Obtaining a visa for education, say in the US, takes considerable time but if sufficient information is gathered beforehand and necessary documentation is kept ready, it can be a very easy process. In fact, the number of student visas to the US has grown steadily over the years.
Every foreign citizen who enters the United States must obtain a visa – for temporary stay such as full-time study, training, research etc. a non-immigrant visa application has to be made; for permanent residence, an immigrant visa application is necessary.
Any student who has applied to a college or university and has received admission acceptance can apply for a student visa. The particular college sends the student an I-20 form which forms the basis for an F-1 Visa application. The type of institution that the student is attending and the courses of study usually determine the category of visa issuance.
If the student is going on an exchange program for consultation, training or research, the agency that is sponsoring the visit sends a DS-2019 form which is the J-1 Visa application.
Student visas are classified into two types – F-1 or M-1 issued to the student pursuing a full-time study course; J-1 Visa is issued to exchange visitors or exchange program students.
A spouse or a child of a student travelling on an F-1 or M-1 Visa usually accompanies on an F-2 or M-2 Visa.
Every person or citizen applying for an F-1 or M-1 student visa has to be accepted by a SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved institution. The EducationUSA website provided complete information on study opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate study programs, for research scholars, etc.
When the student is accepted by a college or university, automatic enrolment is carried out in the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). On payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee the school provides the student with a Form I-20 to present at the consulate or embassy for the visa interview.
Student Visa Process
Step 1: Upon acceptance by the university, the non-immigrant student receives the I-20 form for an F-1 Visa or the DS-2019 for a J-1Visa. This form has to be filled in carefully with details such as name etc. matching the same spelling or initials as that of the acceptance letter issued by the university.
All applications are scrutinized for security clearance; some countries have additional screening procedures which may take a few weeks.
Step 2: An appointment for a visa interview has to be scheduled as early as possible on receipt of the acceptance letter. The dates indicated on the I-20 or the DS-2019 should be taken into account while scheduling interview.
The US Embassy in every country has a website with detailed instructions on the visa appointment procedure. The US Department of State affiliated Education USA centers are present all over the world and information on payment of visa fees and scheduling interview can be obtained from them.
There is a fee to cover the system costs that record the student’s stay in the US (SEVIS). There may also be an additional fee for the visa application in the country where the visa is requested.