There are two things you should do to increase your chances of a favorable decision on your visa application: first, have all the required documentation; second, be prepared.
Step 1: Most of the procedures and requirements for applying for the F-1/J-1 visas are standardized for all U.S. Embassies/Consulates abroad. However, some procedures can be specific for the particular country. For detailed information on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s requirements and procedures in the country where you are planning to apply for a visa, please visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest you. This website also provides information on how long it takes to have the interview and get a visa. If you cannot find answers to your questions about visas at the embassy website, you may contact the EducationUSA advising center nearest you.
Step 2: When you receive from the University a form I-20 (if you are applying for an F-1 visa), or a form DS-2019 (if you are applying for a J-1 visa), you need to check the following:
- Is your name spelled correctly and in the same form as it appears in your passport?
- Is the other information correct - date and country of birth, degree program, reporting date, completion date, financial information?
- Is it signed by a college official?
- Has the reporting date ("student must report no later than") passed? Note: The form I-20/DS-2019 cannot be used after the reporting date.
Please read instructions on page 2 of the form and sign the page 1. Signing the form means that you understand the main regulations of the visa status that you need to follow once you are in the United States.
Step 3: Among the things you will need to do is to pay the SEVIS Fee. Information on paying the SEVIS fee and confirming that your payment has been received can be found at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm. You will need to pay a visa processing fee and make an appointment for the visa interview in accordance with the requirements of the particular U.S. Embassy/Consulate in the country where you are located. You should also make sure you have all the documentation you will need when you go for the interview, including the visa-qualifying document (I-20 or DS-2019), financial support documents, proof of payment of the SEVIS and visa fees, and a completed visa application form. Ensure that you complete the visa application correctly by following the Department of State website procedures carefully.
Step 4: Be prepared for the interview.
Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point. Written documents you are presenting must be concise, easily read and evaluated. Remember that the interview takes only a few minutes; the officer must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions he/she forms during the first minute of the interview.
The Consular Officer must be satisfied on three counts:
- First, are your ties to home so strong that you will not want to remain permanently in the United States?
Laws generally state that you must demonstrate sufficient economic, family, and social ties to your place of residence to ensure that your stay in the U.S. will be temporary.
Economic ties: These include your family's economic position, property you may own or stand to inherit, your own economic potential when you come home with a U.S. education, as well as evidence of your career planning and your knowledge of the local employment scene.
Family and social ties: How many close family members live in your home country, compared to those living in the States? What community or school activities have you participated in that demonstrate a sincere connection to your town or country? What leadership, sports, and other roles have distinguished you as a person who wants to come home and contribute your part?
- Second, are you a bona fide student?
The officer will ask about your educational background and plans in order to assess how likely you are to enroll and remain in college until graduation. Be prepared to discuss the reasons you chose a particular college, your anticipated major, and your career plans. Bring school transcripts, national examination results, and SAT or TOEFL scores (if these tests were required by your college) and anything else that demonstrates your academic commitment.
- Third, is your sponsor financially capable?
Visa requirements differ from country to country, but generally the consular officer wants to see assurances that you will not drop out of school or take a job illegally. How can you show that your sponsor is able to finance your education?
Your chances are improved if your parents are sponsoring your education. If anyone other than your parents is sponsoring you, you should explain your special relationship with this person, who may be committing tens of thousands of dollars to your education.
Provide solid evidence of your sponsor's finances. This assures the Consular Officer that adequate funds will be available throughout your college program. If your sponsor's income is from several different sources (such as salary, contracts or consulting fees, a farm, rental property, investments), have the sponsor write a letter listing and documenting each source of income.
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