The process of obtaining a student visa from the embassy may seem extensive and difficult, but the more you are equipped and the sooner you put together your documents, the earlier you will leave to the US for higher education.
When to Apply for a Student Visa?
You can apply for a visa early to provide sufficient time for visa processing. Embassies can issue your student visa in 120 days or less in advance of the registration date. If you apply for visa 120 days prior to your start date as per the Form I-20, the Embassy will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa, using that extra time for application processing.
The Department of Homeland Security regulation requires all initial or beginning students to enter the US 30 days or less in advance of their semester date as shown on Form I-20. If you want an earlier entry into the US prior to the semester date, you must qualify for a visitor’s visa. Before starting your education, you should get an approval to your change your status to Exchange Visitor status by filing Form I-539. Also you must submit Form I-20 to the Department of Homeland Security office and be aware that you cannot start your education until the change of classification is approved.
If you are a continuing student, you may apply for a new visa any time as long as your SEVIS records states that you are a student.
What are SEVP and SEVIS?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) help the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State better monitor institutions, exchange programmes and international students. International students’ information is maintained in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) which is an internet-based system that maintains precise and recent information on international students, exchange visitors and their dependents. SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications online to the DHS and Department of State (DOS) throughout a student or exchange visitor's stay in the US.
You should have an SEVIS generated I-20 issued by an institution approved by DHS, which you submit when you apply for your student visa. The consular officer will then verify your I-20 electronically through the SEVIS system in order to process your visa.
What are the Qualifications to Apply for a Student Visa?
The Immigration and National Act is specific about the requirements which must be met by you to qualify for a visa which will be decided by the consular officer. You must demonstrate that you properly meet student visa requirements including:
- Acceptance at a good institution
- Sufficient funds to manage education and living costs
- Preparation for education; and
- Plans to leave the US after education
How to Apply for a Student Visa?
An interview at the embassy consular section is necessary for applicants from age 14 through 79, as part of the visa application process. The waiting time for an interview appointment can vary, so applying for a visa early is better.
- You need to ensure that you complete Form DS-160 before the interview for your student visa.
- After filling Form DS-160, print out the confirmation page with the barcode and pay the visa application fee in an approved bank.
- You should make an online payment for the I-120 form, which is issued by the American institution affirming your enrolment and you should pay the I-901 fee online through the US Immigration and Customs enforcement website.
- Finally, fix an appointment for a student visa interview through the VFS website. This will necessitate you to have your DS-160 barcode and your bank fee receipt.
What is the Visa Fee and How to Pay?
The non-immigrant visa application processing fee is $200.00/Rs.10,726.00. Fee can be paid at the Embassy by cash, by a credit card capable of dollar transactions or by demand draft made in favour of "US Embassy".
You can also create an online profile
and choose the “Schedule Appointment” option to fix an appointment and pay the application fee. On the payment confirmation screen you will see the payment options and further details to initiate payment.
National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT)
You can pay your fee using NEFT payment system. Around 87,000 bank branches are enabled to make NEFT payments. You may also make your NEFT payment through online banking or mobile banking.
After creating/logging into your profile, on the payment confirmation screen, you will receive an account number to which you will transfer the money. Ensure you are careful while making a payment as fees once paid are not refunded. Make a note of the account number as proof of payment in order to schedule your visa interview appointment.
Payment by Mobile Phone
You can pay your fee via your phone using the IMPs system. In order to do that you must be preregistered with a bank to complete payment a valid MPIN. Payment of fee should be in rupees and must be the exact amount as listed on the payment confirmation screen in your profile. You can initiate an IMPS payment by SMS or by the m-banking facility provided by your bank. You must enter the right Beneficiary Mobile Number, Beneficiary MMID number and the exact fee amount.
Most banks operate a payment limit of Rs. 5,000 per transaction. Check the list of banks and their payment limits at the National Payments Corporation of India website. As soon as the payment is verified, you will receive an SMS containing the 12 digit IMPS reference number which should be entered after logging into their profile. Upon verification, you will be able to proceed to the appointment.
When you pay during regular business hours i.e. 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, you can schedule your appointment within 3 hours and on payment after 6PM, you can schedule your appointment after 9:00 AM the next working day.
Payment at AXIS bank /Citibank
You can pay your visa fee in cash at the mentioned AXIS or Citibank branches. Print and carry the applicable visa fee collection slip after logging into your profile. The bank will give you a receipt upon payment which is very vital and needs to be submitted as payment proof.
Payment at DRUK Bank
You can pay your visa fee in cash at any of the four DRUK Bank branches. Print and carry the visa fee slip after logging into your profile. The bank will give you a receipt upon payment which is very vital and needs to be submitted as payment proof.
Please note that the immigrant visa application fees are non-refundable.
Can Students Bring Their Dependents?
If you are travelling with dependents, you must provide:
- Proof of your relationship with your spouse and/or children
- It is ideal that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they can bring a copy of the student visa holder’s passport and visa, along with all the required documents.
- Issuance of visa is not assured in advance. So avoid final travel plans or purchase of non refundable tickets until a visa has been issued.
- Except previously cancelled, a visa is valid until the expiration date. If you have a valid US visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport; instead use it along with a new passport.
Well, applying for a student visa isn’t as tough as it used to sound. Rather it’s a piece of cake when you have the adequate documents in hand and when you know the right procedures. Hope this article cleared all your doubts about the student visa application process, before leaving for the US.
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