A Dummies Guide to Getting a US student Visa

Student Life, Study Abroad, Travel

The United States is home to some of the most sought-after colleges and universities, including the Ivy League Universities. Many Indian students prefer going to the US for their higher studies and for better employment opportunities. Unfortunately, very few students have a clear idea of the visa processes when they are applying for a students’ visa in the US. Here is a guide that will come in handy when you apply for your US student Visa.

Types of Visas for International students going to the US:

1) F1 Visa

Students who are registering for undergraduate and graduate programs which need over eighteen hours of study (per week), should apply for an F1 visa. If the student is going to be accompanied by their partner or their children, they would have to apply for a study or work visa, separately. However, they would have to apply for an F2 visa if they only want to go with the student and not engage themselves in any professional setting.

2) J1 Visa

The J1 Visa is for students or professionals who are visiting the US as a part of an exchange programme. Also known as the Exchange Visitor visa, the J1 visa is usually applied for, by professionals heading to the US for a ten-month research fellowship or vocational training. Spouses accompanying J1 applicants must apply for a J2 visa or a work visa if they wish to work in the US.

3) M1 Visa

The M1 Visa is for students who are going to the US for professional training or are enrolling themselves into a technical course. The processes for the F1 and M1 visas remain the same. The only difference between the two is that students going with an M1 visa cannot prolong their stay in the US, going over the visa limit.

Cost of the Visas:

Students applying for a US visa need to pay two different fees. The first one is the SEVIS fee, while the other is the MVR/ Visa Application fee.
Fee for F1 Visa- $200 (SEVIS) + $160 (Application Fee)
Fee for J1 Visa- $180 (SEVIS) + $160 (Application Fee)
Fee for M1 Visa- $200 (SEVIS) + $160 (Application Fee)

Documents needed for an F1 Student Visa Application:

  • A valid passport with a validity date, at least six months beyond your period of stay.
  • A printed copy of DS-160, your online application form
  • Interview appointment letter (photocopy and original)
  • Form I-20 sent by the college (where you are going to study)
  • Confirmation receipt of Visa fee payment
  • Bank statement for at least three years showing that you have enough assets to pay for the first year (could be of parent or guardian)
  • Payslips
  • Original mark sheets/provisional certificates (keep everything ready with you, along with photocopies to prevent any last-minute hassles)
  • Score sheet of exams like TOEFL, GMAT, IELTS, etc.

You also need to submit some financial documents which act as proofs of the funds you would need, to meet the expenses. These expenses include tuition fees, staying expenses and overheads. The financial documents you would need are:

  • Tax returns of the past 3 years
  • Bank statements/passbook dating back to 3 years, from the time you are applying
  • Original payslips/salary slips and letters of employment
  • Statement from an accredited Chartered Accountant
  • Scholarship letter (If the applicant has been awarded a scholarship)
  • A loan approval letter by the bank

Visa Procedure:

  1. Once you receive Form I-20 from your US college, you can pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. After paying these fees, you can apply for an online visa form, called the DS-160. Make sure to take a print-out of the confirmation page, so you can carry it with you for your interview.
  2. Pay the Visa fees (SEVIS and MRV) through authorized banks or through NEFT.
  3. After all the fees are paid; you would have to schedule an interview and a biometrics appointment. The biometric test usually consists of picture profiling and fingerprint scanning. During the personal interview, they usually direct questions about your college, family background, finances and your future plans.

Are students on a student visa allowed to work in the US?

Students studying at a university in the US cannot take up work off-campus. Meaning, they cannot formally work at an organization other than a commercial firm that directly offers its services to the university, where the student is studying. Examples of such places include the university library or even the in-house cafeteria. F1 visa holders can work for up to 12 months after completing their graduation, this is temporary employment permission for you to gain some practical experience after you finish studying. If you still wish to work in the US after these 12 months, you would have to apply for a work visa, separately.

Last modified: June 24, 2019

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