This is a step by step guide on how to apply for a student visa in the United States. Applying for a student visa takes a lot of preparations and time. To apply for a U.S study visa you must be first accepted as a student in a college/university in the United States. You must do your homework way in advance before you consider applying for a study visa. Read the following steps in details if you are seriously thinking of applying for a United States study visa.
1 – Search for a College / University:
- You first need to find a school / college / university where you want to study. You can search online . If you have any relative/friend living in United States and are willing to provide you with an accommodation, then, you can search for a college / university in the same vicinity so you can stay close. If you don’t know where you want to study, then, search for university rankings in the subject you wish you study i.e. if you want to pursue a degree in computer science then search “School of Computer Science Rankings in United States”. within every university there are separate colleges for different fields but they are called schools e.g. school of economics, school of medical science etc so this is the best way to search for a best ranked university in any particular field.
- Please make sure that the school / college / univesity is SEVP certified. SEVP is the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. Their certified schools list is available here http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/school-search. A school must be SEVP certified to admit international students.
- Most famous universities are usually the more expensive than the lower ranked universities so the second step is to search a university based on their fee schedule and determine if their fee schedule suits you. Please note that you would need to took at the fee for international students, the in-state fee is for the residents in the same state.
- While determining the cost of a university you must consider the cost of living in the university area. If you are living their on your own you must pay your rent, utility bills etc which can be very expensive depending upon where you would stay. Some cities can be very heavy on your pocket because of the rents. A same two bedroom apartment in New York city can cost you $2000/ month and in Purdue $600/month so do your home work on living cost comparison too. To know more about cost of living in United States, visit Cost of Living in United States.
- Select 5 to 10 universities and write them according to your priority. Applying in one university is not sufficient because the colleges you have selected might reject your application. All universities take applications around the same time so you need to apply to few of them so you get accepted in at-least one.
- Every college has its own criteria of accepting a student, so I cannot guide you if your grades are sufficient enough to get admission in United States. You must check all selected university’s websites and search for their admission criteria to see if you are eligible.
2 – Take Required Tests and Ready the Funds:
- You must pass few tests before applying for an admission in any university in the United States. Every discipline has different requirements so check university website for requirements of tests for your degree. You must give a English language test like TOEFL. Along with TOEFL you must give another test like GMAT, GRE or SAT etc depending upon the university and the degree you are pursuing.
- you must provide a proof of funds to the university, to show that you can afford their fee. For that you must have your bank statement ready before you applying for admission in United States. You should not only have funds for the tuition fee but also for living expenses while studying in the United States. Some financial aid may be available to international students, depending on the college you select however, you must still have documented financial plan for all the years you are studying in the United States. If you want to know about the funding programs offered for Pakistani students in United States, visit http://www.usefpakistan.org/
3 – Apply for Admission in a College / University:
Its time to apply for admission in different colleges. You would need to fill online applications and in case of any question, you can always reach the admission office of that university. The details are available on the university website. Admission offices are usually very helpful and they will help you in detail according to your specific case You will apply for several universities and you must need to be accepted in at-least one university to get a student visa. Please note that every university charge a fee to process your student application so you must see how much you can spend. The application fee for Purdue university is $75 for international students nowadays.
When you satisfy a college / university with your test scores and available funds they will accept your admission application and will issue you an I-20 form. This form is a proof that you have been accepted as a student in that college / university. This i-20 form will give a date when you’re expected to arrive at the college / university to begin your classes. If your spouse and/or children intend to reside with you in the United States while you study, you must notify the college / university and they will issue separate I-20 forms for each individual in your family. When you are accepted by the U.S. school you plan to attend, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee which is currently $200.
4. Documents for Student Visa:
Once you receive your I-20 from, you can start preparing for the documents you would need to apply for a student visa. Students usually apply for the F-1 visa (Study visa). Please find below the list of documents that you would need to prepare and take with you to the embassy at the time of the interview. You must apply for a student visa at-least 3 months in advance so you get the visa on time and reach in United States on time. If you get your visa early, you cannot enter in United States earlier than 30 days before your start date of the classes.
- Passport – Valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States.
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page – You need to fill the visa form online on United States Embassy website. If your wife and children are going with you, they need separate DS-160 forms for each individual regardless of their age. After completing the DS-160 forms, you would get a confirmation on email. Print the confirmation pages for each application and take it with you on interview day. You will fill the online applications here https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
- Application Fee Payment Receipt – You need to pay the visa fee which is currently $160, You need to pay $160 for each member of your family. Pay the fee and get the receipts. Bring these receipts with you on interview day.
- SEVIS I-901 Fee Payment Receipt – When you are accepted by the U.S. school you plan to attend, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You must pay the SEVIS fee which is currently $200. You and your spouse and children would need to be registered in the SEVIS system too however you will pay this fee once for the whole family.
- Photo – You would need a photo in electronic form because you will fill the application online and would need to upload the photo online while filling the DS-160 form. Please ask the photographer to take the photo according to United States visa Photograph Requirements.
- Form I-20 – Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) – This is the form your school / college will send you. You and your school official must sign the Form I-20. All students, their spouse and minor children if they intend to reside in the United States with the student, must receives an individual I-20 form.
- Bank Statement: Showing enough funds to cover your educational, living and travel expenses.
- Other Financial Documents / Property Documents – To show your family’s income, statements of any investments, property documents or any source of finance you are planing to use to finance you education.
- Additional Documentation:
- Your academic record to date.
- Copies of scores from any tests you have taken (SAT, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT etc.).
- Letters of admission from university
- Documents showing any funding or financial help like scholarship or awards etc you are getting from other sources.
- Financial documents, such as your and your family’s bank statements, tax documents showing your/your family’s income, and statements from any investments that you plan to use to finance you education.
- Business registration documents if you or your family owns a business.
- Evidence that you intend to return to your home country. Anything else that shows that you have strong ties to your home country like your own assets etc.
5. Prepare for the Interview:
While paying visa fee for DS-160 form, you will be asked to select a date and time for your interview. You must know that visa interviews might have a long waiting list so you need to check early about it. On interview date, you must go the United States Embassy in Pakistan with all your visa application and supporting documentation mentioned above. Everyone applying for a visa must come for an interview regardless of the age.You must prepare yourself for the interview. The visa consular officer will judge your application in three ways.
- Are you a real student?
- Do you intend to return to your home country after your education?
- Do you have enough money to support yourself while in the United States (without getting a job in United States)?
You must remember that you need to convince the consular officer that you are not trying to immigrate to the United States permanently. You just want to study there and you will come back after completing your studies.
6. The Interview Day:
During this interview, you must act normal and confident and reply all questions honestly and as short as possible. Consular officer may ask you questions about your plans of education, available finances and career after college. He/She will judge you from every angle that you might not be a real student and you may be planning to stay in the United States illegally, or that you won’t be able to support yourself financially while studying in the United States.
The visa consular officer might ask the following questions:
- Why do you want to study in the United States?
- Why did you select this college or subject?
- For what job you are preparing yourself after this Degree?
- What type of jobs are available in your own country after your studies in the United States?
- How will you pay for the college fees and living expenses in the United States? (Remember, students with F-1 visas are not allowed to work in the United States)