If you are interested in studying in the United States, this country can offer a wide range of educational opportunities from basic English language training to University degrees. It is a well-known fact that a U.S. bachelor or master degree is likely to increase one's chances of getting a better job in foreign countries. No wonder so many foreign students come to the U.S. to study every year - when they return to their home country, they proudly include the name of the U.S. university or college and their U.S. B.A., B.S., Masters Degree or PhD in their resumes and successfully compete against locally educated candidates in a race to take advantage of scarce employment opportunities at home.
HOW TO GET A STUDENT VISA
Contact our immigration lawyer to schedule a first free consultation on how to get a student visa in the U.S. at our Los Angeles office. Call (213)637-5623 or cell (213)820-0434
Applying from abroad
In most cases, first time student visa applicants must appear for an in-person interview with the consular officer. Each U.S. consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas. Students should consult U.S. Embassies for instructions.
The summer months are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period. Students need some advance planning and preparation to avoid having to make repeat visits to the Embassy. It is a well-known fact that unfortunately U.S. consulates are in a business of denying the majority of the student visa applications simply because in the mind of the particular consular officer the potential student demonstrated what's called a "preconceived intent to stay in the U.S." which means your student visa application will be denied because the consular officer believes that your real intent in applying for student visa is not to study in the U.S. and then return home, but to overstay your visa and remain in the United States indefinitely, find employment and establish your permanent residency in the U.S.
The consular visa officers enjoy complete and unrestricted discretion whether to approve or deny your visa application and their decisions can not be appealed.
Applying from inside the United States
If you are in the U.S. on any non-immigrant visa except a crew member or a fiancé of a U.S. citizen and your visa has not expired yet, you may change your status to student visa. Normally, you must apply to change your status within 45 days of the expiration of your current visa. Remember that the date when your studies begin must precede the date of the expiration of your current visa.
WHO GETS APPROVED FOR STUDENT VISAS?
Considering the fact that, the consular officers suspect all potential students of intending to use student visa to evade the U.S. immigration laws and to move to the U.S. permanently, it takes serious effort for a student to overcome this suspicion. Contrary to the U.S. constitutional principle of not discriminating based on race, gender, age, social status etc. Consular officers DO DISCRIMINATE heavily, in fact it is their job to discriminate against aliens trying to enter the U.S. Because aliens are not protected by the U.S. constitution unless aliens already arrived to the U.S., consular officers can legally discriminate against anyone or in favor of someone. For example consular officers favor students who are rich children of rich parents because it is unlikely rich student will reach a higher living standard in the U.S. than at home, thus rich student has no economic incentive to remain in the U.S. after completing his/her studies and is likely to return.
Married students with children who are leaving their families behind also have better chances to get student visa - they are likely to return to their family in the home country.
Students from Western Europe, Japan and some other developed nations get preferential treatment as well.
WHO GETS DENIED THE MOST?
Basically Poor people:
- Students who can not show that they or at least their families own property in their native country,
- Students who can not show that they or at least their family have a business in their native country,
- Students who can not show that they or at least their family have a bank account with substantial sums of money in it,
- Students who can not show that they or at least their family have a stable and well-paying job in their native country
Who else gets denied?
- Students from blacklisted countries such as North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran and Libya along with most of the Islamic nations of the world and other nations that are at odds with the U.S. government must undergo special processing to basically prove that they are not terrorists or not supporting terrorists.
- Students from poor countries and students from countries of the former Soviet Union, Central America, Africa and poor Asian countries have a hard time proving that they are not going to stay in the United States for good.
- Young and attractive single woman's student visa application has higher chances of being denied because the consular officer believes that upon arrival to the U.S. she will get married with a U.S. citizen and will stay in the U.S.
- Older people may get denied because the consular officer will have a hard time believing that they are coming to the U.S. to study.
WHAT CAN I DO TO GET MY STUDENT VISA APPROVED?
First of all, of course, you should contact and consult an immigration lawyer and not a unlicensed paralegal or visa preparer to prepare your student visa
Aside from consultation with immigration attorney, to increase your chances of being approved by the consular officer for a student visa the U.S. Department of State suggests to submit the following documents:
- Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
- scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.;
- financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study. For example, if you or your sponsor is a salaried employee, please bring income tax documents and original bank books and/or statements.
- If you or your sponsor own a business, please bring business registration, licenses, etc., and tax documents, as well as original bank books and/or statements.
Applicants with dependents must also provide:
Proof of the student's relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates.);
it is preferred that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder's passport and visa, along with all other required documents.
Additionally, student visa applicants should demonstrate through their answers to consular officer's questions that the student visa applicant has specific educational goals, that the student visa applicant intends to use their U.S. education to improve their chances to get a better job in the home country, that the student visa applicant has no interest and no need in remaining in the U.S. beyond the expiration of the student visa and has compelling reasons to return to the home country. Vague and ambiguous answers by student visa applicants will probably make consular visa officer feel uncomfortable and they will deny your student visa.
Also if you have relatives in the U.S. already who live here permanently, this may also adversely affect student visa applicant's chances to get approved.
GETTING CHANGE OF STATUS TO STUDENT VISA APPROVED IN THE U.S.
If you are already in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa such as B1/B2 tourist or exchange visitor and you want to change your status to the student status, contact Paniotto Law Firm for a first free consultation with an immigration lawyer
This firm has information about colleges and universities that issue I-20s and prepare your student visa application and change of status application for you and your dependents.
Normally, you must apply to change your status within 45 days of the expiration of your current visa. Remember that the date when your studies begin must precede the date of the expiration of your current visa.
If you are applying for student visa too close to the expiration date of your current visa, your chances of being approved are also compromised.
In order to be approved for student visa, you must fit into the same profile of a rich student from a favored country or at least of a rich student with a good financial background that's mentioned above in the " Applying abroad" section. In addition, however, you are advised to submit a declaration of why you want to study in the U.S. - and this office will help you prepare one based on your priorities. It is also important to get an I-20 from a good college, accredited with the Homeland Security department.
When Do I Need to Apply for My Student Visa?
The Department of State encourages students 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.
The consular officer may need to get special clearances depending on the course of study and nationality of the student (See the list of blacklisted countries above). This can take some additional time. The Department of State cautions that 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 to accomplish any of the necessary special clearances or other processes that may be required.
Students are advised by the Department of State 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.
A student who wants an earlier entry into the U.S. (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), must qualify for, and obtain a visitor visa. A prospective student notation will be shown on his/her visitor visa and the traveler will need to make the intent to study clear to the U.S. immigration inspector at port of entry. Before beginning any studies, he or she must obtain a change of classification, filing Form I-539, Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status, and also submit the required Form I-20 to the Department of Homeland Security office where the application is made. Please be aware that there is an additional fee of $140 for this process, and that one may not begin studies until the change of classification is approved.
TRACKING STUDENT'S WHEREABOUTS AFTER 9/11 - SEVIS SYSTEM
Student visa applicants should know that after the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center committed by largely Saudi Arabian students/exchange visitors in September 2001, the U.S. Department of State decided that to avoid the repetition of the same kind of terrorist activities, the U.S. government will screen and monitor all students and exchange visitors coming to the U.S.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is designed to help the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State better monitor school and exchange programs and F, M and J category visitors. Exchange visitor and student information is maintained in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students (F and M visa), exchange visitors (J visa), and their dependents (F-2, M-2, and J-2). SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications via the Internet, to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State (DOS) throughout a student or exchange visitor's stay in the United States. Select SEVIS to go to the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Internet site and learn more.
All student applicants must have a SEVIS generated I-20 issued by an educational institution approved by DHS, which they submit when they are applying for their student visa. The consular officer will need to verify your I-20 record electronically through the SEVIS system in order to process your student visa application. Unless otherwise exempt, participants whose SEVIS I-20 was issued on or after September 1, 2004 must pay a SEVIS I-901 Fee to the Department of Homeland Security for each individual program. The fee may be paid either through a special website, via Western Union, or by mail.See SEVIS-901 Fee or SEVIS for further information on how to pay the fee.
What is Needed to Apply for a Student Visa?
Based on the Department of State information, as part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged It is important to remember that applying early and providing the requested documents does not guarantee that the student will receive a visa. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on our website at Visa Wait Times , and on most embassy websites. During the visa application process, usually at the interview, a quick, two-digit, ink-free fingerprint scan will be taken. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply. Also, because each student's personal and academic situation is different, two students applying for same visa may be asked different questions and be required to submit different documents. For that reason, the guidelines that follow are general and can be abridged or expanded by consular officers overseas, depending on each student's situation.
Pursuant to the Department of State regulations, all applicants for a student visa must provide:
1) Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students or Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students.You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school.You and your school official must sign the I-20 form. All students, as well as their spouses and dependents must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents (F/M-2 visa holders). Your school is responsible for entering your information for the I-20 student visa form into SEVIS. Students will also have to pay an SEVIS I-901 fee for each program of study. Questions regarding your exchange program should be directly to your program sponsor;
2) A completed application, Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant forms that must be completed and signed. A separate form is needed for children, even if they are included in a parent's passport. The required form must be the March 2006 date, electronic "e-form application."
The Paniotto Law Firm as a part of preparing your student visa application will prepare your student application forms , affidavits of support and will contact your school to obtain an I-20 invitation unless you already obtained one.
Contact our immigration law office to help you prepare your student visa application package, for a first free consultation with an immigration lawyer at our Los Angeles office call (213)637-5623 or (213)820-0434
An interview at the embassy consular section is required for almost all visa applicants. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. During the visa interview, a quick, two-digit, ink-free fingerprint scan will be taken, as well as a digital photo. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply.
A passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States.
One (1) 2x2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in nonimmigrant photograph requirements;
A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee, a visa issuance fee if applicable (Please consult the Visa Reciprocity Table ) and a separate SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.While all F visa applicants must pay the MRV fee, including dependents, only the F-1 principal applicants must pay the SEVIS fee.
All applicants should be prepared to provide:
No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore final travel plans or the purchase of nonrefundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.
Entering the U.S. - Port of Entry
Pursuant to the Department of State regulations, a visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the U.S., it's very important to keep in your passport. Student visitors must have their Form I-20 in their possession each time they enter the United States. Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the Special Registration program. The Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection internet site offers additional information on Admissions/Entry requirements.
Sometimes it so happens that even if your visa was already approved by the Department of State, the DHS or ICE agents may deny you entry to the United States and put you back on the plane. Sometimes, arriving aliens with student visa even get arrested by ICE agents if for example there is a suspicion that they arrived with a fake passport.
IF YOU OR YOUR FRIEND/ OR FAMILY MEMBER GOT ARRESTED BY ICE AGENTS/IMMIGRATION OFFICERS AT THE AIRPORT IMMEDIATELY CONTACT THIS OFFICE AT (213)637-5623 OR CELL (213)820-0434 - THIS OFFICE HANDLES DEPORTATION CASES OF DETAINED ALIENS AND WILL GIVE YOU INFORMATION ON WHAT CAN BE DONE AND HOW TO GET BAIL IF ALIEN IS ELIGIBLE FOR BAIL.
How long may I stay on my F-1 student visa?
When you enter the United States on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while you are in America. For a student who has completed the course of studies shown on the I-20, and any authorized practical training, the student is allowed the following additional time in the U.S. before departure:
F-1 student - An additional 60 days, to prepare for departure from the U.S. or to transfer to another school.
M-1 student - An additional 30 days to depart the U.S. (Fixed time period, in total not to exceed one year). The 30 days to prepare for departure is permitted as long as the student maintained a full course of study and maintained status. An M student may receive extensions up to three years for the total program.
As an example regarding duration of status, if you have a visa that is valid for five years that will expire on January 1, 2001, and you are admitted into the U.S. for the duration of your studies (often abbreviated in your passport or on your I-94 card as "D/S"), you may stay in the U.S. as long as you are a full time student. Even if January 1, 2001 passes and your visa expires while in America, you will still be in legal student status. However, if you depart the U.S. with an expired visa, you will need to obtain a new one before being able to return to America and resume your studies. A student visa cannot be renewed or re-issued in the United States; it must be done at an Embassy or Consulate abroad.
There are certain restrictions on attending public school in the U.S. Persons who violate these restrictions may not receive another visa for a period of five years.
The restrictions apply only to students holding F-1 visas. They do not apply to students attending public school on derivative visas, such as F-2, J-2 or H-4 visas. The restrictions also do not apply to students attending private schools on F-1 visas.
The restrictions are:
Students who attend public high schools in the U.S. are limited to twelve months of study. Public school attendance in the U.S. prior to November 30, 1996 does not count toward this limit.
F-1 visas can no longer be issued to attend public elementary or middle schools (Kindergarten - 8th grade) or publicly-funded adult education programs.
Before an F-1 visa for a public school can be issued, the student must show that the public school in the U.S. has been reimbursed for the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of the education as calculated by the school. Reimbursement may be indicated on the I-20. Consular officers may request copies of canceled checks and/or receipts confirming the payment as needed.
Staying Beyond Your Authorized Stay in the U.S. and Being Out of Status
Staying beyond the period of time authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and being out-of-status in the United States is a violation of U.S. immigration laws, and may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future for return travel to the U.S.
Staying unlawfully in the United States beyond the date Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authorized--even by one day--results in your visa being automatically voided, in accordance with INA 222(g). Under this provision of immigration law, if you overstay on your nonimmigrant authorized stay in the U.S., your visa will be automatically voided. In this situation, you are required to reapply for a new nonimmigrant visa, generally in your country of nationality.
For nonimmigrants in the U.S. who have an Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 with the CBP admitting officer endorsement of Duration of Status or D/S, but who are no longer performing the same function in the U.S. that they were originally admitted to perform (e.g. you are no longer working for the same employer or you are no longer attending the same school), a DHS or an immigration judge makes a finding of status violation, resulting in the termination of the period of authorized stay.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I OVERSTAYED MY VISA IN THE UNITED STATES?
Marriage to the U.S. citizen
IF YOUR STUDENT VISA EXPIRED AND YOU INTEND TO MARRY A U.S. citizen, you can still get a greencard /permanent residency in the U.S. based on marriage to the U.S. citizen EVEN IF YOUR VISA HAS ALREADY EXPIRED AND YOU'VE OVERSTAYED FOR MORE THAN 180 DAYS.
Contact our immigration law office for a first free consultation with an immigration lawyer regarding marriage with the U.S. citizen and how it will affect your illegal presence in the U.S. after expiration of your visa. Call us at our Los Angeles office call (213)637-5623 or (213)820-0434
Political Asylum for students
If you arrived to the United States less than 1 year ago and you visa expired, you may qualify to apply for political asylum to get permanent residency in the U.S. Political asylum is granted to individuals who can prove to the United States government that they are afraid to return to their countries because their government persecuted and will persecute them based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion or membership in a social group.
Contact our immigration law office for a first free consultation with an immigration lawyer regarding asylum in the U.S. after expiration of your visa. Call us at our Los Angeles office call (213)637-5623 or (213)820-0434