Good news! Over the last five years, the global average of students being approved for a U.S. student visa (F-1) has been over 80%, reaching 86% in the most recent statistics for 2013. So, with the right preparation, honest answers, and appropriate documentation you can give yourself an excellent chance of being granted a student visa.
Here’s our top ten countdown on how to do it…
10. Get your I-20
Make sure you have received the I-20 & admission letter from the college/university you plan to attend. You may have been accepted and received I-20s from more than one school. We recommend that you make a decision as to which institution you will attend before starting the visa process.
9. Check your passport
- Make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months after your initial planned entry into the U.S.
- Is your name spelled the same (and in the same order) as is listed on your passport? It has to be!
8. Pay your SEVIS fee
Students can pay this fee online. You will need an e-receipt for next steps in the process.
7. Complete the Visa Application Form online DS-160 (non-immigrant visa application).
You will need most of the following items to complete this form:
- SEVIS ID (from your I-20 form)
- Address of the college you will attend (usually on the I-20)
- Travel itinerary to the U.S. if you have made arrangements already
- Admission letter from the college you will attend
- Proof of funding – bank statements, scholarship award letters, etc.
- Dates of your last 5 visits to the United States (if any)
After completion the online DS-160 application, print off the DS-160 Bar Code page. You will not need to print the entire application.
6. Plan ahead
You can schedule your visa appointment up to 120 days in advance of the start date listed on your I-20 (when your new school requires you to be on campus). In some countries there may be a substantial wait time to get an appointment, and, more importantly, to process your application. The good news is that student visa applicants are given priority.
5. Schedule your visa appointment at the U.S. embassy/consulate nearest you.
Using this site you’ll learn whether you can make your appointment online or by telephone. You will also need to pay the visa application fee (approximately $160, price varies slightly per country).
4. Attend a Visa Session at an EducationUSA Advising Center in your country.
EducationUSA works closely with the U.S. consular officers that conduct the visa interviews. At these sessions they will make it clear what they are expecting from successful student visa applicants, and the kind of questions they will ask.
3. Enjoy the experience
A couple years ago our friends at the U.S. Embassy in London put together a great video to help ease your fears, Mission: Possible – Get Your U.S. Student Visa.
2. Talk to your friends
Are any of your former classmates studying in the U.S. now? Ask their advice about their interview experiences and ask for their recommendations. You can also check out how successful students help demystify the student visa process.
1. Breathe, relax, and be honest
You have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources to get to this visa interview. Try not to be too nervous. You are almost there. Answer the visa officer’s questions honestly. Why did you pick the particular college you want to attend? How are you funding your studies? What are your plans after you finish your studies? It’s always a good idea to know how you might respond to these questions beforehand.
Finally, good luck as you take this important next step!