The Complete Guide to Getting the US Student Visa

So you’ve got you’ve got your US university admits and have sorted out your finances. The only thing that now stands in between you and your dream university is the US student Visa. There is a lot of misinformation about the US Student Visa. So we thought that it would be great to make a blog post with accurate information – supported with the official links to apply to the visa. In this blogpost, we will:

  1. Discuss the different types of visas
  2. Talk briefly about the F1 student visa regulations
  3. Help you understand the Visa Application Process
  4. Provide you with a detailed checklist of documents needed to apply for the visa
  5. Give you tips on how to crack the visa interview

Note that this is the exact process we use to help our students secure the US visa – and we have a 100% success rate. So you can completely rely on this article (or call us) to help you with the application process. So here we go!

The different type of visas

Every Indian student who wishes to study in the US requires a visa. There are different types of visas issued by the US government. Students who wish to study in a full time program resulting in a degree, and whose duration is more than 6 months are required to get an F1 visa. If they wish to take dependents with them (spouse / kids), they must obtain an F2 visa for said dependents. Other types of visas are:

Visa Type Purpose Description
J1 Exchange Visitor Visa This is meant for students who wish to go for short exchange programs
M1 Vocational / Non-Academic Student Visa This is reserved for students enrolling for vocational training
B1/B2 Visitor Visa This is meant for business travellers and tourists

 

F1 student visa regulations

  1. A student applying for the F1 visa should have an admission letter and an I-20 from a University in the US.
  2. With an F1 student visa, students can work on-campus up to 20 hours. Working off campus is illegal.
  3. A student can apply for an F1 visa up to 120 days prior to the program start date, as mentioned on the I-20 (i.e. your university admit letter).
  4. A student can fly to the US up to 30 days prior to the program start date, as mentioned on the I-20.

There are several steps that you need to take to procure an F1 visa. These are listed below.

STEP 1: Understanding visa application process

  1. To apply for the F1 visa, you first need to receive an I-20 from the university to which you have accepted admission to.

 

  1. The next step in making the visa appointment is paying $200 as the SEVIS I-901 fee. You can pay the fee at the link specified below:

https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.html

  1. After getting the SEVIS I-901 fee receipt, you need to fill the DS-160 form and pay another $160. The DS-160 form should be filled at the following link:

http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-ds160complete.asp

The DS-160 form will ask you for information like:

  1. Your personal details
  2. Uploading your photograph
  3. Your past education and professional history
  4. Details of the university you will study at
  5. Details on how you plan to fund your education
  6. Your tentative travel dates
  7. If you have had any infractions with the law leading to an arrest
  8. Contact information of a few relatives in India
  9. Contact information of your university advisor in the US

Fill this form with the right details – be honest and brief. If you have in the past applied for any US visa (F1, B1, J1, M1 etc.) and have been rejected, do mention the same. Once the form is filled check it once before you submit it.

  1. Print the DS-160 application form submission confirmation.

 

  1. Thne pay the $160 visa application fee via NEFT or at an authorized Axis bank/Citi bank location.

 

  1. After payment, book a biometric OFC and visa interview appointment. The student will need his/her SEVIS receipt number at this stage.

 

  1. Appear for the biometric and visa interview appointments.

 

 

STEP 2: Getting the documents needed for the visa application/interview ready

After understanding the process, students need to start collating the documents needed for the process

Documents Source Time required Needed for visa application Needed for  visa interview
Valid passport Self Up to a month to procure if not made already Yes Yes
 I-20 and admission letter University Up to 4 weeks after accepting admission to a university Yes Yes
GRE/TOEFL/IELTS Score Reports Testing Body (ETS, IDP) Online copy available immediately after the exam No Yes (to be presented only if asked)
Undergraduate transcripts, Provisional Degree Certificate Undergraduate college/university Upto a month after applying to your undergraduate college/university No Yes (to be presented only if asked)
DS-160 and its confirmation Needs to be filled online 30 minutes to fill the form Yes Yes
 Interview appointment letter USVCS website Available immediately after booking the appointment online Yes Yes
SEVIS fee receipt Acquired after payment of SEVIS fees Acquired immediately upon payment Yes Yes
Financial documents-bank statements of past 3 years, salary slips-past 3 months, loan approval Sponsor, bank Up to 20 days depending on   bank and sponsor No Yes (to be presented only if asked)
Academic certificates and test scores Self Transcripts- University of Mumbai from 3 weeks to 2 months, GRE and TOEFL scores- 10 to 15 days after the test date No Yes (to be presented only if asked)

 

 

 

STEP 3: Preparing for the visa interview

While the visa interview can be a nerve wracking experience for some, remember that the visa officer is interviewing you to check the authenticity of your application – not to reject your application. Further, we have seen from experience that preparation is the key. Those who prepare for the interview by preparing for the possible questions in advance are relaxed during the interview and have a much better success rate.

To prepare well, before your visa interview:

  1. Go through your entire university application set – entire list of universities that you applied to, SOPs, LORs and Resume.
  2. Go through the program specifics that you have taken admission to including details such as the outcomes, credit system, compulsory and elective courses, faculty etc.
  3. Read a bit about the city and province that you will be studying in.
  4. Prepare a folder of all documents needed for the visa interview and go through the financial documents in particular.

Sample questions and tips to answer

All questions asked in the visa interview are to judge the authenticity of your application and make sure that you are going abroad only to study – and not to migrate.

Sr. No. Question Tips to Answer
1 Why have you accepted admission to this particular university? Talk about the strengths of the university in terms of the courses offered and faculty quality (and not placements). Do not say that you are selecting it just because you got rejected from other universities even if that’s true.
2 Which other universities did you apply to? List all the universities that you applied to – both to which you were accepted and rejected.
3 Why do you want to study in the US? Specify the strengths of the American education system: the evolved approach to learning, the flexibility in the curriculum and the fact that cutting edge research in your area of study is conducted in the USA.
4 Why not pursue this program in India? If the particular program applied to is not available in India, mention that. If it is, elaborate on how the program in the university that you will study in is superior to what’s there in India.
5 What are your career goals? How will this program help you achieve them? Have a clear idea about the industry and function that you plan to work in. Then specify how the learning from your program will open opportunities to work in your desired field in India, not in US.
6 What is your career plan after graduation? Be clear in communicating that you wish to come back to India after graduation. If you are the sole child or have a family business here, mention that you will build your career in India because you wish to be with your family / work in the business.  If you plan on working in a company, then it’s a good idea to research organizations that prefer hiring candidates who have global exposure / education. Mention the names of a few companies here that you might apply to on completion of the program.
7 Have you received any scholarship for your education? On what basis? Mention the exact amount of the scholarship received and details the basis of the scholarship. Eg: I received it on the basis of my undergraduate GPA and test scores; or I received it on the ground of my professional achievements etc.
8 Who is sponsoring your education abroad? Know the exact details of who is sponsoring your education and the amount for which they are sponsoring it. Only talk about those people from whom you have an affidavit of support.
9 Have you applied for any education loan? How will you repay it? Mention the name of the bank and the amount of the loan taken. Then mention that you are confident about getting a full time job in India through which you intend to repay the loan. If you have assets – such as property, against which the loan was taken, you could specify that in the worst circumstance, your loan does have collateral against it. Do not say that you will repay the loan by working part time in the US during your program or by taking up a full time job in the US after graduation.
10 What do your parents do? Here the visa officers want to check if your parents have the financial means to support your living and tuition expenses. Be clear about the name of the company and the exact role your parents work in. Be concise. Eg: My father works as a Product Manager for Amazon India.
11 Do you have family in the US? Be honest about this but only talk about immediate family – brother, sister, father or mother. There is no need to mention distant relatives.
12 Will you come home during vacation / holidays? The visa officer wants to check if you will maintain ties to your country as this improves the odds that you will return. So always say yes to this. Don’t say that you will look for employment in the US when university is on break.

 

 

Interview dressing and grooming etiquette

Dress appropriately for the visa interview. Don’t be over or under dressed. A few tips on how to dress are in the table below:

Men Women
Top wear Wear tucked in clean and well ironed light pastel shade plain formal shirts Preferably wear a clean and well ironed light pastel shade plain formal shirt; a plain salwar-kameez can be worn too
Bottom wear Wear clean and well ironed dark business trousers Preferably wear a clean and well ironed  dark business trouser
Foot wear Well-polished formal black shoes  – no sandals or slippers Formal sandals, heels or flats are preferred – no slippers
Accessories A black belt, a formal wrist watch ; do not wear earrings, nose rings etc. No heavy jewelry (danglers, bangles, long necklaces etc.), nose rings etc.
Grooming Comb your hair and keep it of short to medium length; having no facial hair is preferred – but if you must have it, it should be trimmed; wear a light perfume Tie your hair  neatly if long; may comb and leave open if of short / medium length; wear a light perfume

 

Final tips to adhere to during the visa interview

Here are a few best practices which will serve you well while in the visa interview:

  1. Be calm and composed – nervousness will only increase the chance of a mistake.
  2. Only provide the documents that are asked of you.
  3. Be concise while answering; don’t ramble.
  4. Have direct eye contact with the visa officer but don’t stare.
  5. Don’t try to put on a forced accent.
  6. Smile while talking, but don’t overdo it.

This completes the entire US student visa process. We’ve covered all pertinent points. But if you think you need more information, don’t hesitate to contact us at 9920 331 444 or leave your question in the comments below.