One of the most parts of any graduate school application, whether you are a U.S. citizen or an international student, is making sure you can actually attend the school at which you have been accepted. And, for international students, the most important of that is securing an F-1 visa. However, many international students aren't fully familiar with what they need to do in order to ensure they can come and study in the U.S. Thankfully, there are resources available that can help you understand what you need to do.
Let's start by demistifying the F-1 visa.
What exactly an F-1 visa, and what does it do for international students coming to study in the U.S.?
An F-1 visa is a document that allows a non-U.S. citizen to come to the United States as a student, to pursue education. It can only be obtained after being admitted to a U.S. institution of higher learning, and is only issues in U.S. embassies and consulates outside of the U.S.
What are the important things that international students need to keep in mind as they apply for an F-1 student visa?
As per the U.S. Department of State, here is what you need to remember:
- Students are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Students may apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so.
- Students should note that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue your student visa 120 days or less, in advance of the course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa more than 120 days prior to your start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa. Consular officials will use that extra time for application processing.
- Students are advised of the Department of Homeland Security regulation which requires that all initial or beginning students enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the course of study start/report date as shown on the Form I-20. Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to the U.S.
How will you qualify for a student visa?
There are four things you need to do in order to be able to qualify for a student visa:
- Obtain acceptance at a SEVP certified school;
- Possess sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of study;
- Have sufficient preparation for the course of study; and
- Intend to leave the United States upon completion of the course of study.
Learning more about student visas
There are a great deal of useful resources available for international students seeking to learn more about the process of obtaining a U.S. visa for educational purposes:
- The U.S. Department of State (section on Student Visas)
- The U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (Exchange Programs)
- The Basics of Student Visas (America.gov)
And don't forget to ask the university you will be attending! They are the first people you should go to with questions, since they will be the ones helping you obtain the visa by providing you with the appropriate paperwork.
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