth the paperwork…

As with most bureaucratic procedures, the rules surrounding application can change at any time. It’s therefore crucial that you contact your local consulate or embassy for up-to-date information on the student visa process. Remember, there’s no cap on student visas issued. The U.S. wants the best and brightest students enrolled at its universities to contribute to a global flow of knowledge, and to become an integral part of this unique cultural melting pot.

Some helpful definitions:

I-20 – “Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Status”

You’ll receive this document from the college/university once you have been accepted. It’s essentially a paper record of your information in the SEVIS database.

Student Visas:

F – You’ll apply for an F-1 Visa if you’re studying at a “university, college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, or another academic institution including a language training program.”

M – You’ll apply for an M-1 Visa if you’re studying at a “Vocational or other recognised non-academic institution, other than a language training program”

Here are 10 common questions asked about the U.S. student visa process:

1) Are any universities or colleges denied consideration in the student visa process?

No. The U.S. 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 document.

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 different university I would prefer to attend?

Apply again with the second I-20.

4) Do I need proof of a medical exam or a police report?

No, you will not need either a medical exam or a police report.

5) Does having a sibling who is studying in the U.S. 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?

No, but be sure 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 paperwork. Do not submit fake documents.

8) How long is the student visa interview?

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’ll probably be asked questions about the universities 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 U.S., 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 is 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 you are following the up-to-date instructions found on the U.S. website or distributed through your local embassy or consulate. Time to get applying!!

Image via StockPhotoSecrets.

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