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All you wanted to know about US student visas

By Dr Arun C Vakil
Last updated on: June 08, 2005 10:53 IST
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You plan to study in the United States of America.

And you have many questions plaguing you. We have help for you.

Dr Arun C Vakil, an expert on US visas, guides you through some commonly asked questions.

What is the right time to apply for visas?

Anytime, though according to the rules, one can apply only 90 days in advance of the date of enrollment mentioned in the I-20 form.

I plan to do my Ph D in the US. My I-20 says my funding is for one year, after which it will be reviewed.

Will I have to show funds for the rest of the three or four years of study?

At the visa office, students must show funds (academic plus living) for one year, and access to funds for subsequent years.

If your aid covers your overall expenses for the first year, it is okay.

How many attempts are allowed if a student visa is denied?

Unlimited attempts are allowed with a gap of three working days between each attempt. You must produce fresh documents for each new attempt.

Visa consuls go by the rules, and if the same papers are submitted, the application hardly stands a chance.

Each time you will also need to pay fresh visa fees of Rs 4,400 plus Rs 441 as service fee.

If I plan to fund my Masters programme in the US, what should I do?

You will need to show how you can would transfer your funds from India to the US.

Do you have a foreign exchange release permit from an authorised bank or a sponsor in the US to take care of your living and education in US dollars?

Also, you should convince the US Consul that you have strong ties in India which proove you are not an intending immigrant.

What is considered conclusive proof that a student will come back? How much assets or liquid cash should be shown for a student visa?

There are no fixed amount of assets or liquid cash specified in the US immigration law.

The interviewing US Consul should be convinced that the applicant is a bonafide student, genuinely wanting to pursue higher studies in America and return after his/ her education and apply his/ her knowledge in India.

The ties you could show would involve your economic attraction in India after graduation; and the social roots to which you will return.

Statistics in the past have shown that seven to eight out of 10 students do not return. Thus, consulates in India are very careful in granting student visas.

Is a student visa guaranteed when a university issues an I-20 form?

A student visa is not guaranteed on the issuance of the I-20 alone, as the applicant has to convince the US Consul that s/he is not an intending immigrant by showing proof of his/ her permanent ties in India.

If sufficient funds are not available, can a loan from banks or other institutions help get a student visa?

If you take a loan, you will need to convince the visa officer about its repayment. And that, in doing so, you will not become an intending immigrant.

Are student visas rejected if I have brothers and sisters in America?

This is an individual situation. The decision depends on a case-by-case basis.

If the US Consul feels you are trying to get to the US in the guise of a student with possible support of siblings in America, you may be rejected.

Likewise, if your brother or sister had gone to the US on a Non-Immigrant Visa and adjusted status to permanent visa, the applicant does become a 'risk candidate'.

It will then be left to the interviewing officer's judgement to decide.

Is it true that people with the last name (surname) Patel or Singh are unlikely to get a student or visitor visa?

There is nothing in the US immigration law that discriminates against the name or surname of applicants.

It is, however, true that US Consulates in India have not had favourable experiences with candidates with the last name Patel or Singh.

Cases of many Patels going on NIVs and not returning are quite prevalent.

Nonetheless, applicants with the last names Patel or Singh are closely examined for their bonafides and genuinity.

How long is the interview and how should I prepare for it?

Look into the eyes of the official during the interview, demonstrate respect and confidence.

The interview may only be one to three minutes.

Be prepared to answer why you selected the school in which you have received admission. You may be asked how many admissions you have received and the number of rejects from various US universities you have applied to.

You must demonstrate how your education and your degree will be of value to you in India.

Be ready to clarify your goals upon returning home.

Dr Arun C Vakil is an expert on visa regulations for the US. He holds an MBA from the University of California, Los Angeles and Ph D from the University of Wyoming, Laramie. He is the author of Gateway to America, and conducts orientation courses for students going to the US.

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Dr Arun C Vakil