US Visa Basics
Updated on Mar 22, 2017 - 6:37 p.m. IST by Mrinalini Batra
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As individual situations vary, two students applying for the same visa may be asked different questions and for different documents. Your visa interview will typically last for five minutes but can go up to 15 minutes! Emphasis is paid on what and how you answer questions rather than any papers that you are carrying. However, show supporting documents. Be forthcoming in the interview. May, June, July and August are the busiest months in most consular sections. So begin early and be prepared. 

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Visa application process

VFS Global manages the administrative function of the visa application process and the first step is to log on to their website.

  • Decide on the school you wish to attend and ask the school to issue an USCIS Form I-20. An admission letter cannot be substituted for the I-20  

  •  Determine your consular district where you need to take your interview  

  •  Obtain a photo that can be uploaded and meets form specifications 

  •  Access the form DS-160 and complete it online. Save often to your desktop! 

  •  Print the DS-160 barcode confirmation sheet at the end of the DS-160 application on a laser printer. 

  •  Pay the SEVIS fee 

  •  Pay the visa application fee at an approved HDFC Bank. Make your appointment online using your barcode number and fee receipt. Then, download and print your VFS appointment letter. Report for your interview at the US Embassy or Consulate fifteen minutes before your appointment

 

Documents required for the interview

  • Your passport (and your old passports).

  •  Your application photo

  •  The DS-160 barcode page (you will not need the full application)

  •  Form I-120

  •  The HDFC visa application fee receipts and SEVIS fee receipt

  •  VFS appointment letter

You will need to carry many supporting documents to prove various facets of your background.

Academic: Carry all final mark sheets and degree certificates to show your preparation for the programme you wish to pursue. Take the relevant score reports of TOEFL, GRE, SAT and/or GMAT. Also carry the acceptance letter from the US University.

Financial documents are needed to show your ability to fund your education in the US and to support your ties to India. These would be your and/or your sponsor’s income tax returns, bank statements, affidavit of support, investment, immovable assets, etc.
 

 

FAQs

Q. What is an I-20 Form?
A. Form I-20 is a government form that is issued by the educational institutes once you are admitted to an approved programme. This is the document that is carried for the visa interview. It tells the US government that you are eligible for F-1 student status.

 

Q. What is SEVIS?

A. SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) is a mechanism for electronic verification of prospective student status. All I-20’s issued by academic and vocational educational institutions are created within this system and this information is then accessed by US consulates worldwide. There is a one-time SEVIS fee which is separate from and in addition to the visa application fee.

 

Q. My visa was refused. Can I reapply?

A. You can apply again. Technically there is no limit to the number of times you can apply for a visa but it is a good idea to reapply only if you are in possession of fresh facts that indicate a change in your status.

 

Q. I have been granted a visa for school “A” and now I wish to attend school “B”. What should I do?

A.You will need to go back to the embassy and apply for a visa for school “B”.

 

Q. Can I work in the United States on an F-1 visa?

A.You may work up to 20 hours a week on-campus. During holidays, you may be allowed to work full-time (40 hours per week) on campus. You may not accept off-campus employment at any time during the first year of study; however, you could seek permission to accept off-campus employment after nine-months; either as curricular or practical training (cooperative programmes).

 

Q. How long may I stay on my F-1 student visa?

A. You are usually admitted for “Duration of Study”. This means you may stay as long as you are a full-time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires.

 

 

Q. Can I travel outside the United States?

A. A multiple entry visa means that you can exit and re-enter the United States for any number of times within the duration of the visa. However, before leaving the US, get your International Student Advisor to validate your current student status on your I-20. You can expect to be readmitted after absences of five months or less provided you are enrolled in the programme, your visa is valid and are carrying their validated I-20 form.

 

Q. Can I apply for any practical training in the US after I graduate?
A. Students on an F-1 visa may apply for up to 29 months (conditions apply) of practical training related to their field of study after they complete their studies provided they have been an F-1 student for at least nine months. Please consult your International Student Advisor for the same.

Want to study in the USA? Start by knowing all about the exams you need to crack to study abroad!

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