Updated with new visa rules for international students by Biden Administration on June 15, 2021
A student who is not American citizen but wants to study in the USA requires a US Student Visa to fulfil this objective. The US Student Visa is generally granted to those students who have already secured admission in one of the educational programs or institutions in the USA.
Normally, educational institutions in the US provide each international student with approval documentation. This documentation is essential for applying for a US Student Visa. International students can apply within a period of 120 days from the start date of I-20 and is permitted to travel within 30 days from the start date of I-20.
Biden Administration Gives International Students A Reason To Cheer
There’s good news for international students in the USA and those planning on studying there. The Biden administration recently rolled out the first bi-annual unified regulatory agenda with a proposal to permit international students to stay in the USA as long as they were admitted in a study course rather than issuing visas with a fixed expiry date.
Duration Of Status Vs Duration Of Stay – Why Is Duration Of Status Preferred?
In the case of student visas issued for a limited time frame, students would need to apply for extensions if they opted for an extra semester or did not complete their course in time. Even STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students seeking Optional Practical Training would need to get an extension. This was seen as cumbersome, expensive and unnecessary paperwork.
Biden’s action plan will ensure that an international student’s visa stays valid for as long as they are engaged in studies. It will have no fixed expiry and thus, he/she will not have to unnecessarily apply for an extension.
As per the Open Doors Report – November 2020, there are over 2 lakh Indian students enrolled in courses in the USA. This agenda is sure to bring cheer to them and all the students thinking about higher studies in the USA.
What is an I-20 document?
The I-20 document is the Certificate of Eligibility. It is a multi-purpose document that is issued by a government approved U.S. educational institution. This document confirms that a student has been admitted to the institution to undertake a full-time study program. It also signifies that the student has confirmed to possess enough monetary funds to stay in the U.S.
The possession of the I-20 document makes a student eligible to apply for an F-1 student visa. It is to be noted that a student’s spouse or children will also require their own I-20 documents in order to obtain the F-2 visas required for dependents.
Types of USA Student Visa
The USA grants three core types of non-immigrant student visas for international students. These are: F Visa, M Visa and J Visa.
The F visa is granted for academic studies. It is the most common among the three kinds of US student visas. The F student visa is for international students who intend to study for an academic degree at an accredited US college or university, or to study English at a university or intensive English language institute.
The F-1 visa is also applicable for international students who want to attend high school, a specialized, non-vocational institution, or seminary in the US. Any student who enrols for a course of study that requires more than 18 hours a week will require F-visa. There are three kinds of F visa. They are:
- F-1 visas for full-time students
- F-2 visas for dependents of F-1 visa holders (spouse and unmarried children who are under the age of 21). This includes same-sex married couples
- F-3 visas for ‘border commuters’ i.e., the Mexican and Canadian students who reside in their country of origin while attending part-time or full-time school in the US
The M visa is granted to the international students for pursuing non-academic or vocational studies or training at an institution in the US. There are three kinds of M visa. They are:
- M-1 visas for students engaging in vocational or non-academic studies.
- M-2 visas for dependents of M-1 visa holders (as in F-2 visas).
- M-3 visas for ‘border commuters’ as in F-3 visas, but for vocational or non-academic studies.
A student having M-1 visa may not change his or her status to F-1 visa holder.
The J visa is granted for academic studies as an exchange visitor. It allows students to participate as international exchange visitors in programs in the US that promote educational and cultural exchange. The J visa is needed by a student if he or she has been accepted into a program through a designated sponsoring organization to participate in an exchange visitor program in the United States. There are two kinds of J visa. They are:
- J-1 visas for exchange students on a relevant exchange program.
- J-2 visas for dependents of J-1 visa holders (as for F-2 visas)
- You have a valid passport to travel to the US
- You have already secured admission in an institution recognized by the United States government
- You have been admitted to a full time course
- You intend to remain in the US for a specific and limited period of time i.e., for as long as you are enrolled in the institution
- You have the monetary means required to pay for your expenses while in the US
Eligibility Criteria for US Student Visa
To be eligible for US Student Visa you need to prove to the US immigration authorities the following things:
Steps to follow to apply for US Student Visa
Before you apply for US Student Visa, be sure to have already secured admission in one of the educational programs or institutions in the USA. Further, go through the document for Common Non-immigrant Visas to be certain about the type of visa for which you are eligible. Once you are sure about your eligibility for application, you can go ahead with the following procedure:
Step 1: Obtain the certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant student status
In order to apply for a US student visa, you must first have received Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. Form I-20 is for F visa or M visa while Form DS-2019 is for J visa.
Step 2: Scan photograph as per US student visa criteria
For obtaining US student visa you will have to fill the Non-immigrant Visa Electronic Application form or the DS-160 form. This form requires a digital photograph of the applicant to be scanned as per the accurate requirements of the form and to be uploaded along with the form. Scan and save your photograph in JPEG/PNG format for this purpose.
Step 3: Complete the online DS-160 form
Fill the DS-160 form online in a careful manner. Follow the guidelines provided for filling the DS-160 form. Cross check all information to be correct and accurate. Note that you cannot make changes to the application form once you submit it for processing.
Step 4: Submit the online DS-160 form
Submit your online application form to obtain a confirmation page having a 10-digit barcode. Take a print-out of this page and store it carefully. You will need this confirmation page for the US Student Visa interview.
Step 5: Pay US student visa application fee
Pay the fee for your US student visa application online or at the specified bank branches. You can make the payment in cash, cheque or as a DD. Store carefully the two receipts you will receive against this payment. The receipts will have the unique 10-digit barcode generated against your application form submission.
Step 6: Book a US visa interview appointment
Book your appointment for US student visa interview after checking the available dates at the nearest US Consulate.
Step 7: Carry relevant documents for your visa interview
On the day of your scheduled visa interview reach the venue on time. Make sure that you appear for the interview at the Visa Application Centre along with the required documents needed as per U.S. visa specifications.
For your Visa Application Centre appointment, you will need to carry the following documents:
- Your passport that is valid for travel to the United States and having validity of at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States.
- Your DS-160 confirmation page.
- Your appointment confirmation page.
- Your receipt for payment of the visa application fee
- One photograph as per U.S. visa specifications if the applicant is under 14 years of age
Step 8: Attend the US student visa interview
Reach for your interview on time and answer all the questions in a proper and clear manner. Remain calm and avoid getting excited while your interview is taking place.
Required Fees for USA Student Visa
Visa Fees for US Student Visa– 160 USD (INR 9,781.7)
- Your application fee will not be refunded if your visa application is refused.
- The conversion into Indian currency is based on current conversion rates which may change.
Dos and Don’ts for US Student Visa Application
Remember the following dos and don’ts while applying for US tourist visa.
- Fill up your visa application form carefully and accurately
- Bring along all forms and supporting documents to your visa interview
- Always bring your original documents to your visa interview
- Carry a photograph of yourself that is not more than six months old
- Show on time for the interview and remain calm during the interview process
- Do not present false documents
- Do not hide or misrepresent facts in your application or during your interview
- Do not fax, email or mail any supporting documents to the Embassy or Consulate
- Do not lie to or argue with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer
- Do not argue with your family members during the interview process
- Do not lose your patience or refuse to answer questions
Note: The visa waiver program is not valid in case of US Student Visa.
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