Getting your visa to study in the United States is time-consuming, but it can be a surprisingly easy procedure. According to last year's stats, there has been an increase in the number of students visas issued by the United States. Before any candidate applies for a student visa, all the students are required to be accepted and approved by their respective school or courses. Once accepted, it is mandatory for each candidate to submit the necessary approval documentation provided by the educational institutions for a student visa application. Students can register within 120 days from the initial date of I-20 and can travel within 30 days from the start date of I-20.
To make your student visa application process smooth and easy, follow the below-mentioned guidelines.
There are four types of US Student Visa:
F1 visa is for those students who intend to pursue an academic degree at an accredited US college or university and even for those students who plan to study English at a university or intensive English school. F-1 visas is used by regular students.
F-2 visas is for dependents of F-1 visa holders which include spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21. This also comprises of married same-sex couples.
F-3 visas is for ‘border commuters’. Basically for Mexican and Canadian students who live in their country of origin while attending part-or full-time institutes in the US. The applicants having F-1 visas can work on the campus for 20 hours a week or less. Students wanting to work for longer hours and off-campus must obtain prior authorization from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – they may also grant work authorization for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) for an aggregate of twelve months, without accruing more than 90 days of unemployment.
M-1 Visa - The students who are planning to enroll themselves in the vocational studies or other recognized nonacademic institution or training at a U.S. institution will require an M-1 visa.
U.S. Public School
U.S. law forbids the international students to attend public elementary school (kindergarten to 8th grade) or any publicly funded adult education course. Therefore, F-1 visas cannot be issued for study at such schools. F-1 visas are not issued for attendance at a public secondary school, but the student is limited to a maximum of 12 months at the school. It is mandatory to indicate on the Form I-20 that the student has paid the unsubsidized cost of the education and the amount submitted by the student for that purpose.
Cost of the Visa
The applicants are required to pay a separate SEVIS fee in addition to the visa application fee. SEVIS fees for the nonimmigrant students with Form I-20 is US$200. For the exchange visitors having the Form DS-2019, the SEVIS fee is US$180. A valid proof of payment is required before the student or exchange visitor visa is issued
The applicants are required to gather and prepare the following documents before going for the visa interview:
A valid passport for travel to the United States - The student's passport should be valid for at least six months exceeding the staying period in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). A separate application is required if there is more than one person included in the passport who needs a visa.
Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page.
If a candidate is required to pay before their interview, they should possess a valid application fee payment receipt.
A colorful passport size photograph has to be uploaded while completing the online Form DS-160. If the picture fails to upload, the candidate must bring one printed photo in the same format as explained in the Photograph Requirements.
Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - Form I-20 or Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students is for Academic and Language Students. Their respective school will send them a SEVIS-generated Form I-20 after they enter their information into the SEVIS database. If the applicants, their spouse, and minor children aspire to reside in the United States along with the student, then they must be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS). Every applicant will receive an independent Form I-20 duly signed by the applicant as well as their school official.
An applicant should bring the following documents to their interview
Documentation which indicates strong financial, social, and family ties to the home country that will impel them to return to their country after the particular program of study in the United States finishes.
Financial documentation that will support the visa application and provides credible evidence that the applicant has enough funds readily available to meet the expenses while he/she stays in the US. M-1 candidates must signify their capability to render all tuition and living costs for the entire period of their purposive stay.
Original copies of bank statements or original bank books have to be shown before submitting the photocopies of the bank statements
If another person is financially sponsoring the applicant, he/she will have to bring a valid proof of the relationship with the sponsor like a birth certificate, sponsor's recent original tax forms, sponsor's bank books and/or fixed deposit certificates.
All the academic documents including the school transcripts (original copies are preferred) along with grades standardized test scores (SAT, TOEFL, etc.), and diplomas, public examination certificates (A-levels, etc.).
1. For Nonimmigrant Visa students:
The applicant should initially determine their visa type by going through the Common Nonimmigrant Visas. The Visa Waiver Program should also be given due importance. If any country participates in this program, then the students are not required to apply for a visa if they are traveling for business or pleasure. These applicants will only be residing in the U.S. for 90 days or less.
Please Note that If the candidate is under 14 or 79 years of age, or if they have formerly received a U.S. visa that has expired within the last 48 months or 12 months and they are planning to return to the United States for travel purposes, they may be able to obtain a visa without coming to the consulate for an interview.
2. Filling the DS-160 Form -
After the determination of the visa, the applicant has to complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form. The related information and details should be accurate and correct because no changes can be made once the form is submitted. If the student requires assistance, he/she can consult a translator or an immigration lawyer
Note: If the visa is denied previously, the student has to fill a new Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.
3. Submitting the visa fees -
After the completion of the steps mentioned above, the student must pay the visa fees. The visa types and corresponding visa fee in US dollars and domestic currency are referred to in the visa fees official page - http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-visafeeinfo.asp
The payments are made through Bank and other online options also. To have a deeper look on the how to make your visa fee payment, visit - http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-paymentinfo.asp
An applicant will have to create a profile and must keep their receipt number to book a visa appointment.
4. Scheduling the visa appointment -
The applicant needs to login to their profile with the same credentials with which the payment was made earlier. On the dashboard, click on 'Schedule Appointment' on the left-hand side menu. This will initiate the procedure for scheduling the appointment.
The student is required to schedule two appointments:
A visa interview appointment at the Embassy or Consulate
An appointment at a Visa Application Centre - This appointment will further allow the applicant to go one of the five Visa Application Centre locations to have their fingerprints and photographs taken. This meeting must be scheduled at least one day before the visa interview appointment at the Embassy or Consulate.
The applicant will furthermore require three pieces of information to schedule their appointment:
- Their passport number.
- The date of the visa application payment.
- A ten (10) digit barcode number from their DS-160 confirmation page.
As the procedure extends, the student will be able to select a visa type, enter their personal data, add dependents, select a location for document delivery, confirm the visa payment, and finally schedule their appointment.
Documents required for the two scheduled interviews
1. For the interview at the Visa Application Centre:
A valid passport for travel with the validity dates of at least six months beyond their intended stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
If there are more than one individual included in the applicant's passport, each person yearning a visa must submit a prior application.
- Their DS-160 confirmation page
- An appointment confirmation page.
One photograph as per U.S. visa specifications, if the applicant is under the age of 14, See the Photos and Fingerprints page for more details.
2. Once the applicant visits the Visa Application Centre for the photograph and fingerprints, they will then visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate on the date and time of their visa interview. They must bring:
- A printed copy of their appointment letter,
- A DS-160 confirmation page
- Current and all other old passports
- A Form I-901 SEVIS fee receipt specifying the SEVIS fee.
- Supporting Documents as per their chosen visa type.
Applications without all of these documents will not be accepted.
Note: Children under the age of 14 cannot attend the appointment at the Visa Application Centre or visa interview at the Embassy/Consulate. Their Accompany/Guardians/Parents can carry the above-mentioned documents.
Schedule an Interview
The candidate must schedule a visa interview appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where they live. The interview must be scheduled at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but it will be difficult to qualify for a visa outside the place of the permanent residence.
New Students – The F-1 and M-1 student visas can be issued in advance of their program of study's initial date for up to 120 days. However, the applicants will not be allowed to enter the United States in F-1 or M-1 status any time earlier than 30 days before the start date.
Continuing Students - These students may renew their visas any time, as long as they have maintained the student status and their SEVIS records. Continuing students may enter the United States at any time before their classes start.
Derivative F or M visas are required for the spouses, including the same-sex spouses, or unmarried children under 21 years of age who desire to escort or join the principal visa holder in the United States for the period of his or her stay. There is no derivative visa for the parents of F or M visa holders.
The applicant's family members who do not wish to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but intends to visit for vacations only, might be eligible to apply for a visitor (B-2) visas. If the applicant's spouse/child seeks employment, the spouse must obtain the appropriate work visa, as they are not allowed to seek employment and work on a derivative F or M visa in the United States.
Entering the United States
An international student is allowed to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States after he/she obtains a visa. A visa does not guarantee direct entry of the applicant into the United States. Various officials from The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Border Protection (CBP) officials and U.S. Customs have complete authority to grant or deny admission to the United States.
If, after proper scrutiny, the applicant is allowed entry in the U.S., the CBP official will provide an admission stamp or paper Form I-94 along with the Arrival/Departure Record.
The student having the F visas have an additional 60 days after the programme last date listed on Form I-20, and any authorised practical training, to depart the United States.