Student Visa USA - Definitive Guide

MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Caltech! What do these have in common? They are among the best educational institutions in the world and are all located in the United States of America. This is just the tip of the iceberg. America has one of the best educational systems in the world and attracts millions of foreign students every year. However, to enter the country for the purpose of studies, you require something called the Student Visa for USA.

What is a Student Visa for USA?

To attend an institution in the United States, you require a student permit. Even people belonging to countries in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) will need a visa to enroll in courses involving credits and degrees. For academic and language type of studies, you will need an F1 type, and for vocational and non-academic studies, you require an M1. The USA Student Visa is valid until the duration of the course. 

How to get a Student Visa for USA?

As per the M1/ F1 Visa requirements, to apply, you will need an I20 form. However, to obtain this you will have to apply to an institution which has a SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program). Upon acceptance, the school/college/university will register you in SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). You will then have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fees, and upon completing this, the institution will issue you with an I20 form. This is one of the most important documents you require for this and is also known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Once you have this, you can proceed to your application as follows - 

  1. Ensure that you have all the documents required for your visa. 
  2. Create an account on the US CEAC website (Consular Electronic Application Center).
  3. The student visa form for the USA is the DS-160 form. Proceed to fill this online. Make note of the barcode number.
  4. Pay the fees for the application online. Note the receipt number.
  5. Book your appointments. You will need to book two appointments. The first one for the biometric submission at a VAC. The second one is for the interview at the US Embassy/Consulate. 
  6. Attend the VAC with your passport, DS-160 form, and appointment confirmation page. You will be subjected to a fingerprint scan, and your digital photo will be taken 
  7. Visit the embassy/consulate for the interview along with the passport, stamped DS-160 page, and appointment confirmation page. Your USA Student Visa interview questions will revolve around your course of study, finance, as well as the return back to your original country amongst other questions.

Apart from this, the interview is not required for individuals who have had their F1/M1 visa expired in the past 12 months, and are applying for the same type. In certain cases, you may be required to attend an interview or submit your biometrics.

It is extremely important to ensure that you fill your M1/ F1 visa application form correctly and that you submit the original and genuine documents. If your application is faulty, it will lead to your visa being delayed. If you have submitted fake documents, it might cause in you being permanently ineligible to apply for another US visa.

Eligibility for the USA Student Visa

In order to be able to apply for Student Visa USA, you will need to meet certain requirements. These are as follows - 

  • You must hold a valid passport for at least 6 months after the visa expiry period.
  • You must be able to prove to the consular officer that the purpose of your visit is for studies.
  • You must also prove that have strong ties in your home country that will ensure that you return back.
  • You should be accepted by a SEVP institution, and have an I20 issued. 
  • You will need to have English proficiency as proven by a test (IELTS/TOEFL).
  • You will need to prove that you have the finances to cover your expenses throughout the period. 

Documents required for USA Student Visa

Along with the standard NIV documents, the set of specific documents required for student visa for USA from India are as given below - 

  • Original passport
  • 2 identical photos 
  • I20 and DS-160 forms
  • Visa fees receipt
  • Documents proving educational qualifications, and current education - 
    1. Original transcripts, degree, diploma
    2. Standardized test scores - TOEFL/IELTS/GRE/GMAT etc
    3. Acceptance letter into the US institution
  • Proof of sufficient funds - Bank Statements, Tax records for last 3 year, form I-134 and proof of relationship with the sponsor (if sponsored), proof of approved loan ( If obtaining a loan to fund)
  • Proof of return - to ensure that you will return to India after your study such as rental agreements, proof of bank accounts in India, affidavit from your parents, etc. 

Photo specifications

  • Dimensions:  50mm X 50mm
  • Colour: Coloured
  • Taken in the past 6 months
  • Background: plain white, with a matte finish
  • Must have 70% face coverage
  • Facial expression: neutral
  • Eyes directed towards the camera and wide open 
  • Glasses: allowed for medical reasons only
  • Uniforms are not permitted
  • Headgears: allowed only for religious reasons
  • Facial hair is permitted.

USA Student Visa processing time

The M1/ F1 Visa processing time is usually faster than other US permits. The processing begins before your interview. In some cases, you will know the status of your visa approval immediately after the interview. If it requires additional processing, it will take about 7-10 days after the day of the interview to get your visa. This can again depend upon the length of the visa, embassy workload, the time taken to verify the submitted documents for Student Visa USA, and so on. 

USA Student Visa fees

The application fees for the F1/M1 permit depends on several factors such as the country of origin, service charges, delivery charges, visa issuance charges, reciprocity charges (if any) and so on. These can change at any time, and therefore is necessary to know the exact fees before you start your application.  

After submission

Upon successful submission of the documents and interview as per USA study visa requirements for Indian students, you may be informed right at the venue if your visa has been approved or rejected. In case they require further processing, it will take a few more days before you receive a response. In the meanwhile, you can track the status of your application by either logging on to the CEAC portal and checking your application, or sending an email to ‘passportstatus@ustraveldocs.com’ with your passport number.

When you have this visa

Once you have completed your USA Student Visa process from India, you will receive the permit within a few days. Upon receipt of this, keep in mind the following points - ‘

  • Before travelling, ensure that you carry all the travel documents. 
  • Make note of the visa validity.
  • You can depart for the US a maximum of 30 days before your program start date.
  • A valid visa doesn’t ensure your entry into the US. The US Border Patrol officers have the authority to deny or permit you into the country. 
  • While you are on the F1 permit, you may be allowed to do work on a limited basis.
  • You must leave the country within 60 days after your visa expires.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Extend My US Student Visa?

Normally, it is not possible to extend the student visa as it is issued for the particular duration of the course. As a result, you will have to exit the country after the permit expires. However, one way you can get an extension is to complete an OPT (Optical Practical Training) program which will allow you to work in the US with the student permit for up to 12 months, following which you may apply for an H1-B work permit. 

After Expiring My US Student Visa, How Long Can I Stay?

Once your permit has expired and you have not been issued with an extension or OPT, you must leave the country within the next 60 days. This is the grace period allowed for the student permits. Staying back after this period is considered as an offence, and can lead to you being deported. 

What is the Medical Test for US Student Visa?

Being a type of the Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV), there are no mandatory medical test required for this category. However, there are a few basic health requirements you would need to meet for your admission procedure at the institution. It is also recommended that you get a medical test done before travelling to the US for your own safety

Can I convert My US Student Visa into a Work permit?

You may not directly convert your student visa to a work permit. However, you can apply for a work permit after your studies provided that you have a sponsor and that you meet all the conditions. While you are on an F1 permit, you are allowed to take part in part-time work for permitted number of hours.

US Student Visa F1: What is the ‘administrative processing required’?

‘Administrative processing’ is simply one of the terms used for a reason why your application is on hold. It does not mean your application is rejected. It simply means that the application needs more time for processing and verification. Once approved, you will be notified of the status. 

Can I get my US student visa approved after two rejections for the same?

A US visa rejection is considered as a major factor in determining application status. Even though multiple rejections will significantly reduce your chances of successful approval, you are not banned from re-applying again. However, this again depends mainly on the reason for your rejection. If you have been rejected due to minor faults, your application may be approved as long as you have corrected those. However, if the reason is major such as fake documents, false information, etc, you will most likely be rejected again. 

What's the minimum score a student needs to score on an English proficiency test for a US student visa?

As per the eligibility criteria, you will need an English proficiency test score to be able to apply for a student permit. However, this is not a direct requirement by the embassy or consulates. You need the test scores in order for the institution to issue you with an I-20 form. And without this, you will not be able to apply for the visa. The minimum scores depend on the test you are taking, the course level, as well as the university or institution. For example, for a Masters level course at a top US university, you would need a minimum IELTS score of 7. However, the same at a lower ranking university would require only a score of 5 or so on.

What are some things I need to keep in mind before appearing for the US F1 Visa interview?

US student visa interviews can be a stressful experience. However, there are a few ways you can avoid this and have a pleasant experience. The first thing you need to do is to be honest during an interview. If the consular officer sees that you are lying, this can affect your application. The questions will revolve around the purpose of the visit, the course you are studying, as well as your plans after the studies. Be sure to be ready with everything regarding the student visa, your institution, and the course you are studying. 

Can I (Indian) apply for a US student visa from another country?

Yes, you can apply for an F1 permit from another country. However, you must be living on a resident permit in that country. You cannot apply if you are on a short term visa in a particular country. If you are a resident, you can apply to the US embassy over there, provided that you meet the conditions. 

Is it a problem for a US student visa if I have overstayed in another country on a visa?

As a matter of fact, this can definitely affect your application in most cases. Every country has a steadfast rule on not overstaying in the respective country after expiry unless you did it in extreme circumstances. The US consular department can have records of your overstay and hence, use it in processing your application. However, since there is no certainty that they will reject it, you may apply for the F1 visa. 

Can we get US student visa with only on the IELTS?

No, passing an IELTS is not automatic eligibility for an F1 permit. As per the requirements, you will need an I-20 form for your application. And in order to get an I-20, you will need an English proficiency. This can be IELTS, PTE, or other accepted scores by the respective institution. Apart from submitting the test scores, you will require several other documents as well to apply for the permit. These are mentioned in this guide. 

Can I get an F1visa if I cannot show sufficient funds during a US visa interview?

You will be refused a permit if you do not have sufficient funds. One of the main conditions for applying for an F1 visa is that you possess enough funds to support your stay. Failure to do so is almost as an automatic visa rejection. During the interview, you will be asked about the source of funds. If you do not possess them, these will prove to the consular officer that you are incompetent to be issued with the student visa. 

Can I work in the US while on an F1 permit?

You can do part-time work while on a student permit. However, there are a few conditions attached to this. You cannot work off-campus, meaning, your work must be done within the institution you are studying it. However, you may apply to the USCIS for doing off-campus work under certain conditions. You cannot work for more than 20 hours a week during the regular school session. You may work up to 40 hours during vacation periods. 

Can we apply for a US student visa using an ECR passport?

Yes, you are allowed to apply for the student permit regardless of the ECR stamp. The ECR is only for people travelling for work permits, and only to a list of countries, The US does not come under this, and as a result, the ECR status is irrelevant to the application. 

 

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