As an international student, you may be feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of getting a visa to study in the United States. Distinguishing between an F, J, or M visa, and filing the correct paperwork prior to an interview can be daunting.
Student visas are simpler than they may first appear, and a skilled immigration attorney can assist you with filing the petition correctly, allowing you to focus less on the visa and more on your school program. Read on to learn about the various options and how to apply.
Types Of Visas Available For International Students
International students have several options to suit their individual circumstances when considering the visa application. The most common visa for international students planning to study in the United States is the F-1 visa. Students who plan to attend a university or college may be eligible for an F-1 visa, which would allow them to reside in the United States for the duration of their program and up to 60 days after graduation.
In order to qualify for an F-1 student visa, an international student must meet additional criteria beyond pursuing academics; they must be able to provide evidence that they intend to return to their home country upon the completion of their academic program. This can be done by providing proof of a verified bank account in the country, family-based in the home country, or an offer of employment there. Additionally, the applicant must demonstrate his or her ability to complete the program of enrollment, and demonstrate sufficient skill in the English language.
Another type of visa international students may choose is a J-1 visa, which is broader in scope than an F-1. This visa includes researchers, interns, doctors, and teachers. The requirements for this visa include that the foreign student must be sponsored through the Exchange Visitor Program and be approved by the Department of State. Planning only to attend a US university is typically not sufficient to acquire a J-1 visa.
Finally, some students may find that they are best qualified for an M-1 visa for vocational or non-academic studies. Since these students are not permitted to work while in the United States for their program, they must be able to prove that they can financially support themselves for the duration of their education.
Forms Required for Applying at the Consulate
In order to apply for an international student visa, a student will need to fill out the appropriate forms depending upon which visa type is most relevant to them. F-1 visa applicants will be expected to fill out a Form I-120 and include the non-refundable application fee, as well as provide form DS-160 and, if the applicant is a male between 16 and 45 years of age, they must also include the DS-157 form. The applicant must provide photo documentation and a passport that is valid for 6 months past the anticipated graduation date.
For a J-1 visa, the application process is slightly different. It requires proof of assets in the applicant’s name within their home country as well as evidence of family members who also reside there. Form DS-2019 is also required. M-1 visa applicants must provide bank account information to prove that they have sufficient means to sustain their stay in the United States. They must also present Form I-20, not to be confused with the similar Form I-120.
Preparing for a Visa Interview
In preparation for your visa interview, be sure to gather the required materials, submit the non-refundable application fee, and compile a packet with your passport. The forms required for your type of visa, photos, and a receipt for the application fee should also be included. You may need further documentation such as diplomas depending upon which category you are applying for. Try to schedule a visa interview in your home country; while it is not impossible to complete the interview elsewhere, you may find more success interviewing at a consulate in your home nation.
Making Preparations For Traveling To The US
In preparation for traveling to the US, be aware of the limits on your own visa once you are approved. For example, F and M visas may be granted up to 120 days before the start of studies, but you are only permitted to enter within 30 days before the start date. Possessing a student visa is not an automatic guarantee of entry into the United States before your qualifying time.
Talk To An Experienced Immigration Attorney
Compiling a student visa petition can be overwhelming, therefore it is important to work with a skilled immigration attorney. The Law Offices of Kermit A. Monge can guide you through the application process to ensure that you have a complete and compelling application that will give you the best chance at pursuing your international education. For more information about student visas, give Kermit A. Monge a call at 703.273.5500 or request a consultation online.