Although moving to United Kingdom, Australia, Germany is currently the most viable option for Pakistani students to pursue higher education or find a job, but the United States of America still holds its attractiveness for holding myriad job options and study programs. But going to the US for studies is not as easy as it looks, as the process for getting student visa is way too long.
A lot of people are not able to make it to the US because they don’t know the exact procedure to apply for a visa. The process to apply for a visa in the United States starts once you get admission in any US university. Thus US student visa applicant should start the application process about 12 months in advance as it is a timely process.
If a student is looking out for any sort of financial aid, the process needs to start even before the 12 months’ time frame. Studying in the US may not be a difficult task, but getting a US student visa is definitely not easy.
Visa Application Documents Required
Types of Visa
There are two types of visas that are available for students in the United States. Students can apply for visas according to their requirements. The two visa types are
- F-1 Visa
- M-1 Visa
F-1 Student Visa
F1 Student Visa is the most common type of visa that is available for students. Through this visa, students are able to study in private schools, colleges or universities that are accredited. Even if the study courses have classes of more than 18 hours per week, students need to apply for an F1 visa.
M1 Visa, unlike the F1 visa, is not a common visa for students and is only given to international students who apply for vocational studies or non-academic training at institutions in the US.
Student Visa Application for the US
Proper documentation is the key to have success in the visa process of United States and any missing document can lead rejection by the US embassy. Every student must ensure that they have all the required visa documents and the proper process has been followed so that their case is not rejected. Here we will list down step by step process US visa and the documents that will be required therewith.
Step-1: Getting Admission in SEVP Recognized School
Before a student applies for United States Visa, they need to submit the acceptance letter from university or college that is accredited by Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). After getting admission the university will provide an I-20 form that is “Confirmation of Acceptance of Student.” No student would be eligible to apply for a visa if an I-20 form is not received from the university.
Step-2: Payment of SEVIS Fee
After getting the admission, the name of the student is entered in the Student and Exchange Information System. After which a SEVIS I-901 fee needs to be paid by the student. The fee differs from university to university. The SEVIS I-901 fee can be paid at https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.html.
Step-3: Completion of Online Application
The proper visa application starts with the online application that candidates need to fill out. The online visa application DS-160 must be filled online and can be found on the website of the US Department of State.
Hardcopy of the US student visa application form is also needed at the time of interview. The online application will ask basic information about the candidate out of which there are some mandatory questions that cannot be left unanswered. Required information includes candidate’s contact details, passport information, medical, education background, and details of any previous US visit.
Once the form is completed, a picture of the candidate needs to be uploaded in order to complete the form. Pictures with eye glasses are not acceptable and the image should not be more than 6 months old. The head in the picture should be about 50-70% of the total image height.
Step-4: Pay Visa Fee and Schedule Visa Interview
Once the online application form of DS-160 is complete, applicants are required to pay US student visa application fee of $160, also known as Machine Readable Visa Fee or MRV fee. Most common non-immigrant visa fee in the United States is $160 which also includes business and tourist visa. If the payment for student visa MRV fee is made before 5 pm Pakistan Standard Time (PST), then the visa receipt will be activated on the next working day at 11 am PST. For example, if the fee is paid on Monday before 5 pm, then the receipt will be activated on Tuesday 11 am.
If the visa fee is paid after 5 pm PST, then the visa receipt will be activated after the two days. For example, if the fee is paid after 5 pm PST on Monday then the receipt will be activated on Wednesday 11 am. Once the receipt is activated, then an appointment with the embassy needs to be booked online. Appointments can be booked over here. After the appointment is booked, you can view the appointment letter that will be required at the time of interview.
Step-5: Prepare documents for Visa Interview
Once the appointment for an interview is booked, all the necessary documents should be kept ready for the US student visa interview. Following are the documents required for US visa interview.
- Passport with validity of more than 6 months
- Signed SEVIS form
- SEVIS fee receipt
- D-160 application – hard copy
- MRV fee payment receipt
- Appointment letter
- Recent photographs
- Transcripts and degrees of previous education
- Results of GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, or any other tests
- Financial documents that validate your sponsor and confirm that they have funds to support your education in the US
Step-6: Appearing for Visa Interview
This is the most important part of the entire visa application process, as this determines whether the candidate should be given the student visa or not. It also determines which category is the most appropriate for the candidate, if visa is to be given. Finger print scans are also taken during the visa interview.
During the interview, the candidate will be asked basic questions for the purpose of evaluating their English language skills, financial resources, academic background, and the field of study the candidate is interested in. F-1 and M-1 visas can be issued 4 months before the start of the academic calendar, but candidates will be able to enter the US only one month prior to the session.
Step-7: Arrival in the United States
If the visa is issued, then the next step is to book a flight to the US. However, the F-1 or M-1 visa is not enough to acquire entry in the United States, as customs declaration form will also be needed. The grace period is provided to US student visa holders. F-1 visa holders get 60 days of grace period while M-1 visa holders get a grace period of 30 days. In case the student needs to renew the student visa, they will have to visit their native country, as student visa cannot be renewed in the United States.
The US Customs and Border Protection play a key role in the traveling of a student. At the time of arrival in the US, the Customs and Border Protection officer will check the following documents from the applicant
- Valid passport
- Valid visa
- Form I-20
The US Department of Homeland Security has also launched its website in order to guide the international students who are coming to study in the United States and explains all the rules and regulations and coordination among government agencies.
Following is the website of Department of Homeland Security: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/