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    Visa to Study in USA: F1, J1 Visa Types, Application Process, Requirements, Interview

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    Hitaishi Bhatia

    Study Abroad Expert


    The United States is the third most coveted destination among international aspirants who leave their homelands to study in the USA with a dream of enrolling at a world-renowned institute of the country (India Today, 2020). The process of seeking admission is thus, highly competitive and can be strenuous in some cases.

    Procuring a visa often makes for the most difficult part of this arduous yet fulfilling journey after you have selected from the range of courses and universities in the US. If you are an international applicant struggling with a similar situation, some of the facts regarding US visa that might come in handy are as listed below.

    • US visa is the world’s 3rd most applied visa in the world.
    • The worldwide application acceptance rate for USA Visa is over 86%.
    • According to the preliminary data reports of DHS (Department of Homeland Security), in the year 2019, USA issued 8,742,068 nonimmigrant visas and 462,422 immigrant visas.
    • While there was a dip of 4% in the total number of student visas issued to Indian Students in 2018, the rate showed a spike jump in 2019 where it increased by 3% and took the total number to 202,014.
    • Overall, there has been a steep decrease of 40% in the number of non-immigrant student visas being issued between 2015 and 2018. Many believe it to be the Trump effect after the presidency of the United States shifted from Barack Obama to Donald Trump. But the exact reason is hard to point.

    Visa to Study in USA v/s COVID-19

    • Due to the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation, there might be a delay in the issuance of US visas because primary importance is being given to birth and death situations.
    • President of the United States, Donald Trump has suspended all the work visas like H-1B, H-2B, J, and L nonimmigrant visa programs for the time being since June 2020 until December 31, 2020.
    • This decision has been taken in the light of increasing unemployment in the USA which has quadrupled in the last few months due to the pandemic.
    • The decision will highly impact the Indian IT professionals and American and Indian organizations as their current or prospective employees will face a stand by till the end of the year.

    Visa to study in USA: Indian students trends

    While there are different kinds of visas to study in the US that shall be discussed in the latter section of this article, the basic 2 categories under which the visas can be divided are for immigrants (looking for permanent settlement in the USA) and non-immigrants visa (going for a shorter visit with an objective like work, study, etc.)

    The trends for the same are highly interesting to note in respect to Indian internationals which has been depicted in the graph below.

    US Non-Immigrants Visa Trends among Indian Applicants

    Types of Visa to study in USA

    After you have been accepted to one of the top universities in the USA and have received an I-20 from the institute, the immediate step that follows includes obtaining a relevant visa. However, the question arises as to which visa is required to study in the US? To study in the country, 2 types of visas that exist are namely, Work Visa and Student Visa. Both the visa types and their related information is as discussed below.

    Student Visa

    There are 3 types of student visas to study in the USA depending on the duration and type of course one is applying for. These may differ depending upon the different programs and institutes. The details regarding the same are compiled as follows:

    F VISA

    These visas are for students who pursue an academic degree at a US accredited university or college or wish to study English at a university or English Institute. These are of 3 major types.

    Visa Type Description Benefits
    F-1 Visa For full-time students. They can work for 20 hours a week On- Campus. Eligible for 12-month OPT (optional practical training) that allows you to work for a year after your graduation
    F-2 Visa For Dependents of F-1 Visa holders ( Spouse or children) Extended visa stays or access to Green Card if F-1 gets it; access to healthcare; change of visa status to F-1 if you enroll at a US institute
    F-3 Visa For Mexican and Canadian students who stay in their home country while attending full time or part-time courses in the USA. -

    M VISA

    These visas are issued to students who wish to pursue Non-academic, Vocational studies or Training at a US accredited institution. M visa holders must not live in the USA for more than a year. M visas are of 3 types

    Visa Type Description Benefits
    M-1 Visa For Students pursuing Non-academic or vocational training. Permission to access healthcare; driver’s license; US bank account and work under certain restrictions
    M-2 Visa For Dependents of M-1 visa holders Study in elementary or vocational school, travel in and outside of the country
    M-3 Visa For border commuters pursuing vocational studies in the USA. -

    J VISA

    J Visas are issued to students enrolled in an exchange program in the country. The stay on this visa is shorter than F and M visas. These are of 2 types

    Visa Type Description
    J-1 Student Visa For exchange students on a US program.
    J-2 Visa For Dependents of J1 Visa Holders.

    Post-Study in USA: Work Visa

    Studying in the USA and then working there is the ultimate goal of many international students. Applying for the US work visa immediately after the degree completion is the major concern of all the international students. H1-B is the most sought out visa for most of the Non-US citizens.

    H-1B VISA

    • An offer of employment is required to get an H-1B Visa.
    • The employer would have to file an I-129 Petition with the U.S Citizenship and immigration office.
    • One might also need to hire an attorney to go through the process smoothly.

    Visa to Study in USA Requirements

    As per the application process of universities in the USA, a student needs to have the following basic documents to procure a US student visa.

    • Valid passport that has a validity of minimum 6 months after you stay in the country
    • Form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant visa application confirmation page)
    • Application fee payment Receipt
    • Form I-20 if applying for a Student visa (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status)
    • Receipt Number on Petition filed by U.S employer (I-129 form) if applying for a work visa.
    • Original Marks Sheet or Provisional certificates
    • Score sheet of standardized exams like IELTS (6.5 or equivalent), TOEFL, GMAT, GRE etc.
    • Evidence of sufficient funds in the bank account to ensure you can survive the duration of course in the USA. This can include Bank statements; Sponsors and a scholarship program.
    • Proof that the candidate will leave the country once the program is completed. A return air ticket to the home country can be evidence of this kind.
    • A personal interview at the US embassy or consulate is also a major requirement of the process.

    Visa to Study in USA: Application Process

    The process for obtaining a visa to study in the USA may differ depending on the embassy and consulate, but the basic process remains the same. Both the visas available as per the requirements of the applicant follow a different set of requirements which have also been detailed below.

    How to apply for visa to study in USA?

    Process for applying for a US visa in a few simple steps.

    1. Complete an online application form and attach your photograph as per the specifications. Take a print of the form to bring it along with you to the interview.
    2. Schedule an interview at your nearest US embassy or consulate. Generally, candidates lying in the age limit of 14 to 79 have to mandatorily appear for the interview.
    3. Pay the required application fee of 160 USD along with additional fees required on the basis of your nationality.
    4. Gather all the mandatory documents required for the interview and begin your preparation.
    5. Apper for the interview. Once the visa is approved, pay the visa issuance fee and plan for your departure.

    US Student Visa Requirements

    • Proof of Funds: Minimum bank balance or US student visa funds requirements is that it should be equivalent to 1st year’s tuition and living expenses. For instance, if your I-20 mentions the first year total fees to be nearly 25,000 USD and the duration of course is 2 years, then the minimum account balance needs to be 50,000 USD. Also, make sure that the fee mentioned is in US dollars for the ease of the interviewer.
    • Bank statement and proof of scholarships given by universities in the USA.
    • University will then send eligibility forms i.e. I-2O for F-1 Visa and DS-2019 for J-1 Visa.
    • Complete the SEVIS I-901 form and register with the international visitor database.
    • Pay the SEVIS Fee of 220 USD for J visa and 350 USD for F visa.
    • Schedule visa appointment online at https://www.vfs-usa.co.in.
    • Complete the online DS-160 visa form and take a print out of the Interview

    US Work Visa Requirements

    • Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129 must be filed by the U.S employer.
    • The petition is approved by the United States Citizenship and immigration services.
    • After approval, an applicant can apply for a US Visa at the U.S embassy.
    • Complete the online Nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160.
    • Schedule your Visa Appointment at https://www.usembassy.gov.

    Fees for visa to study in USA

    The US student visa fees that need to be paid at various levels of the entire process are as tabulated below.

    Type of Fee Cost (in USD)
    Non-petition based Nonimmigrant Visa Fees (Except J visa) 160
    Petition based Nonimmigrant fees 190
    Border crossing card fees 160 (for 15 years above of age)
    Other fees (H1B visa applicants) 4500

    Visa to study in USA: Interview Process

    The interview process for visa to study in the USA is quite similar to that of a job interview. Some tips that might help you if you are appearing for a visa interview in the near future are as stated below.

    How to prepare for US student visa interview round?

    1. Dress Formally: Since it is a formal event, your choice of clothes should complete the event and it is half battle won already.
    2. Be precise with your answers: It is very important to stick to the point when answering the questions as it reflects honesty and confidence. Don’t play around or sound rehearsed but be spontaneous and on point.
    3. State your purpose: Tell the exact location of where your institute is and the reason of choosing that particular university and program.
    4. Prove your commitment: It is very important to convince the interviewer that your purpose is genuine and that you are highly passionate towards the cause for which you want to go to the USA.
    5. Stay positive and calm: It is possible that many times you might not know an answer to the question that has been asked. But how you carry yourself through the situation makes a difference. Remember to be confident throughout and smile while answering to reflect calmness and avoid panicking.
    6. Work on your English: Since the interview will be majorly conducted in English, it is important that you practice it beforehand, however, if you have applied for a English language course then you can mention the same to the concerned person and indulge the interview in your native language.
    7. React to your interviewer: While it is essential that you be yourself in the visa interview but it is equally important to adapt to your interviewer react accordingly. If the person seems interested in your answers, then indulge in details and stories stressing your purpose else stick to short and quick answers.

    NOTE: Remember to be at least 20 minutes before the interview time but do not come hours before the interview to be in line as it does not ensure early interview for anyone. Please carry all the required documents and make sure you do not accidentally take a prohibited item along with you like food, electronics, etc.

    Visa to study in USA: Interview Questions

    Some frequently asked questions that you can expect during your US student visa interview are as follows:

    1. Why do you want to study in the USA?
    2. How many US institutes did you apply to?
    3. From which universities did you get an offer of place?
    4. Can you tell me some details about the organization and the program you have opted for?
    5. Have you been to the USA before? Do you have any relatives/acquaintances in the USA?
    6. Where are you planning on staying in the USA?
    7. What are you planning to do post completing your graduation?
    8. Did you receive any scholarships? How are you financing your studies?
    9. Are you planning to come back to your country? When and Why?

    Why was my visa to study in USA denied?

    The United States refuses millions of visa applications every year for reasons ranging from lack of preparation to serious heinous crimes on the part of the applicant. Some of the common reasons to be taken care of in order to avoid facing rejection for your visa application are as compiled below.

    US student visa rejection reasons

    1. Inability to mention the clear purpose of visit to the USA.
    2. Reflecting a hidden intention to stay in the country once the program is completed.
    3. Inability to demonstrate the availability of funds to finance your visit to the USA.
    4. The degree/course or the university you have applied to seems suspicious.
    5. You have close family members already living in the USA can also be a minor reason for you staging back in the country which can lead to the visa rejection.
    6. Application for a wrong kind of visa is also another reason that leads to denial of the visa.
    7. Past criminal records can also be a reason for Visa rejection.
    8. Demonstration of false documents or lack of documents can lead to Visa denial.
    9. A lot of refusals and overstays on previous journeys can put a negative impact.
    10. Poor relationships between home countries and the USA also lead to denials.

    In a nutshell, the US visa application process may seem a little complex and with Donald Trump's limited travel ban policies the rate of rejection has only gone higher in the past year. However, the corona pandemic situation might work in the favor of the students acting as a blessing in disguise for many.

    Hence, if a student understands all the processes and requirements involved carefully, he/she will not face any hindrances and will successfully obtain a visa to study in the US.