If you are a foreigner wishing to study in the United States, then the first thing in your checklist is to apply for a US student visa! Temporary stays require a non-immigrant visa, while permanent residence requires an immigrant visa and the category of the visa you need mainly depends on the course of study as well as the type of school you are planning to attend. Check out student visas for more details!
Since studying abroad can be a very beneficial and life-changing for many who dream of the experience, it can also be very stressful if the process is not appropriately followed through. Which is why we gathered some of the most important things to bear in mind if you are considering joining a study program abroad. Find out more below!
1. Ties to Your Home Country and Residence Abroad
In order to obtain your visa, you must convince the U.S consular officer that you have valid reasons for returning to your home country once your study program ends; otherwise, they will only see you as an “intending immigrant” who plans to stay permanently in the United States. Therefore, it is essential to present solid reasons proving that you have more to benefit and gain from by returning to your home country rather than staying in the U.S.
These ties can be both emotional and financial such as investments you made in your hometown, properties you own, financial prospects to be inherited in the future and so on. The consular officer may also ask about your family relationships, future plans, educational objectives, and how you envision building a career in your own country once your stay in the U.S comes to an end. Your non-immigrant intentions may be harder to prove if you already have relatives living in the United States, so you should be well prepared to convince the officer of the opposite. Remember it is better to be safe than sorry! You can also find more details about the interview, and the type of questions to expect at the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual at 9 FAM 402.5-5(E).
2. Stay well informed about your study program
You must be ready to answer all of the consular officer’s questions in the most convincing and confident manner. Which is why you need to make sure that you are well informed about your study program along with your host university, such as why you chose that specific course and any other relevant details. If you fail to answer such basic questions, it will be harder for you to convince them that you do not intend to immigrate to the U.S and therefore, getting a rejection on your visa application.
3. Language test and relevant scores
Well-spoken and written English is essential to prove that language will not be an issue during your stay in the United States. Since your interview with the consular officer will also be in English, you have to practice your basic communication skills and register to sit for a test either TOEFL or IELTS, which are not very hard to pass if well prepared for. Meaning that you can easily get a good score, which will be valid for two years after completing the exams. These scores are mandatory for your visa, so it would be better to prepare them as soon as possible.
4. Prepare the necessary documents
You obviously need to go through the consular website to prepare all the necessary documents before submitting your applications such as your passport, the required forms, financial documentation, admission letters, paying the visa fees and so on. In addition to that, you must prove that you have the financial ability of covering your finances in the United States during your study program by providing assistantship or scholarship letters issued by your school, sponsor or organization. In case you need help navigating this part of the process which can be very complicated and confusing, consider reaching out to an attorney who can help you by managing all the paperwork to avoid any omission and risk of rejection for you application. If you are already a holder of a B-1 or B-2 visa type and wish to change your status to a student visa, you can take a look at Immigration Laws for Changing to a Nonimmigrant F or M Student Status to know more details.
5. Employment and dependents
Keep in mind that the purpose of your visa application is to join a study program in the U.S, rather than to work neither before nor after your graduation. Therefore, you must be fully able to explain your intentions of returning to your home country as soon as your study program ends, which may be harder to prove if you have remaining dependents at home and especially if you are providing the main source of income for them. That may lead the consular officer to think that you are planning support them with money you intend to earn during your stay in the United States and your visa will probably be denied. However, if your family members plan on joining you, it would be better to let them apply for an F-2 accompanying visa at the same post where you applied for your own visa, but that is not always mandatory if they live in another region. Another detail worth mentioning is the fact that your dependents will not be able to work in the U.S under any circumstance, your spouse can however get involved in volunteering activities and your children will be able to continue their education.
Applying for a student visa can be very complicated and navigating its process is often overwhelming, which is why getting the help of an expert since the beginning will help you increase your chances of getting a positive outcome. Good luck!