US student visas

Written by Overseas Education Consultant and Study Abroad Career Counsellor in Mumbai, Karan Gupta

The most common concern that students face when applying for a US student visa is the unavailability of visa dates. Are their concerns justified? “We make every effort to ensure that all students planning to study in the United States get their visas on time. In fact, we have established separate procedures in each of our four Consulates to handle the large number of student visa requests during the months leading up to the start of the academic year. That said, every visa category has its own requirements that must be met by an applicant before he or she qualifies for a visa. Student visa applicants from all countries, including India, must demonstrate their intention to return to their native country at the end of their studies,” states a US Consulate Officer. 


So what is the US consulate doing to encourage more students to apply? “As noted above, the U.S. Consulate is doing everything possible to assist qualified students obtain U.S. visasSpecifically, student visa applicants receive expedited appointment dates, currently within three weeks of completing the visa application and paying the required fee. In addition, visa officers work hard to reach potential students with information about the visa process through question and answer sessions, seminars, and published articles on the visa process,” adds the US Consulate General. 


The most important part of your US visa application process is your visa interview. Consulate officials have always advised applicants not to memorize answers for the visa interview. Instead speak honestly and openly about your reasons to study in the US, your career goals and your finances. You should be prepared to answer any questions pertaining to your parents, your sponsor and the school you plan to attend. Be honest, confident and straightforward in your answers and your visa interview will be a cakewalk. 


If you are planning to apply for a ‘high tech’ field such as Chemical Engineering or Advanced Quantum Physics at the Master’s or Doctorate level, there is a good chance that your visa processing will take longer. In such cases, approval from Washington DC is required and hence applicants applying for visas in these fields are advised to apply as early as possible. Please keep in mind that if you are applying for these fields, it does not mean that you visa interview will be more difficult, it just means that the visa processing will take more time.


To apply for your US student visa follow the steps outlined below:


1. Fill in your visa application forms and pay your visa application fee. 

2. Pay your SEVIS fee on www.fmjfee.com and print out your receipt.

3. Book your visa date online. You will need two appointments - one for submitting biometrics and one for the actual visa interview.


Recommended list of documents to carry with you when you visit the US consulate


1. Bank statements for the past six months

2. Income tax papers for the last three years

3. Proof of all liquid assets including fixed deposits, shares, investments and so on

4. All acceptance and reject letters from universities

5. All standardized test score sheets and past academic records including mark sheets

and degrees

6. Any other documents that will help you prove that you are a ‘serious’ student and you

intend returning home after your education

 

 

Students often believe that if their standardized test scores are low or if they have not appeared for any standardized exams, they will gave a hard time getting a student visa. Again, this is not true as the consulate is aware that certain programmes in the US do not require any standardized tests and hence the consulate reviews your visa application individually. Similarly there are no ‘blacklisted’ colleges in the US and as long as your college is accredited and issues an I-20, you could qualify for your student visa. “No single factor determines whether a student applicant qualifies for a U.S. visa. Consular officers may look at test scores, finances, student history, and many other factors, but each interview is an individual interview and there is no minimum test score requirement that student applicants must meet. If a university has admitted an applicant, the Consular officers give due consideration to the determination by the admissions board in making their own determination of visa eligibility,” states a US Consulate visa officer.

 

Students with last names of Patel, Shah, and Mehta stress more about their visa interview anticipating greater problems solely because of their last name. This, by far, is the greatest myth surrounding the US visa for many years now. The US consulate on several occasions has stated that this is a myth and certainly not true. Each applicant is reviewed independently and a particular last name cannot disqualify you for a visa. For example consider the student visa application of Rahul Patel. Rahul’s mother, father and brother all live in the US and in addition, Rahul does not have sufficient funds to pay for his education. Rahul is not sure why he wants to study in the US and his main goal of getting to the US is to live with his parents. When Rahul applied for his US visa, his visa was denied. Now, was his visa denied because his last name was Patel?

 

Tip

You will not be allowed to carry your cell phone, pager or any other electronic equipment in the American Consulate General. Carry all your supporting documents in a plastic bag.

 

 

Your visa can be denied under two sections – Section 221 (g) and Section 214 (b). Section 221 (g) implies that there is some ‘procedural’ problem with your visa application and after correcting the problem, your visa may be issued. Examples of this include an invalid SEVIS fee receipt or a missing bank document. A denial under section 214 (b) implies that you are a potential immigrant and you have not convinced the visa officer that you plan to return home after your education. In any case, if your visa is denied you can apply again. There is no limit to the number of times you can apply for your student visa.

 

 

Final words of advice from the US Consulate General, “As with all visa applicants, student visa applicants should apply as early as possible for their interview date. In addition, student applicants should relax during their interview and be prepared to explain honestly why they want to go to a particular university and how that choice fits into their overall life plan.”

 

 

As the student visa season approaches people will tell you that Friday is not the best time to apply for your visa as consular officers want to leave early for their weekend and hence will deny all visas after 2.00 p.m. You will also hear about the Chinese or African American lady who sits at counter no.4 and denies visas to all students. Your uncle’s friend’s son’s wife’s brother will know someone at the US consulate and will promise your student visa for a ridiculously high sum of money. Please do not succumb to such tittle-tattle and use your common sense before believing in such rumors. During the ‘visa season’, it is normal for your anxiety levels to reach an all time peak but understand that there is nothing tricky about the student visa process and by following simple guidelines, you most likely will get your visa.

 

Karan Gupta is the leading international education and career consultant in Mumbai, India. Since 1999, he has given career counselling and has helped thousands of students with study abroad and get admission and visas to universities and colleges in the USUKCanadaAustraliaSingapore and EU and also helps them get scholarships, loans and financial aid. In addition to aptitude tests and career counselling, his firm also provides training and coaching for the GMAT, GRE, SAT, ACT, TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE exams. Karan Gupta is the best study abroad career counsellor, consultant and career guidance expert in Mumbai.

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