Education is second only to tourism in the number of people it brings into the United States. If you’re a student wishing to study abroad, here’s all you need to know about g
etting a US student visa.
Visa: Your gateway to America
Entry for foreign students comes in the form of an F-1 student visa or the M-1 and J-1 visas. Although 2017 witnessed a 17% drop in the number of F-1 visas awarded, statistics clearly indicate a steady rise in the number of international students. A majority of these students pursue a doctorate, master’s, and bachelor’s degree programs in the United States i.e. A staggering growth in numbers from 138,000 in 2004 to over 400,000 in 2018 only starts to shed light on the success that students find here.
Currently, there are about 1.2 million international students in the US. A majority of them are on an F-1 visa typically awarded to foreigners pursuing college degrees. In 2016 alone, the number of F-1 student visa’s issued was 644,204 and the acceptance rate was a staggering 80%. Great news for all of you planning to study in the US.
Despite some controversy around visa restrictions in recent years, the US remains one of the most appealing destinations for international studies. This definitely highlights the need to be aware of all the important details of visa acquisition as well as the application procedure to secure an international student status in the United States.
What to do!
Although your specific area of origin may require certain special conditions to qualify for an American student visa, the usual process begins with applying to a University of your choice in the US and being awarded admission through an I-20 form or Acceptance Letter. With advice and assistance from a dedicated expert like iSchoolConnect, the entire process from school selection, submission of documents, and payment of SEVIS fees, right through all the visa application steps is made a lot smoother and hassle-free.
Your I-20 form is an application requirement for F and M visa categories. Below are the three different classes of US student visas.
Types of US Student Visa’s
- M-1 Visa; issued to international students looking to attend a vocational school or non-academic program.
- J-1 Visa; issued to exchange students, interns, teachers, professional trainees or seasonal workers in the private cultural sector.
- F-1 Visa; issued to foreign students pursuing an academic or English Language program. The validity period lasts until the study programme is completed.
Our focus is going to be on the F-1 visa, the class generally required for full-time academic studies in the US.
Breakdown of F-1 Student Visa Application Steps, Requirements, and Conditions
Although your specific country or embassy may have additional application steps, requirements and conditions, here is the general process;
- Apply and get admission into a SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved institution.
- Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee ($200) for enrollment into the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). After this payment, your school provides you with an I-20 form which you will be required to present to the consular officer at your F-1 visa interview. If you plan to travel and live with your children and/or spouse in the US, they will each need individual I-20 forms without needing enrollment into the SEVIS.
- Pay the non-refundable visa application fee and fulfill the application requirements of your specific embassy or consulate. Visa application is available online through which you could complete your application before printing the DS-160 form which you will take to your F-1 visa interview.
- Schedule and make preparations for your interview. Your interview is key to whether you will be awarded an F-1 student visa or not. You are allowed to schedule the date but be aware of the variations in waiting periods for interview appointments which differ with regards to the visa category, season or location. It is, therefore, advisable to make your visa application early enough as US F-1 student visas can be awarded up to 120 days before the starting date of your study program. However, you will only be able to use your F-1 visa to travel to the United States within 30 days to the start of your course.
Documents required for the visa interview:
- Non-immigrant visa application form (Form DS-160)
- Standardized digital color passport photo taken recently
- A valid passport
- Receipt of visa application fee payment ($160)
- Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (F-1) Student Status (Form I-20)
- Documents proving adequate financial support during your stay in the US (Bank Statement)
- Diplomas, Transcripts, Certificates, and Degrees from your attended schools or Scores from Standardized tests such as TOEFL, GMAT, SAT, GRE etc.
- Documents that serve as proof of your intent to return, upon completing your program (for example; your asset documents or job offer letter valid after you complete the study).
Additional documents may be requested depending on your specific location or the specific program you have been admitted to pursue in the US. Contact us at iSchoolConnect and we will help you for free.
- Attend your scheduled Visa Interview. Your qualification for an F-1 student visa hinges on the 5 minutes or so during which you will be asked a few personal questions related to your desire to study in the United States. You will have to carry all the appropriate documents listed above, together with any others you may find useful.
Fingerprints are taken for records and your documents are verified in advance of your visa interview. Your success in the interview is dependent on how you can convince the Consular Officer of your qualification and intent to study. Your passport will be taken for your visa to be issued and you will be told when and how it will be returned.
Being awarded a US F-1 student visa is only the beginning of an adventure. To enjoy the full ride you will have to make sure you work closely with your international adviser to make sure you stay within the restrictions and advantages of your visa. For instance, students only have 60 extra days after completing their study program in the US, to either leave the country or get a transfer to another school or find a job. Also, extensions are possible provided the required conditions and procedure is followed.
Foreign students are increasingly contributing to the economy of their metropolitan destinations in the US. Statistics show about 45% of international students successfully extend their visas after graduation. Most of them find work in the same metro area where their university or college is located. This is evident in the immense diversity of the economies of Los Angeles and New York.