VISA Application : Requirements, Issues and Solutions
Any foreign international wishing to visit the U.S. needs to get a visa. There are different kind of visas which can be basically divided into two categories:
- Non-immigrant visa for a temporary stay and
- Immigrant visa for permanent residence.
Now, the non-immigrant visa can be divided into:
- F visa: for students who are attending US universities for pursuing higher education. It is a full-time course at any university approved by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and SEVIS.
- M visa: for students who are attending an US university for a vocational or non-academic course. Valid for only one year but can be extended to three years as required.
- J visa: for students who are attending an US university for pursuing higher education but are enrolled in programs like Fulbright.Note that students will not be able to travel on the visa waiver program or using the visitor visa.
However if you’re visiting U.S. purely for business purposes you could use the B-1 visa or the B-2 visa for vacation and other recreational activity.
Now, without any further ado let’s get down to the brass tacks of applying for a visa. There are quite a few steps, so let’s begin:
Being accepted by a SEVP approved university
- You have to be accepted by a SEVP(Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved university before applying for a F or M visa at the U.S. Embassy.
- After you are accepted by the SEVIS approved university of your choice you need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. The SEVIS I-901 form will cost you about $200. The University provides you a I-20 form which will be particularly useful during the visa interview. If your family wants to stay with you, they can do so without paying any SEVIS fee, however they must obtain individual I-20 forms.
Fill up the online visa application
Before scheduling the visa interview you need to do the following:
1) Fill up the visa application online and
2) After filling up the application, don’t forget to take a print out and carry it during the visa interview.
Get the interview scheduled
- Certain age groups viz. above 80 and below 14 years old are generally exempted from visa interviews. Although it is left to the discretion of the interviewers to consider applicants irrespective of age.
- Visa interviews are carried out in most situations with the exception of renewals.
- An appointment for the visa interview must be scheduled at any U.S. embassy, however it is recommended that you schedule at your permanent residence as the chances of you qualifying for visa are more.
- Apply for your visa early because the wait times for interviews vary depending upon the geographical location, category of visa etc.
- For new students the F-1 and M-1 visas could be issued as early as 120 days in advance of the commencement of your course. But you will not be allowed to enter the U.S. anytime before 30 days of the start of your course.
- For continuing students however the scenario is different, they can enter the U.S anytime before their courses commence. They can renew their visas anytime provided their SEVIS records are up to date.
- You have to pay a non-refundable sum of money as the visa application fee before the interview. You might also have to pay some amount as a fee for issuing your visa(depending upon the nationality).
The following documents will come in handy while applying for visa and during the visa interview:
- A valid passport to travel to the United States. It must be valid for at least six months after your duration of stay. In case of multiple persons included in your passport every one needs to deposit separate applications for visas.
- Visa application for Non-immigrants
- Forms like DS-160
- In case you are required to pay the Application fee payment receipt, before taking the interview.
- Photographs while filling up the DS-160 form. There might be some issues with uploading the photos, so it’s recommended that you take a printed photograph along with you during the interview. It should be in accordance with the requirements mentioned below*
- Proof of eligibility for the non-immigrants in the form of F-1 status.
- Documents essential for Academic and Language Students
- Proof of eligibility for the non-immigrants undergoing vocational courses(M-1 status) in the form of I-20.
- The university you’re enrolled in will send you a SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor System) approved I-20 form after storing all of the information on you into the database. I-20 form requires your university officials signature along with yours. If your family members want to stay by your side during your MS/Ph.D they need to be registered with SEVIS. Everyone will receive an I-20 form.
- Some miscellaneous additional documents might be needed as a proof of your qualification.
Make sure to review all of the above mentioned instructions for applying to universities with those on the official website of the embassy you’re applying to.
The additional requirements may include the following three:
Requirements in terms of academia
- Marksheets and transcripts
- Diplomas, Degrees or Certificates from schools you attended
- GRE and TOEFL(IELTS) scores
Intention of leaving United States once your course is complete.
Working out a plan to handle the living expense, educational and travel cost.
Requirements for photographs*
While attending your visa interview
- The category of visa you’re going to receive depends on your interaction with the visa officer. You have to fulfill all the requirements for a holder of that particular category of visa you’re looking for.
- Based on your geographical locations there might be digital fingerprint scans free of ink.
- Even after the completion of your visa interview, there might be more wait time owing to administrative purposes.
- After the approval of visa, you might have to pay an amount for issuing your visa (depending on your nationality). You will also be intimated as to when the passport and the visa will be delivered to you. You might want to look up the official website for more details on the processing time depending upon your location via courier.
We hope that you are clear with the process of applying for a visa. We shall now discuss the frequently asked questions related to VISA and try to address them.
Most of the questions are related to:
- Plans for your masters
- choice of university
- academic ability and prowess
- financial status
- plans after graduation
Here are a few of the sample questions asked and how to answer them:
Does the F-1 visa depend on the admission season?
F1 visa doesn’t depend on which season you’ve been admitted or when you have received your admit. Visas are provided on a fair basis of eligibility and qualification. If you have the right qualification, your visa will most likely be approved. Your chances of obtaining an US visa neither increases nor decreases by being a Spring/Fall student. Visas are not to be subjected on the basis of the intake. As long as you have the right qualifications and answers to the visa officer, there is a high chance of getting visa.
Why go for spring intake and not fall?
I have got an admit for my course, so I didn’t want to wait for another 6 months.
Why are you leaving a High paid job and pursuing your masters.
I am looking for my career advancement, in order for me to move to next level I would like to pursue my masters.
In spring you may not get part time jobs, how will you manage?
I am comfortably funded by parents. I will be able to complete my masters without doing any part time jobs.
Why don’t you retake GRE and go for Fall (in case GRE score is low)?
Since my other credentials are good and I have got an admit from a good university for the course I am looking for, i am not planning to retake my GRE.
Why are you going to the US?
To pursue my higher studies (maybe MS or Ph.D)
What will you be specializing in?
I will be majoring in “chosen specialization”.
What was your branch during your bachelors?
I pursued my bachelors in “mention your bachelors branch”.
What are you currently engaged in?
I’m currently “working at/pursuing my” (whatever it is that you’re currently engaged in).
Why do you want to go for a masters?
To gain in-depth knowledge and skill in “chosen specialization”. And applying those skills in the future.
How many universities did you apply to?
I have applied to “name of the universities you applied to”.
Do you know about any of the faculty members serving in the university you got admits from?
Yes, “mention the name of a few professors”.
What is the location of the University of your Choice?
Mention the location of the university. Be thorough with the background research.
How much did you score in GRE/TOEFL/IELTS?
My GRE/TOEFL scores are “answer honestly”.
Tell us about your GPA.
Don’t try to bluff your way out of it. Provide an honest answer regarding your GPA.
How comfortable are you in English?
Answer honestly without trying to show off.
Why choose US over other countries?
The educational programs in US are valued all over the world. The academic course is designed in such a way that proper emphasis is provided on both practical and theoretical aspects of the topics.
How much do you earn in a month? Is your monthly income?
Honestly answer the questions without exaggerating.
Do you plan on going back home after completion of your course?
Yes I plan to return to India and would like to “mention about your aspirations”
Are you sure about returning home after the completion of your MS?
I’m very confident of returning to India after I have amassed all the knowledge that can help me pursue a better career back home.
Still not able to wrap your head around visas? Worry no more, be it visa or deadline related doubts, contact us and we will get back to you.
Now, that you are aware of the steps involved in getting a visa and you are aware of the most commonly asked interview questions, it’s time you start preparing for your visa.
There is one thing regarding visa interview and that is: as long as you are honest, straightforward, clear with your plans after masters, and, your financial statements are good then there is no need to worry. Be confident, because you are standing there with an admit, as a university in US has recognized you and gave you an admit.
Last but not the least: Can you change the status of your visa once you are lawfully admitted to the United States with a non-immigrant visa?
Sound off with the answers in the comments below.