Here are some guidelines to help make your student visa application process smooth and successful. Getting your visa to study in the United States takes time but can be a surprisingly easy procedure. It is well worth the effort. In many countries, the number of student visas issued by the United States has grown significantly in the last year. While the application process for an international student or exchange visitor visa can be confusing, hundreds of thousands of students are able to meet the requirements for a visa each year.
Last Year 471,712 F-1 Student visas were issued and there are currently 1,208,074 million students in the United States on F and M visas!
After a college, university, or English language school has accepted you for admission to full-time study, the school will send you a document called an I-20 form, which is the application for an F-1 visa.
If you will be an Exchange Visitor, the organization or U.S. Government agency that is sponsoring you will send you a DS-2019 form, which is the application for a J-1 visa.
You can visit the website of the United States Embassy or Consulate in your country at usembassy.gov to read about Nonimmigrant Visas. Go to the section on visas and read about the correct procedure currently in place for Nonimmigrant Visas.
- First, your school or university will send you a form confirming that you have been accepted at an institution authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Service (USCIS) to enroll non-immigrant students (the I-20 for an F-1 visa or the DS-2019 for a J-1 visa.) You will read and sign this form.
Be careful to make sure that the name and spelling on your passport is exactly the same as the name and spelling on your application for acceptance to the school and that the school has entered your name as it appears on your passport on the I-20 or DS-2019 Form.
All applicants’ names have to be submitted for a security clearance. Citizens of some countries and students who will study certain subjects at a university have to undergo additional screenings that takes several additional weeks of processing. Again, it is crucial that you allocate plenty of time for the visa application process.
- Second, you will need to make an appointment for a visa interview and to pay some required fees. Under a revision in the regulations, Student Visas can be issued up to 120 days before the date on your form I-20. Exchange Visitor Visas can be issued anytime before the date on the DS-2019. You should apply as early as possible for your visa.
Each U.S. Embassy has a website providing instructions on how to make an appointment for a visa interview and other information on the visa application process. The website for the Embassy in your country can be located at:
The website can also tell you the expected wait time for a visa in your country. International student visa applicants should receive priority by the Embassy or Consulate so if your program of study will begin soon, be sure to explain this when applying for your visa.
- The United States is using a new non-immigrant visa application form, DS-160 tthat should be completed online. This form replaces all of the other forms. Instructions for completing the form and links to the form can be found at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
Complete the DS-160 form on line completely. Again, remember to use the exact same order and spelling of your names as they are found in your passport. Then you will print them out and bring them to the Embassy when you go for your your visa interview.
- prepare for your visa interview. It is extremely crucial that you apply for your visa well in advance of the date your studies begin. If possible, apply three months before you plan to travel to the USA. This will give you extra time if there are delays at the embassy, or if you wish to appeal a decision in the event of a denial
What you wear is important. Consider the interview a formal event. Business attire is appropriate. First impressions can be crucial, since there will be little time to speak with the officer, who will often have only a few minutes to conduct the interview and make a decision.
Be prepared to give your information quickly and completely. If you are unable to answer the questions in English, and the visa officer does not speak your language, you can ask for an interpreter. Speaking English is not a requirement for a student visa. In fact, thousands of students come to the United States each year to learn how to speak English.
The visa officer needs to know your specific objectives, both academic or professional, for studying in the United States. Be prepared to explain why it is better to study your specific field in the United States than to study at home. Be ready to say exactly what you will study and for what career your U.S. studies will prepare you. Calmly state your education plans concisely and clearly.
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