Step by step guides on US Student Visa
By Olushola Samuel
The F1 visa is a student visa that is given to international students who want to attend educational institutions in the United States. It covers levels from elementary school to university and graduate school, including other degrees.
1. Certificate of Eligibility form
The institution of learning will issue you either an I-20 form (F-1 full-time student visa) or a DS-2019 form (J-1 exchange visitor visa) for SEVIS registration, to bring to your visa appointment and for entry into the U.S.
Your Form I-20 states the amount of funds you need to finance your education and living in the US. You must submit documents which prove you have that amount readily available. This can be done by submitting various documents, such as:
Bank statements for the last 3 years.
Tax records for the last 3 years.
Pay stubs of previous employment.
If you have received a scholarship, you also need to submit proof of it.
Paying a semester’s or a year’s worth of tuition is also a good idea, but not mandatory.
If you are supported or sponsored by someone else in the US, you will need to submit Form I-134, Affidavit of Support and bank statements for the last three years of that person.
If you are funding your US education through a loan, you must also show proof of the approved loan.
Documents that prove your previous education and current qualifications:
Standardized test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, etc.)
Acceptance letters from the educational institution which accepted you
Previous degree diplomas
Purchased health insurance
You must have a valid passport for travel to the U.S. with a validity date at least six months into the future.
The Student and Exchange Visitor information System (SEVIS) is a central computerized system that maintains and manages data about foreign students and exchange visitors. You must register here and pay the fee at least three business days prior to your visa appointment. Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 or DS-2019 form. Once the online form is completed and the fee is paid, please print a receipt. This receipt is required at the visa appointment and upon arrival to the U.S. Note the SEVIS fee is separate from the visa fee. An additional visa fee is required.
Applying for your visa
If you are currently outside of the U.S. and do not have a valid U.S. student visa, you must apply for one at a U.S. embassy or consulate office. It is strongly recommended you apply through the office with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence, although you may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad. Information about visas will be available on the office's web site.
Appointments are mandatory for all student visas. Some offices require appointments to be made at least four to eight weeks in advance, and holiday periods can increase the wait times. Find out your preferred office's typical wait time and plan ahead. Visas cannot be issued more than 90 days before the start date indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.
Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain a U.S. visa to enter the U.S.
How to Apply for an F1 Visa?
The application process for the F1 visa goes through the following steps:
1. Get your admissions documents from the SEVP institution.
2. Apply online through the DS-160 form.
3. Pay the application fee. The fee is currently $185
4. Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. The fee is $350
5. Schedule your F1 visa interview.
6. Submit the file with the F1 visa required documents.
7. Schedule interview appointment and attend the student visa interview
What to bring to the visa appointment
• Required photo(s)
• Visa fee or proof of visa fee payment
• Payment receipt for SEVIS fee
• U.S. non-immigrant visa application forms
• School admissions letter (exchange students will not have this letter)
• I-20 or DS-2019 form
• Test scores and academic records
• Proof of English proficiency
• Proof of financial support that corresponds to the information on your I-20 or DS-2019
• Evidence of ties to your home country
• Any other documents required by the embassy or consulate.
All applicants are presumed to be an immigrant until the consular officer is satisfied that the applicant is entitled to a non-immigrant status. Ninety-five percent of non-immigrant visa denials happen because the applicant did not establish compelling ties to their home country, usually in the form of socioeconomic ties or career opportunities for you in your home country.
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