How to File a Student Visa Application
The student visa application process can be confusing and time consuming. There are certain steps and procedures than must be done in a certain order; otherwise, you could end up having to start the process over again. With the prospects of studying abroad, you are undoubtedly excited, ready for adventure, and do not really want to spend all your free time filling out paperwork instead of planning those adventures. The first step you should do before you begin filling out your application and before you begin the process is to take a deep breath.
When to Apply
Not only is it recommended, but it is also encouraged that you start to file your student visa application as soon as possible. Because of wait times and application review processes, it can take a while to complete the entire application. Embassies and Consulates can only give you your visa 120 days or less before your study registration date. If you begin the application process and are approved before that 120 day mark, then the Embassy or Consulate will simply hold onto your visa until they are able to issue it to you. You should also be aware that you cannot enter the US more than 30 days prior to the school start date that you provided unless you also file for a Visitor Visa. In short, it is best to begin the visa application process as soon as you know that you are going to study abroad.
How To Qualify
Before you begin the process, it is extremely important to make sure you actually qualify for a student visa. Schedule time to meet with a consular officer, who will ultimately determine if you qualify or not, but you must meet these requirements:
- Accepted to an approved school
- Prove sufficient funding to pursue your proposed study
- Prove that you have prepared for studying abroad
- Intention on leaving the US once study is complete
Interviewing for a Visa
After determining you qualify for a student visa, you can then learn where the closest Embassy or Consulate office is to you and begin the actual application process. For those applicants between the ages of 14 and 79, you will have to schedule an interview with a consulate officer. To understand how long it may take to wait for your interview appointment and visa application processing, be sure to check out the U.S. Department of State’s website devoted to visa wait times. The wait times are dependent on each Embassy and Consulate and can vary depending on staff and number of applications received. You may be asked to provide the following documents during your interview or at other times during the application process:
- Transcripts and any diplomas that you have
- Standardized texts scores like the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, and GMAT
- Evidence that suggests you or a parent sponsor has sufficient finances to support you while you are studying abroad. This should be in the form of income tax documents and bank statements.
What You Need to Submit
Aside from scheduling an interview and the materials for your interview, there are also several forms and documents that must be submitted to the Embassy or Consulate in order to process your visa application.
- You must fill out the I-20 form that will be provided to you by the school you will be attending. An official from the school will have to sign the form, as will you.
- You must fill out and complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form, or form DS-160. This form is submitted electronically and used by Consular Officers to process your application. They may also use it for your interview.
- You must have a current and valid visa before you can travel to the US. The visa must be valid until at least 6 months beyond your desired period of stay.
- You are required to provide a 2x2 photo of yourself. The photo needs to be in color, of your face, less than 6 months old, and with a neutral facial expression. You can learn more about the photo requirements by visiting this page.
- You must pay the I-901 fee and bring the MRV (application) fee receipt showing that you did pay your application fee.
The process of filing a student visa application may be stressful, but do your best to take it in stride. When you take your time, do everything correctly (the first time), and file all of your forms, then the student visa application process will go much more smoothly.