US student visa- All about the application process
Updated on Sep 27, 2014 - 12:23 p.m. IST by Bedasree Das #United States of America
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US student visa: With around 750,000 international students, the United States continues to be the star attraction for students across the globe planning to study abroad. Students are making a beeline to the US in such large numbers because the US is home to over 150 universities that are listed in the QS World University Rankings. And as to why university rankings matter, you only need to check a survey conducted by QS, according to which over 70% students cited international reputation as the top priority while selecting a destination.

 

Being the most sought after destination for students, the US gets one of the highest number of student visa applications from students spread across the world.

 

However, applying for a US student visa involves decoding a complex structure of visa categories, forms and appointments.

 

Here, we have decoded the US student visa application process through a series of questions and steps. Read on to get a comprehensive understanding of the USA student visa process and how to apply for a student visa:

 

 Q: The USA has more than one category of VISA for students migrating to the country. Which category would a student fall under?

A: Students travelling to the US specifically for the purpose of study will fall under the Non-immigrant visa category. Within this category too, students are categorized according to the type and duration of study. Basically, there are three types of visas for students who want to migrate to the United States for the purpose of education. They are:

 

F-1, J-1 and M-1 Student Visa

 

a. F-1 Student Visa: Apply for the F-1 visa if you are planning to pursue full-time academic programs at the Undergraduate, Masters or doctoral level. However, if you have a spouse or children accompanying you to the States, you can apply under the F-2 visa category.

 

b. M-Student Visa: Those who want to pursue non-academic or vocational training in the USA can apply under the M-1 visa category. The pursued programs are generally of short duration.

 

c. J-1 Student Visa: The J-1 visas are reserved for students who go to the US for exchange or trainee programs. Applicants include university professors, researchers, post-doctoral fellows and trainees. 

 

Q: When to apply for Student Visa?
A: 
You cannot apply for a Student Visa prior to four months or 120 days from the date of commencement of your course as given in the I -20 for F-1 visas or DS-2019 for J visas.

 

Q: What is form I-20 and DS-2019?
A: 
Form I-20 is a document issued by a SEVP- certified college or university in the USA to an international student after the acceptance of the student in the institution. The form, which is a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status, is given to both F and M students. Basically, the Form I-20 is a paper record of your information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database which is maintained by the US Homeland Security.

The DS-2019 is issued only to J visitors by the designated sponsors of the exchange visitors. The form is completed by the sponsor prior to being given to the participant.

You need the I-20 and DS-2019 form to pay the SEVIS fee.

 

Q: How to get started with the application process?
A:
 First step-DS-160

After determining your non-immigrant VISA type, the first step is to complete the online DS-160 form. The form must be submitted in order to book your interview with American embassy or consulate.

CLICK HERE to apply for the DS-160 form

CLICK HERE to know how to complete the DS-160 form

 

Second Step- Visa and SEVIS fee

Every Visa applicant is required to pay a visa fee before making an appointment for the interview at the embassy or consulate. The fee, commonly known as MRV fee, is non-refundable and has to be paid whether you are issued a visa or not. The fee is determined by the type of visa you are applying for.

 

The application fee for the non-immigrant student visa is $160 and it can be paid after you have completed the DS-160 form.

 

However, applicants holding J visas and who are participating in certain official US Government-sponsored educational and cultural exchanges are not required to pay the visa fee.

 

As a student you have to pay a separate visa fee known as SEVIS fee. For non-immigrant students with Form I-20, the SEVIS fee is US$200 while for most exchange visitors with Form DS-2019 the fee is US$180.

 

US-Student-Visa-Decoded 

 

Q: What is SEVIS fee? How do pay your SEVIS fee?
A:
 The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a system that tracks non-immigrant students in the USA.

You can make online payment for SEVIS through form I-901.

 

CLICK HERE to pay your SEVIS fee.

 

You must have a complete and accurate Form I‘20 or Form DS‘2019 to complete the Form I‘901 online and to pay the SEVIS I‘901 Fee.

 

Third Step- Create an online profile

You can schedule your appointment with the embassy of the United States after paying the visa and SEVIS fee. In order to schedule a visa interview, you will have to register and create a profile online.

 

CLICK HERE to create your profile

 

Fourth Step- Schedule your appointments

You can schedule your appointment once your online profile is created. Thereafter, follow the steps given below:

  • You have to schedule two appointments - one for the Visa Application Center (VAC) and one for the interview at the Embassy.
  • First, schedule your appointment at the Embassy.
  • Second, schedule your appointment at a Visa Application Centre. This appointment will allow you to go to one of the five Visa Application Centre locations to have your fingerprints and photo taken. This appointment must be at least one day before your visa interview appointment at the Embassy.

 Q: What are the documents required at VAC?

To schedule your VAC appointment, carry the required documents:

  • A passport valid for travel to the US with a validity date at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States
  • Visa application (MRV) fee payment receipt
  • DS-160 confirmation page
  • A valid E-mail address
  • Your appointment confirmation page.

Fifth Step: Interview at the US Embassy or Consulate

You can visit the US embassy for your interview following the visit to the VAC. Therefore, you must schedule the VAC appointment at least one day before the interview appointment date.

 

You will need to take the following documents:

  • A printed copy of your appointment confirmation letter,
  • Your DS-160 confirmation page stamped at the VAC
  • Your current and all old passports,
  • Supporting documents as per your visa type

 

Q: What are the required supporting documents to apply for US Visa?
You should bring the following documents to your interview:

  • Documents demonstrating strong financial, social and family ties to your home country.
  •  Financial and any other documents that will give evidence that you have available funds to meet all expenses for the first year of study and that you have access to funds sufficient to cover all expenses while you remain in the United States. 

M-1 applicants have to show their ability to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of their intended stay.

  • Original bank books and photocopies of bank statements
  • If you are financially sponsored by another person, you have to show proof of your relationship to the sponsor (such as your birth certificate), the sponsor’s most recent original tax forms and the sponsor's bankbooks and/or fixed deposit certificates.
  • Academic documents are a must. You will be required to show your mark sheets from high school to graduation (whichever the level might be), with grades, public examination certificates, standardized test scores (SAT, TOEFL, GRE GMAT etc.), and diplomas.

 

Q: What after the interview?
A:
 If your visa is approved, you can collect your passport and visa from the location you selected at the time of scheduling for the interview. When your passport is available at selected location you will receive an email and an SMS that your passport is “Ready for Pick Up”.

 

Q: How to check your application status?
A: 
The US embassy has created a system whereby you can check the status of your visa application. You can check your status online.

 

CLICK HERE to check the status of your US visa application

 

Now that we have decoded the US application process for you, take the leap and get started to study in the USA!

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