IntroductionGetting student visa is the final step of securing admission in an US university for studies. Prior to that exercises of selecting university and course, submission of application to university for admission etc. will have to be completed. A student who wishes to enter the United States for studies must obtain a student visa which is a nonimmigrant type F-1 visa. A nonimmigrant type F-1 visa is meant for students who wish to stay for a particular period of time in US to accomplish specific purpose of studies.
What is Form I-20When a Student and Exchange Visitor Program certified school accepts any student, the designated school official (DSO) issues a document called Form I-20 which is 'Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language students. This Form I-20 is a paper record of student's information in the database called SEVIS.
What is SEVISDepartment of Homeland Security (DHS) maintains a web based database called Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This system maintains information about Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified schools and information about students seeking/possessing F-1 Visa.
What is I-901 SEVIS FeeAll prospective F-1 visa applicants are required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. This fee can be paid by Western Union Quick Pay service or by credit cards though other options are also made available. Form I-901 can be filled online after accessing the same on website www.fmjfee.com. Step by step guidance is available on their online tutorial. Before payment of SEVIS fee, Form I-20 must be checked against your passport information to ensure that name and date of birth (DOB) is correctly listed and spelled. If any discrepancy is noticed then the designated school official (DSO) who has issued Form I-20 should be contacted immediately to obtain corrected Form I-20. Receipt or proof of submission of SEVIS fee is required at the time of visa interview. Printed confirmation is accepted as proof of submission of SEVIS fee.
Visa applicationThe process of obtaining student visa can be initiated only after getting Form I-20 from the university where you would be studying abroad in USA and submission of SEVIS I-901 application fee. One may submit application for admission to more than one university and may obtain more than one I-20's issued by the respective universities but as far as student visa F-1 is concerned, application will have to submitted for admission in one particular university only using I-20 issued by that particular university.After getting accepted by an SEVP certified school, obtaining Form I-20 and getting receipt of payment of SEVIS Form I-901 fee, the prospective student can apply for a visa at US embassy or consulate. The official visa information website of the U.S. Mission in India is http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/.Generally following steps are involved in visa application process-
Visa InterviewApplicants for student visa F-1 are required to appear in person for an appointment at the Visa Application Center (VAC) and at the US Embassy or consulate for visa interview. The VAC appointment should be scheduled at least one day before the visa interview appointment day. Both the appointments can be scheduled either online or through the call center. For scheduling VAC and visa interview following documents are required-
Other InformationAll applicants who enter the VAC site are subject to security inspection. Use of cell phone and cameras are prohibited and all bags such as travel bags, flash drives, memory sticks, blue tooth devices, backpacks, brief cases , suitcases, leather/cloth bags and zip folders will be restricted by security.
ConclusionThe application procedure for obtaining nonimmigrant type student visa F-1 is fully transparent and systematic. A F-1 visa applicant must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have strong ties to the country of their residence and must show that they intend to depart the United States after their temporary stay for studies.
Additional information/updatesThe following additional information related to the F-1 student visa for studies in US are added in the article being re-published -
1. The students can travel within 30 days from the start date of I-20 and can submit their visa application within 120 days from the start date of I-20.
2. Student visa F-1 is required if the course of study is more than 18 hours a week.
3. Machine Readable Visa (MRV) application fee can now be paid using National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) or Mobile Payments – IMPS options also. Earlier it was limited to payment of cash over the counter at AXIS Bank, Citibank only in India and DRUK bank in Bhutan. More than 87,000 bank branches are enabled to make NEFT payments toward visa application fee. After logging into the profile, on the payment confirmation screen, an unique account number is received using which NEFT payment has to be made.
For Mobile Payments – IMPS options, the applicant must be preregistered with their bank to complete payment via their mobile phone and be in possession of a valid MPIN.
4. Students who remain away from classes for more than five months, are required to apply for and receive a new F-1 to return to school.
5. Following completion of all course requirements for graduation, F-1 visa holders may be eligible for up to 12 months of optional practical training (OPT).