The US Student Visa Application Process & Checklist of Documents

US Student Visa Application Process

The US Student Visa application process can be a daunting one. It is important for students to familiarize themselves with the requirements, documents needed and timeline for applying for a visa. This blog will provide an overview of the US Student Visa application process, as well as a checklist of documents that students must provide when applying.

Students seeking to study in the United States must obtain Student Visas. They can’t undergo an academic program on any other type of visa, for example, a visitor visa, tourist visa, or business visa. There are two types of US Student Visas: F and M. Most regular education programs would require you to secure an F Visa. Vocational and other non-academic training programs require you to obtain an M Visa. People entering on Visa Waiver Program are also ineligible to pursue a regular academic program.  

However, you can get enrolled in a short recreational program on a Visitor (B) Visa but it won’t add to the credit towards any certificate or degree. Even students of a distance learning program who are required to spend some time at the US campus must obtain a Student Visa.

Here is the procedure to apply for and receive the US Student Visa:

Your US Student Visa Process begins with an application seeking admission to an academic institution approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Once your application is approved, your educational institution will provide a Form I-20, which you will need to present to the embassy or consular office when seeking a Student Visa.  

But before making the visa application, you need to register with SEVP, which is a wing of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Registration with SEVP ensures various government agencies have access to essential data related to the students and exchange visitors. You will have to pay the I-901 fee for registration in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

When making a Student Visa application, you will need Form I-20 and your SEVP registration details. You can seek a visa for your spouse or children to live with you by seeking separate Form I-20s and getting them registered in SEVIS.

How To Apply for the US Student Visa

The procedure to make an application for the US student visa can be divided into the following steps:

  • Making online visa application
  • Scheduling an interview
  • Appointment wait time
  • Pay the visa application, issuance fees

The US Student visa application process can take a few weeks to several months depending on the country from where you are making the application and the kind of rush of applications. 

Let’s see how these 4 steps unfold:

Making online visa application: You will require to fill out Form DS-160 online and submit it. Take a printout of the confirmation page as you will need it at the visa interview. At this stage, you also need to upload your photo in the prescribed format.

Schedule an interview: Usually, people below 13 years and above 80 years are exempted from personal visa interviews. Others must go through the visa interview process. Eligible visa applicants should schedule an appointment for the interview online at the US Embassy or Consulate.

Appointment wait time: After you place the request to schedule an interview, you will give a date and time for the same. Different factors such as location, season, and type of visa may influence the wait time. You should wait for your interview and attend it on the due date and time.

For new students, the visa can be issued up to 120 days in advance while the students can enter the country only up to 30 days before the commencement of their program. For continuing students, there are no such restrictions.

Application fee: You will require to pay the application fee before the interview and if the visa is approved, you will need to pay the visa issuance fee. Both fees are to be paid at the time of the interview at the embassy or consular office where the interview is scheduled.  

When preparing for the visa interview, students should review the documents they will need to provide.

Checklist of Documents for the US Visa Interview

Find below a comprehensive checklist for you to make the process smoother. Ensure you carry the following documents with you for your interview:

  • US University related paperwork
    • I-20/SEVIS form issued by the U.S University
    • Completed DS-160 visa application form
    • SEVIS receipt fee
    • Original Admit letter from your university
    • Financial Aid Offer Letter from the university (if applicable)
    • Receipt of deposit/advance payment made to the university 
  • Academic Paperwork
    • Original degree certificate / Provisional Degree Certificate (if available or has been longer than 1 year since graduation)
    • Original mark sheets (10th and 12th grade, all semesters of your undergrad program)
    • Provisional mark sheet for any pending results
    • College transcript (aggregate of all semesters)
    • GMAT/SAT/GRE and TOEFL/IELTS score reports
    • Copy of your research work/project (if available / published)
  • Financial Documents
    • Documents that confirm your financial holdings. We recommend that you show liquid assets as proof of capability to pay for the entire first year of education and cost of living. And readiness to support with further funds through other assets
    • Original Affidavit of Support from your sponsor(s)
    • Bank statements of the past 6 months for ALL of your Sponsors in original
    • Original Income tax return filings of Sponsors (atleast 2-3 years) along with salary slips for past 3-6 months
    • If parent owns a business – carry the balance sheet of the last 3 years
    • Original documents to prove liquid assets like demat statement with valuation of shares, LIC Policy value, Provident fund etc.
    • For non-liquid assets , a statement from your CA stating all immovable property and other fixed assets.
    • Loan sanction letter from the bank in original.
    • Proof of relationship with the sponsor (eg parent, family member) will be established via your birth certificate. 
  • Biometric Documents  
    • Passport
    • DS-160 confirmation page
    • Appointment confirmation page
    • Visa application fee receipt (original)
    • One photograph
  • Other Documents
    • Experience letter / recommendation from employer (if employed)
    • Salary slips for 6 months / IT returns (if employed)
    • Resume / CV (for internships as well)
    •  SOP
    • Accept / Reject letters for other programs that you applied
    • Copy of any email exchanges with university related to the program / or with the faculty

Despite carrying all these documents, the interviewing officer can ask you for any document that they feel will be necessary to make a decision. In such cases they give a 221g refusal. The word “refusal” does not mean your visa is not granted. It only implies that the embassy needs more corroborating information for your case. A visa refusal under Section 221g of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) means that information is missing from your application or that more processing time is needed. In case of a 221g, they will issue you a slip with an assigned case number. Depending on your case, you will have to submit the respective documents needed to get through your visa application process. You will have the option to submit your documents electronically or at the VFS Dropbox.

Students may sometimes receive a 214(b) status, which means that the consular officer has determined that the student has not provided sufficient evidence of their non-immigrant intent. This means that the student must provide more evidence or clarification of their plans and resources in order to be approved for a visa.

Bottom Line

The US Student Visa application process can be a lengthy and complicated one. It is important for students to understand the requirements and documents needed when applying, as well as what to expect in the visa interview. Students should also be aware of 214(b) status and the actions they can take in order to increase their chances of being approved. Finally, students should know that they have the option to re-apply for a visa and seek help from an experienced immigration attorney if they receive a 214(b). LilacBuds, offers consultancy for 214b visa rejection. Feel free to contact us incase of any queries.


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