The U.S. university application process involves a significant commitment of time and effort. Once you have been accepted to a program, you are almost ready to begin your studies. One of the final steps is applying for the appropriate U.S. visa.
So how do you apply for a U.S. student visa? Start by selecting the university you want to attend. Once you accept admission to your dream school, the university will mail you an I-20 form, which you need to apply for a student visa. If you are unsure about the appropriate visa category for your program, it will be listed on the top of the I-20. You may apply for your student visa no earlier than 120 days before the start date of your program. You may also find your program’s official start date on the I-20.
Once you have the I-20, complete a DS-160 (visa application) form. The application must be completed online at www.ceac.state.gov/genniv. The visa application form asks for personal information such as your name, date of birth and other details. You also must pay the non-refundable visa application fee. Details on paying the visa application fee are available at http://cdn.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-paymentinfo.asp. First time students must also pay the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee at www.fmjfee.com. This fee is collected once per student for the entire duration of your studies.
Now that you have paid the fees, you must schedule two appointments: the first to submit your biometric information and the second appointment for your visa interview.
The interview will likely be short – sometimes just 2-3 minutes in duration. Bring your passport, SEVIS fee receipt and original I-20. There is no need to bring additional documents to the interview. Before your interview, take a deep breath and try to be relaxed. You have already completed all the work to gain admission to a U.S. university. You have likely explained and justified your decision to study in the U.S. to countless friends and family members. Think of the interview as a conversation about your educational plans. Explain why you chose your particular program and what academic preparation you have. In addition, be prepared to discuss how you plan to pay for your studies. If your family is financing your education, make sure you can explain how they plan to support your education. It is important to answer all questions openly and honestly.
Once your visa is approved, your passport will be retained and returned approximately 3-5 days after your appointment. Your student visa permits you to travel to the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start date of your program.
The article has been contributed by U.S. Consulate General, Mumbai.