Many Indian students, along with other international students, make plans to go to American universities for College-level education., as some college in the USA is ranked among the top universities in the world. But coming to colleges in the USA involves more than being accepted as a student; it also involves dealing with the legal and governmental aspects of traveling to the USA.
The United States welcomes foreign citizens who come to the U.S. to study. Before applying for a visa, all student visa applicants are required to be accepted and approved by their school or program. Once accepted, educational institutions will provide each applicant with the necessary approval documentation to be submitted when applying for a student visa. Students can apply within 120 days from the start date of I-20 and can travel within 30 days from the start date of I-20.
Majorly there are two types of student visas. You can choose whichever you want.
This is the most common type of student visa. If you wish to engage in academic studies in the United States at an approved school, such as an accredited U.S. college or university, private secondary school, or approved English language program, then you need an F-1 visa. You will also need an F-1 visa if your course of study is more than 18 hours a week.
If you plan to engage in non-academic or vocational study or training at a U.S. institution, then you need an M-1 visa.
When applying for your student visa for the U.S., you will generally need:
- A valid passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the U.S. (unless exempt by country-specific agreements)
- Acceptance at a SEVP approved school and your Form I-20
- Application fee payment for the SEVIS
- Non-immigrant visa application and the Form DS-160 confirmation page
- Your photograph in the requested format, and number
Some additional documents that might be required include:
- Academic preparation documents such as transcripts, diplomas, degrees or certificates
- Evidence that you have sufficient funds to maintain your living expenses throughout the period of your stay in the U.S.This may include:
- Bank statements
- Financial undertaking by a sponsor to cover your accommodation and living costs
- A scholarship program
- Evidence that you will leave the U.S. once you have completed your course of study. This can be in the form of an air ticket out of the U.S. to your home country
- You may also have to appear for a personal interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate.
Applying for a study permit
F-1 and M-1 visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your study start date, but you will not be allowed to enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days before your start date. J-1 visas can be issued at any time. If you want to enter the U.S. before these 30 days, you must qualify for and obtain a visitor visa. The 30-day limitation does not apply to students returning to resume studies – they may enter the U.S. at any time, provided they have a valid visa.
As an applicant for student visas to the United States, you are expected to prove that you can cover your tuition and living expenses. This means that you’ll need to cover not only for your own expenses, but those of your spouse and children, if any, and if they will be staying on with you in the United States. You’ll have to do this without relying on any employment that you might pick up in the United States while you’re a student—and without your spouse or children working at all.
As part of the application process, you will need to gather documents that will supply evidence of the existence of these things. For example, you might show evidence of:
- Personal or family funds, such as copies of bank statements or stock certificates. Combine this with a list summarizing your total cash assets. Note that if a bank statement shows a recent deposit but a low average balance, the U.S. government will want an explanation. Attach something in writing (your own statement or an official document showing the source of the new cash) to the copy of the bank statement. Your goal is to overcome any suspicion that the money was borrowed from a friend to pay the account and make the financial situation look better than it is.
- The employment status of family members who will support you, such as a letter, on company letterhead, from their employer (explaining the person’s job title, salary, and that it’s a permanent position), or copies of their income tax statements.
- Assets held by you or your family members that can be readily converted to cash. (The conversion must be done in a country whose currency is traded on the international exchange.) For example, real estate (land) is a good asset to show. The immigration authorities will want to see whether the property is owned free and clear or whether it carries any debt or lien (so you’ll want to attach bank or other receipts that show to what extent any loans or mortgages have been paid off). If the ownership papers don’t make the value clear or show a value that seems too low, you can hire a professional appraiser to prepare an estimate and report.
- Any scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, grants, or loans from your school, government, or private sources. Although these will also be listed on the Form I-20 that you receive from the school that accepts you, you must provide independent confirmation of them. Usually, a copy of the notification letter you received is best.
If your family members are supporting you, they can use a USCIS Form 1-134 to indicate that they not only have the income and assets you’ve shown, but they are willing to spend them on your studies and living expenses.
Further information, help, and advice
Triniti Immigration team of specialists has over 4decades of experience in immigration services and has helped thousands of people to study and work in the United States.