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What You Need to Know About the Student Visa

We know obtaining a student visa is the last hurdle to your realizing your dream of studying in America. But it can be stressful step. Here are a few things you should know about the student visa.
By GPA Admin

What You Need to Know About the Student Visa

Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)

Upon your acceptance, the university will begin what is known as the SEVIS process, which is part of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) managed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  SEVIS, the acronym for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is an internet-based system that maintains information on foreign students and exchange visitors. The college will begin the process by entering information about you, how you plan to finance your studies, about your program and when it begins and ends.  Following the data entry, the institution will send you an I-20, DS-2019 or I-20M-N form depending on the visa that you will be needing. You will need this form for your visa application with the U.S. embassy.

Submit a Visa Application

There are three types of visas students may enter with: F-1, J-1 and M-1.  If you enter a four-year undergraduate program, you most likely will need an F1. The J-1 is for exchange students and the M-1 is for vocational students. Because the procedures and requirements for obtaining a student visa vary from country to country, it is best to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your local area for an application form, the list of requirements, detailed procedures and application fees. When applying for a student visa, allow for a minimum of two months prior to the departure date for a more favorable decision.

Prepare for the Interview

After you have submitted your visa application, you will be invited for an interview with the embassy or consulate. Make sure that all necessary documentation as specified by the embassy or consulate is ready prior to the interview date.  This documentation usually includes proof of acceptance from the institution, passport, financial information supporting your ability to fund your education, etc. Visa interviews tend to be only a few minutes long so be brief but convincing and do not hide any truths or tell a lie.  Consular officers can identify people who are not being truthful.  Simply tell “your story.”

To issue an applicant a visa, the officer will generally be looking into three things:

  1. Is the applicant a bona fide, committed student? The officer will likely look into your educational background and assess how likely it is that you will remain in school through graduation.  Therefore, be prepared to discuss why you have chosen your institution, your major and what your career objectives are.  To further demonstrate your commitment to your education, bring your school transcripts, national examination results and score reports to any required tests (SAT, ACT, TOEFL, etc.) by your chosen institution.
  2. Is the applicant able to fund his or her education? The consular officer will want the assurance that you will not drop out of school or take a job illegally while studying in the U.S.  The I-20 form provided by your institution will indicate how you have shown the school that you will be covering your expenses for at least the first year of studies.  Be sure to have with you any grant or scholarship letters that you have as per the Get Proof of Funding section above; likewise, if you have family or sponsors funding your education, bring strong evidence and documentation of their ability and commitment to funding four years of your education in the U.S.
  3. Does the applicant have strong ties to home so that he or she will not want to remain permanently in the U.S.?  Because consular officers are required to consider all applicants for student and exchange program visas as intending immigrants, you must prove otherwise by showing that your reasons for returning home are stronger than those for remaining in the U.S.  Having significant economic, family and social ties to your country of residence indicate that your interest in studying in the U.S. is temporary and for educational purposes.  Economic ties include your family’s economic position locally, any properties or assets you own or will be inheriting, as well as your professional and economic potential by acquiring a U.S. education.  Social ties include your involvement in the community and your school and leadership roles you have taken locally in activities such as sports and other community events, all of which demonstrate your connection and commitment to coming home and contributing your part.  As for family ties, the officer will likely be asking about how many family members you have locally as opposed those living in the U.S.

You may also visit the following sites for more information:

 1. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (click on the “Students and Exchange Visitors” link)

  2. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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