The first step that you need to take, if you plan to study abroad, is to apply for a student visa. The process of applying for a US Student Visa is quite lengthy. Hence, be sure to prepare well in advance and plan to apply for Visa at least three to four months before the commencement of your program. There are different steps that are involved in the application process. These steps vary depending on the US Embassy or Consulate that you approach. It is advisable to check the website of the Embassy or to get a copy of the instructions from your local Embassy.
US Student Visa- Step by Step Process for Application Process:
Generally speaking, these are the five main steps involved in the US Student visa application process:
- Applying to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP): This needs to be done at least a year in advance. It is extremely important for an international student to ensure that he/she chooses a university and program accredited by the US Government’s SEVP. It is important to choose an accredited university as it will be chosen by professionals and governments across the world. Furthermore, these universities will get you enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and provide the documents required for you to apply for US student visa.
Once your application is accepted by the university, the officials will then enrol you into SEVIS and you will be sent the Form I-20 if you fulfil the requirements for an F or M visa or you will be sent the Form DS-2019, if you qualify for the J visa.
- Pay the SEVIS Fee: The SEVIS fee needs to be paid at least three days before you submit the US visa application form. You could pay the fee online or in paper format. Both the forms can be accessed via the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) SEVP website. Fill the details carefully and ensure that you fill the details in the same manner as you filled the visa application form.
At present, the SEVIS fee is $200 for F&M applicants and $180 for J applicants. Furthermore, there is a subsidised rate ($35) for special J visa holders such as summer interns, camp counsellors etc. If you are sponsored by an organization or individual, the concerned individuals will pay the fees for you. Ensure that you take a print out of the receipt as you will be required to show it as proof of payment at the time of your visa interview.
- Complete US Student Visa Application: Once you have paid the SEVIS fee, you will have to apply for a US student visa after taking an appointment with the US Embassy or Consulate in your country. Each country has a dedicated website where you will get easy access to all the details related to the US visa application. Be sure to apply in advance as the visa processing times vary.
All international students are expected to fill the online visa application form, DS-160. You will be required to enter the name of the location from which you are applying for Visa. Keep all the required information and documents handy when you are filling the form. Initially, you will be required to answer a security question by selecting one of the given options. Subsequently, you will be redirected to the application form. The top of the form features your application ID. Note down this ID which will be useful in case you are unable to fill the form in one go and need to retrieve the form at a later date.
- Pay the Visa Application Fee: The visa application fee is also called the Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) Fee. There are three ways in which you can pay the non-refundable and non-transferable visa fee – manually depositing the fees at an approved bank, through phone (a fee confirmation number would be given to you) or online (a receipt would have to be printed).
- Schedule and Attend a Visa Interview: Once the other procedures have been completed, you can schedule an appointment for the visa interview by calling up the US Embassy or Consulate from where you have applied. Make sure to pay the MRV fees before the interview as you might be asked for the receipt. Check the list of documents required on the website of the Embassy from where you wish to apply. Nevertheless, here is a rough checklist of documents required for the interview.:
- Passport with a validity period of more than six months after your stay period in the US
- Signed and completely filled SEVIS form I-20 or DS-2019
- Fee receipt (SEVIS and MRV)
- Application confirmation page of DS-160 with barcode and ID number
- Print out of the appointment letter for the visa interview
- 1-2 recent photographs which should be printed on standard photo quality paper
- Transcripts and documents related to earned diplomas and degrees
- Scores of TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, etc.
- Bank account statements and other receipts as proof of financial status
When you attend the visa interview, you will definitely be asked about the financial arrangements that you have made for your study and stay in USA. Here are a few pointers:
- You will be required to have at least $80,000 that will help you cover your education and living costs in USA.
- You could show $40,000 in your bank and for the remaining $40,000, you could show proof of your investments.
- If you are planning to study abroad, it would be a good idea to enquire about scholarships available as it would help you save a lot of money.
- You could also invest in schemes that ensure good returns. However, this would have to be done in advance.