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Visa Process Demystified – US

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The process of actually obtaining a U.S. student visa can be complex and cumbersome, so read on to understand the steps you will take for a successful visa outcome.

Acceptance to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Approved School

The first step is to apply to a SEVP-approved school in the United States, after which you will have been registered with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee of $350. After you have paid the fee, your school will issue the I-20 form, following which you may apply to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country for a student visa, depending on your course of study. You must present the Form I-20 to the consular officer when you attend your visa interview.

Form I-20

The Form I-20 is an important document critical for the entire international student life cycle. If you are under age 18, your parents must sign the Form I-20 for you, as the legal age in the United States is 18, irrespective of the legal age in your native country. From applying for a social security number to a driving license and even insurance, your I-20 will be needed at every step to validate your legal existence in the United States. The visa type mentioned on Form I-20 by the SEVP-certified school will dictate your student visa type. You are expected to have the original Form I-20 with ink signature on hand as you enter the country, where the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will instruct you to present your Form I-20 at the port of entry.

An ‘in status’ student is a full-time student who meets the GPA requirements and remains enrolled in the program that the I-20 has been issued. If you would like to change your program, you will need a new I-20 from your prospective school.

Applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa

To enter the United States to attend:You need the following visa category:
University or collegeF
High SchoolF
Private elementary schoolF
Another academic institution, including a language training programF
Vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution, other than a language training programM
Approved Exchange visitor programJ

Complete the Online Visa Application

Apply for the visa by filling the Form – DS160, where most of the information mentioned on your I-20 will be needed at hand to complete the online visa application. You will need to print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview. If you are attending a four-year course of study, it would be best to consider a multiple entry visa, which may cost more, but will allow you to enter and exit the U.S. without having to go through the visa process all over again.

Schedule an Interview

Aside from present COVID restrictions, visa interviews are generally required for F-1 and M-1 applicants. When filling the DS-160, you will have the option to select an appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, nearest to you, in your home country. The consular officer aims to cull potential immigrants from the earnest visa applicants. As an international student, you will have proven your intent to complete your course of study in the U.S. and return to your home country. Most students find the visa interview daunting, so we suggest preparing for the interview like it just does not matter. Maintain your poise, be clear and succinct with your answers, avoid lengthy diatribes, and stick to the script! With this knowledge at hand, any international student would be advantaged to ace the U.S. visa process.

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