Visa Process for Master’s Programs in the US
If you’ve reached this stage, congratulations are in order! You’ve been accepted and have committed to your graduate school. Now, the only major challenge left to overcome is getting your F1 or J1 US student visa. While this may appear a daunting process for many, know that this process isn’t created to hurt you, and that we are here to guide you through the US student visa process and requirements. I can assure you from my own experience that if you follow each of these steps entirely and accurately, you won’t have any problems at all!
Online Registration, the DS-160 Form
The first step in your student visa process for both F1 and J1 visas is filling in an online form, but remember that you can only begin this after having received your I-20 form in the mail from your university. This form will have all the details regarding your admission into and MS program at the university, including the duration as well as the earliest date you can enter the US for it.
While the DS-160 isn’t terribly complicated, in that it mostly requires you to fill in necessary information about yourself and your background, your family, and emergency contacts, etc., it is sufficiently tedious, so set out a little while for it. This should go without saying, but it is crucial that you ensure that the information you put it is entirely accurate – you do not want to give the US visa officer even the slightest reason to deny your student visa application. I remember having to recheck everything multiple times for incomplete information and typos – you do not want to mess this form up!
The DS-160 form can be found on this link. After you have completed it, make sure email the confirmation page to yourself for safe-keeping, and also print two copies of it. You will be required to carry a physical copy of this confirmation with you to the biometrics center prior to your interview.
While all the steps are naturally crucial, this is especially so. The application fee for a US student visa (both F1 and J1), including the service charge for the biometrics center and the charges from your bank (which will naturally vary), amounts to approximately USD 160 – 180. It is important to note, however, that this fee can only be paid at banks that are partnered with the US consulate. In India, these banks are Axis Bank and Citi Bank, and you can pay the non-refundable fees at either with cash or cheque. I was a little stressed out at this stage, not having accounts at either of the banks, but remember that these banks are used to such payments, so take advantage of the assistance that they offer!
In this whole process, what is most important is the 10-digit confirmation code you will receive with the receipt from your bank payment – without it, you will not be able to schedule a student visa interview at the US consulate. When I was at this stage, I remember being stressed out about this whole process (even though there really isn’t much to be stressed about!), so if the confirmation code doesn’t work on your first try, keep in mind that it is only activated after about two days (once the US consulate has received your payment in their account).
To enter the US consulate for your student visa interview, you will primarily need two documents, your I-20 and your SEVIS fee receipt. This is a required USD 200 fee that you can pay online on this link. Make sure to print two copies of the receipt for when you go to the US consulate. If you do not have the receipt, the visa officers may not allow you to enter the consulate – it does not matter whether you have paid the fees or not, the consulate will not have a record of it, and they can deny your entry if you do not have a physical receipt. When I was at this stage, I remember being asked for this receipt multiple times at different checkpoints in the consulate, so I cannot stress the importance of having this enough!
Visa Interview Appointment at the US Consulate
On this link, you can set the date and time for your student visa interview appointment. You will be prompted to login, this is normal, and you will have to create an account, which will require a code from your DS-160 as well as the SEVIS fee receipt. From my own experience and those of my peers, there isn’t really a convenient time for the interviews. The consulate is always very busy, and unless you get very lucky, the process will take at least an hour or two. So, simply choose a date and time that works best for you!
After you have scheduled your interview, you will also have to schedule an appointment at the biometric center, which is at a different location from the US consulate. You should schedule this for at least one or two days before your interview. In doing so, you will require your passport, the date you paid your fees, and your DS-160 confirmation.
While you may have to wait a little bit to enter the center, the process is extremely smooth once you’ve begun. You will be required to bring a valid passport (it is often a good strategy to renew your passport in advance such that you do not need to renew it while you are studying in the US), a physical copy of you DS-160 confirmation, as well as a physical copy of your appointment confirmation, without which you will not be allowed to enter.
Inside the center, you will be made take a photograph (which will be used for your visa) and give your fingerprints. You may be asked some questions, but there will not be anything major to prepare for.
Visa Interview at US Consulate
On the day of your student visa interview, ensure that you reach at least half an hour in advance of your visa time, as the security process can sometimes take longer than expected, and you do not want to miss your appointed time slot. You should bring several documents with you.
The documents required by the consulate are as follows:
- Your valid passport, as well as any old passports of significance (with past travel and visas)
- A physical copy of your visa interview appointment confirmation
- A physical copy of your DS-160 confirmation
- Your I-20 form, which should be signed before your interview
- A physical copy of your SEVIS fee receipt
In addition to this, there are a range of documents which are recommended to ensure that the process goes smoothly. From my own experience, while you most likely will not require all these documents, you can never be too safe with something of this great importance.
- Acceptance letter from your university
- Standardized test scores: Bring a copy of both your GRE as well as your TOEFL scores. And in the event that your official test results have not arrived, a printed version from your ETS account should suffice.
- Undergraduate degree: If you have graduated, then make sure to bring your degree as proof of completion. If you have not yet, then bring an official transcript (with your school seal and signature of your principal) with all of your grades thus far.
- High school transcripts: While it is unlikely that you will need this, it does not hurt to bring them.
- Financial documents, with proof that you have the ability to fulfill all tuition and living expenses. It is not possible to stress the importance of this enough. Bring ALL financial documents, including any investments, fixed deposits, and your income tax returns. If you have a scholarship or your parents are sponsoring your education, you will also require a letter stating this. However, if you are funding yourself, a letter from your bank manager stating that you have the funds is also helpful.
- Proof of address: Sometimes, the visa officer may ask for proof of your address, in which case the electricity bill will suffice.
Ultimately, the US student visa interview process should not be daunting. From my own experience, I can assure you that the questions that they will ask will be very reasonable, and as long as you answer them truthfully and confidently, you will be completely fine!
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Nomad Credit Can Help You in Navigating this Visa Application Process
Understanding the student visa application process to the US and preparing for the interview can be tough, but Nomad Credit is happy to help you navigate this difficult process and ensure that you have a smooth ride ahead.
Please also visit us at www.nomadcredit.com to search for student loan (also known as an education loan) options. Please don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.