U.S. Student Visa: Answers You Need to Know

Studying in the USA is the dream many of you cherish. Some of you might have started preparing yourself for it by appearing for TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and  GRE (Graduate Record Examination). In case, you have already gone through all that and gotten through to a University of your choice, then the only step left is – getting a US student visa.

Now, most sites can provide you with information such as necessary documents, where to apply and how to apply etc. However, this information doesn’t necessarily cover the unique questions that pop up here and there. We, at Immitips have compiled a few points that seem to confound many of our student readers. Here is what we came up with:-

GETTING A VISA

Q: I have my I-20 form from the college. When should I apply for a visa?

As per rule you can apply 120 days before the date of enrolment mentioned in the I-20 form.  Our suggestions: Earlier the better. Apply on the 120th day prior to the date of enrolment, if you can. But note though that you can’t enter the US before 30 days from the date of enrolment, even if you get your visa earlier.

Q: What’s the annual quota for student visas?

Well here is the good news. There is no ceiling or quota for US student visas. The bad news, you only have a short window within which you need to get a visa, as spelled out by your enrolment date. Apply online, its faster.

Q: Doesn’t an I-20 form issued by a university guarantee a Visa?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. I-20 form is merely a requirement. The rest depends on how well you do in your interview. See our Tips for F1 Visa Interview to find out how you can make sure that Visa is yours.

Q: If my visa is rejected, can I apply again and how soon?

Yes, you can apply any number of times that you want. Most often, the first visa rejection allows you to get an interview date within 12 days. And you have to turn up with whatever documentation you didn’t have the first time.

If you get two refusals within a period of six months, you will then have to start from the beginning by getting a visa appointment and shelling out the visa fees ($100 processing fee and the VFS Service fee), and fresh documentation.

But most importantly, if your visa is denied, you are not going to be able to meet your University enrolment date. So, let’s concentrate on NOT getting your visa rejected.

NOTE: Most often Visas are denied because the applicant could not prove that he or she is not using the Student Visa to gain entry into US and become a citizen later. So, make sure your paperwork and your words convey just how attached you are to your own country. If the US consul specified a reason for denying your visa, your new documentation should cover that drawback.

Q: My University did not require me to take the TOEFL or GRE. Do I need to show any proof of that?

Yes. You will have to provide a letter issued by the university corroborating your statement. But you might still face a problem at the interview because of the lack of standardized test scores.

Q: I have relatives in the US. Will that affect my visa chances?

Even though there is no legal issue, the answer is most like YES. Especially if you have a parent or a spouse who is a US citizen, you are going to have to prove that your ties to your home country are stronger.

And whatever you do, DO NOT lie about having a relative in the U.S. Its better to face the music by being candid then the fact come up through any other issue later.

Q: Can I change schools during my studies?

No. Well at least not before completing a year of study or the course duration, which ever comes first. But we suggest, pick a school and stick to it. Changing schools may not work in your favor in future if you want to extent or renew your visa.

In case, you have just applied and then had a change of heart, apply separately again for your second choice of college as soon as possible, so that you don’t miss the enrolment date.

Q: What documents can I show as proof that I am coming back?

There is no fixed list of documents that we can suggest. But whatever you choose should show your economic and social ties to the country. Like property owned by you, social ties like parents, spouse or fiancé waiting for you, other social obligations like long term association with local charities or organizations. Anything helps. Also, be convinced about your own arguments before you present them. The US Consuls faces lots of applicants’ everyday and any hesitation in your part can immediately disqualify you.

FINANCING

Q: What do I need to show that I can afford to attend school in the US?

Look at Part 7 on your Form I-20. It will tell you the amount of funding you will need to cover the first year’s expenses. This amount includes tuition, fees, living expenses, (also expenses of dependents if applicable) etc. You have to show you have enough assets/funding to cover this amount immediately. Many applicants choose to pay the the first year’s fees and show that receipt. It will be an added benefit, but it’s not mandatory.

If you are going for longer durations like two-year Master’s program or Five-years research program etc, you will have to show proof of assets and funding to cover the entire duration of studies and not just the first year.

Q: I plan to finance my education myself. What do I need?

Get yourself a Foreign Exchange Release Permit from an authorized bank. You will need to show how you intend to transfer your funds from India to the US. You can also show a sponsor in the US. But that may work against you by branding you an intending immigrant.

Q: Can I take bank loans to for my studies?

Yes you can. But you will have to show documentation to prove that you can repay the loan. Talk to the representative from the bank or institute that is offering you the loan. In most cases, they know what documents you will need from them.

Do not take a huge loan as that can make a negative impact on your visa application. It should not look like that you cannot finance your education by yourself at all.

Q: Is it mandatory to pay the first year’s tuition expenses?

No. But in most cases paying the fees and showing a receipt from the University can work in your favor as far as proof of financing goes.

SPONSORSHIP

Q: Is having a foreign sponsor a drawback?

Yes and No. I say no because, looking at the enormous cost of education, a US sponsor sounds like a logical option. More then half of the foreign students in US are dependent on aids or scholarships. Just make sure, you have good answers for questions like why and under what terms is the person in US sponsoring you. Here, if you can show that you intend to come back to your country and use the education to work here, then there would be fewer problems with this issue.

Q: Will it work against me if I have two sponsors – one in India and the other in US?

Legally, this is not an issue. But again, you will need show that having half sponsorship from US does not constitute as motive for migration.