How To Apply For A Student Visa

Prospective students applying to academic programs should start contacting schools at least a year before they plan to start their studies. Most students submit between five and ten applications to many schools. After a student has been accepted to a school, the school will issue a Certificate of Eligibility form, more commonly called a SEVIS I-20. The school will complete this form. This form is the school’s official statement to the US government that the student has

-submitted all the correct documentation to the school,
-meets the qualifications for admission to the school
-has been admitted for a full time course of study.

Once the student receives the Form I-20, he/she should review the document and should there be any mistake, the student should send it back to the school for correction. If the student is under 18 years old, he/she should get the Form I-20 signed by a parent or guardian.

After receiving the Form I-20, the next step in the application process is to apply for a student visa (if the applicant is outside the US.) or apply for a “Change of Status” (if the applicant is already in the U.S.). It is recommended to start the student visa application or change of status process as far in advance as possible, but note that F and M visas will not be issued more than 120 days before the start-date as found on Form I-20.

Applying for a Visa or a Change of Status

Students applying to change their status will deal directly with USCIS. He/she should file Form I-539 Application to Extend or Change Non immigrant Status.

If a student has entered the US on a visitor visa and wants to change status to F-1 or M-1, he/she has to wait for the change of status application to be approved before starting the course of study else the application will be denied.

Applying for a Student Visa at a U.S. Consulate

A prospective student with a Certificate of Eligibility (SEVIS I-20) from a US school can apply for an F-1 or M-1 visa at a US consulate in his/her home country. The student must be physically present in order to apply.

Students generally can apply for a student visa up to 90 days before registration will begin at their school. Considering processing delays, it is better to apply as soon as possible within that 90-day period. Some consulates do accept student visa applications before the beginning of the 90-day period, to allow time for security clearances and other delays. Students have to contact the local US consulate regarding its application procedures. Many consulates insist on advance appointments. Just getting an appointment can take several weeks, so applicants should plan properly.

Once the student gets in touch with the consulate, he/she will have to complete the visa application.
Form DS-160. This form should be the electronic “e-form application.” available at https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/.
Form I-134, Affidavit of Support: Those students who do not have sufficient funds to support themselves while in the US should submit evidence that an interested person will provide support.

Form I-134 is used to ensure that while the foreign student is in the US, he/she will not become a public charge. The person who signs Form I-134 on behalf of the foreign student is called the “sponsor”. By signing Form I-134, the sponsor agrees to assume financial responsibility for the foreign student in the event that the student becomes unable to meet his/her living expenses.

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Things To Remember During The Fiance Visa Process

Submission checklist for the petitioner (US citizen) :

A complete and signed Form I-129F
Form G-325-A (2) completed and signed, one by the Alien Fiancé and one by the American Citizen.
A signed, notarized affidavit of support Form I-134.

The application should be accompanied by all the necessary supporting documents, photos, and submission payments. Insert everything into an envelope and mail it to the Immigration & Naturalization Regional District Office. Add the Post Office labels for Certified Mail and mail.

Documents Required for the fiance visa process :

While the process is going on, the alien fiancé (e) should collect the following documents:

-A valid passport for travel to the US and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the US.
-Birth certificates for the alien fiancé (e) and accompanying unmarried children (under the age of 21).
-Documents proving any previous marriages were dissolved such as death certificate, divorce decree, annulment for both the applicant and the petitioner
-Police clearance/certificate from all places where the alien has lived since turning 16 years old.
-Photographs of the alien (3) and photographs each of the accompanying children (3). Fax or mail the alien fiancé (e) a copy of the photo specifications so that the alien fiancé (e) can have the photos done while waiting for an interview dates.
-A medical examination and vaccination report for alien fiancé (e) and for all children over 14 years old that proves none of them has a communicable disease. The American Consulate will provide the fiancé (e) with information about the requirements and will instruct the alien fiancé (e) to wait for the American consulate’s instructions. All applicants for immigrant visas should have the following vaccinations if appropriate for age, medical condition or medical history: Mumps, Measles, Rubella, Polio, Tetanus and diptheria toxoids, Pertussis, Influenza type B, Hepatitis B, Varicella, Pneumococcal. Medical examination (vaccinations are optional)
-As a fiancé(e), you need not fulfill this requirement at the time of your medical examination for a fiance visa. However, these vaccinations are required when you adjust status once you get married.
-Evidence of financial support (Form I-134, Affidavit of Support) may be required.
-Two Non immigrant Visa Applications, Form DS-156
-One Non immigrant Fiance Visa Application, Form DS-156K
-Two non immigrant visa photographs.
-Evidence of a fiancé relationship
-Payment of fees.

Apart from the documents mentioned above, the consular officer may ask for additional information depending on the circumstances of the case. Any document in a foreign language should have an English translation. Have photocopies of civil documents, such as birth and marriage certificates while going for the interview. Original documents will be returned to you.

Note that the requirements for the fiance visa may differ according to circumstances. The consular office will provide the alien fiancé with a request for all the necessary documents

Submitting the application :

Make copies of the completed forms and documents before submitting, that way you have records of everything you sent.

Submit the forms, documents and filing fees to your local Immigration and Naturalization office Please note that some USCIS Offices may not accept in-person submissions. Contact your local USCIS Office and get it confirmed.

USCIS prefers the direct mail. It is recommended to mail the application via registered mail, this form of postage will enable you to keep a receipt of this transaction. Once the USCIS receives your application, they will stamp the date on the registered mail card and send it back to you.

When the petition is filed by the American Citizen and has been approved, the USCIS will notify the alien fiancé (e)’s American Embassy and will forward the file. The American Embassy will interview the alien and if approved, will provide he/she with the fiance visa.

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After Naturalization Interview

The naturalization interview is a very important phase in the naturalization process and it is strongly advised not to miss your interview. If you cannot make it, ensure that you write the office where your interview is to be conducted as soon as possible and request to have your interview rescheduled.

Rescheduling an interview may add to the naturalization process, resulting in a delay in getting your citizenship certificate. So make sure not to change your original interview date. If you do not attend the interview without notifying USCIS, they will “administratively close” your case. If you do not contact them to schedule a new interview within one year after the USCIS closes your case, they will deny your application.

Also make sure the USCIS has your most current address. If they don’t have it, you may not receive any important information from them. It may not be possible for them to notify you about the date and time of your naturalization interview or about additional supporting documents you may be required to send or bring.

Changing Address After Filing The Naturalization Application :

If you move to another address after filing your naturalization application, call the USCIS at their toll free telephone number 1-800-375-5283 to change your address on your pending application. Every time you move, it is mandatory by law to inform the USCIS of your new address. To do this, you should file an “Alien’s Change of Address Card” (Form AR-11), apart form calling Customer Service. An important factor to keep in mind is that you should file the Form AR-11 within 10 days of you having moved. However, there is no filing fee for this form. Adding to this, you should also keep the U.S. Postal Service aware of your new address to ensure that any mail to you may be forwarded to the new address.

You will become a full fledged US citizen as soon as you take the Oath of Allegiance to the US in a
formal naturalization ceremony. Under certain circumstances, you can take the Oath the same day as your interview. If you are not left with that option, or if you choose to have the ceremony at a later date, USCIS will keep you posted of the ceremony date with a Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony”.

If you are not able to go to the Oath ceremony on the said date, you will have to return the “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony” (Form N-445) you received to the local USCIS office. Enclose a letter mentioning the reasons as to why you cannot attend the ceremony. Remember to keep a copy of the notice and your letter before you send them to USCIS. On receiving your letter, the USCIS office will reschedule the date and send you a new “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony” (Form N-445) that will have the re scheduled date.

Not all applications will be approved. If your case is rejected and you think that USCIS was wrong in rejecting the application, you have the right to request a hearing with an immigration officer. The letter the USCIS sends will have the details as to how to request a hearing and will include the form you need. Form N-336, Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings under Section
336 of the INA” is the form for filing an appeal

You have to file this form, along with the required fee to USCIS within 30 days of having received the denial letter.

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Requirements And Features Of The Tourist Visa

Every year, US consulates around the world issue millions of visas to persons who wish to enter the US. The majority of people entering the US do so in the tourist visa or the B visa category. The B visa is the most widely used non-immigrant visa. Through this visa, foreign nationals can come to the US for the purpose of business (B-1) or pleasure (B-2). This visa is not intended for employment or study in the US. People who wish to work or study in the US have to apply for a visa classification that is appropriate to their specific situation.

B-1 Visas – Business Visitors

The B-1 visa category is for foreign nationals entering the US to engage in business activities other than productive employment. The types of activities allowed within the term “business” are far and wide. While the B-1 visa does allow a wide range of activities, this category is certainly not intended for employment in the US.

B-1 visa holders are not permitted to work in the U.S. They may only conduct certain business activities that are not considered employment.

B-2 Visas – Visitors for Pleasure

The B-2 visa or the tourist visa is reserved for foreign nationals who wish to enter the US temporarily for pleasure. It is more simplified in definition than the B-1 visa in terms of the activities allowed.

Pleasure in a B-2 visa context can generally be described as legitimate activities of a recreational character that includes tourism, amusement, visits with family or friends, rest, medical treatment, or activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature. The documentation required while applying for this visa will be determined by the primary purpose of the visit.

When a foreign national enters the US on a tourist visa, they will receive a I-94 arrival/departure card. This card will have the person’s legal name, date of birth, and country of citizenship. On arrival, a US Customs and Border Patrol agent will stamp the card with the date of entry and the status expiration date. The status expiration date indicates how long the person is allowed to remain in the US. The person must leave the US before this date or file for an extension of stay, or change to another visa status.

Features of the Tourist Visa

Used for temporary visits for business or pleasure. Employment is not allowed.
Pre-approval from the USCIS is not required. An application is made directly at the US consulate or embassy.
Valid for a few months to a few years.
Admission to the US generally for less than three months (B-1 business visitors) or a minimum of six months up to one year (B-2 tourists).
Separate dependent classification is not available.
Short courses of study are allowed.

Requirements for the Tourist Visa

The applicant

1. should have foreign residence outside the US that he/she does not intend to abandon.
2. will come to the US for a temporary period of limited duration.
3. will engage only in the business or tourist activities allowed by the B visa.
4. has permission to enter a foreign country at the end of the temporary US stay.
5. has sufficient financial resources to fund the temporary US visit.

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What Is An F1 Visa?

The F1 visa is for students attending a full-time degree or academic program at a school, college, or university that is approved by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in compliance with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The F1 visa is valid for as long as the student takes to finish his/her course of study. It also enables students to work on campus and in some situations even off-campus.

Apart from these, F-1 students can apply for employment-authorized practical training after the completion of their academic program. This training is usually limited to 12 months but may be extended to as many as 29 months for students who are pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. F1 visa holders can also transfer schools and change their focus of study while pursuing a degree in the U.S. Once they complete their course of study or practical training (if applicable), they have 60 days in which to depart the U.S.

Features of the F1 Visa Category:

Students:

• can come to the US as full-time academic or language students enrolled in a program that will lead to a degree or certificate.
• cannot get an F1 visa to study at a public elementary school or a publicly funded adult education program. They also cannot get an F visa to study at a public secondary school unless they prepay the full cost of such program, for a maximum of one year.
• can transfer from one school to another or switch academic programs by going through a simple procedure by notifying the USCIS.
• may work legally in a part- time job on campus. Also, they may get special permission to work off campus if it is economically urgent or if the job provides practical training for their field of study.
• are eligible to work pursuant to “Optional Practical Training” for a minimum of 12 months after the end of their course of study. Students who have obtained a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics may be eligible for as many as 29 months of employment authorization.

Visas are available for accompanying relatives, but relatives may not accept employment in the US.

M-1 Vocational Student Visa:

The M-1 student visa is for students enrolled in non-academic or “vocational study”. Some that would come under “vocational study” would be mechanical studies, technical studies, cooking classes, a language program, flight school or cosmetology program. The M-1 visa is valid for only one year. Students may apply for cumulative extensions for up to three years.

Features of the M-1 Vocational student visa :

Students:

• can come to the U.S. as a full-time vocational or nonacademic student enrolled in a program that would lead to a degree or certificate.
• can transfer from one school to another, but only if they apply for and receive permission from USCIS to do so. Once students are six months into the program of studies, they are prohibited from transferring except under truly exceptional circumstances.
• are never permitted to change their course of study.
• cannot work during their studies.
• can get permission to work for up to six months after their studies are done. The job must be considered practical training for their field of study.
• Visas are available for accompanying relatives, although relatives may not accept employment in the United States.

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How Many Questions Will I Be Asked During The Interview For Citizenship?

Attending an interview for citizenship is a part of the naturalization process. The purpose of the interview for citizenship is to verify if all the information you had entered in the N-400 application is correct and also to check if you have the basic knowledge of English and US history (civics)

The naturalization process consists of :

-Preparing and filing Form N-400 along with the supporting document and fee with the USCIS
-Getting the fingerprints taken
-Attending an interview
-Take the English and civics test
-On approval, take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States in a formal naturalization ceremony and receive the citizenship certificate.

The purpose of the interview for citizenship is to verify if all the information you had entered in the N-400 application is correct and also to check if you have the basic knowledge of English and US history (civics). Genuineness is the key aspect in successfully completing the naturalization process. Always ensure you are transparent while furnishing details in your application. Background checks will be conducted and you could face serious consequences if you are found guilty.

The interview would mean an easy process if your case is genuine. As mentioned earlier, apart from the application being checked, your knowledge in English and civics will be tested.

The Interview for Citizenship

During your interview for citizenship, the Immigration Official will speak to you in English. The official will ask you questions related to your application and your speaking ability will be judged by the way you answer the questions. You are required to prove that you can understand what the Examiner is asking, and have to answer the questions in English. Apart from this you also have to prove you can read and write in English. The examiner will give to three sentences to read and you should read at least one of those sentences correctly. The same procedure holds good in the writing part too. You might be asked additional questions if the examiner is not satisfied about your ability to understand English.

The civics section, which is an oral examination has 100 selected questions and you will be asked ten questions out of these. You should be able to answer six of ten questions correctly If your answer is wrong or if you don’t respond to the questions, your claim will be rejected.

The test process is however a difficult one for elderly people. So based on the applicant’s age and if the applicant has medically determinable physical or mental impairment, certain persons are exempted from taking the test.

If you are above 50 years of age and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years OR if you are above 55 years of age and have been a permanent resident for at least 15 years, you need not take the English test. However, your civics knowledge will be tested but you can take it in a language of your choice.

If you have passed 65 birthdays and been a permanent resident for at least 20 years, you need not take the English test. Even here you have to take the civics test and in a language of your choice, the only difference being, this test will be an easier version and you will be asked about 10 questions from a list of 25.

The waiver rule also applies if you have any medically determinable physical or mental impairment and you are not able to learn English and civics because of this impairment. If you are such a person, you should additionally file Form N-648 requesting an exception along with the citizenship application.

Also note that if you are eligible for a waiver of the English proficiency requirement, you should bring an interpreter with you to the interview.

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Should I Take The Old Or The New Citizenship Exam?

With the intent of creating a more standardized, fair and meaningful naturalization process, a new citizenship exam was designed by the USCIS. The test was redesigned to ensure that naturalization applicants have uniform, consistent test experiences nationwide, and that the civics test can effectively find out if the applicants have a meaningful understanding of U.S. government and history.

The previous version of the test consisted of basic historical facts. The redesigned test ensures prospective citizens develop a deeper and better understanding of US history and government. The new test consists of an overhauled English reading and writing section, as well as new history and government questions.

The following guidelines will determine whether applicants filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization will take the old test or the new citizenship exam:

If you :

• file Form N-400 before October 1, 2008, and are scheduled for your interview on or after October 1, 2008 up until October 1, 2009, you can opt to take the old test or the redesigned (new) test.

• file Form N-400 on or after October 1, 2008, you have to take the redesigned (new) test.

• are scheduled for an interview on or after October 1, 2009, regardless of when you filed Form N-400, you should take the redesigned (new) test.

In the civics section, you should answer six of ten questions correctly and this will be an oral examination. In the English section, your speaking, reading and writing ability will be judged. You should read and write at least one sentence in English correctly and possibly more if the Examiner has doubts about your ability to understand English.

If you fail the English and/or civics test during the first examination, you should take the same version of the test, old or the new citizenship exam, when you are retested, even if the retest is scheduled on or after October 1, 2009.

Exemptions to taking the new citizenship exam:

You can be exempted from taking the English test, but you should still take the civics test if you are:

  • Aged 50 or older at the time of applying and been a permanent resident (green card holder) in the U.S. for 20 years.
    OR
  • Aged 55 or older at the time of applying and been a permanent resident (green card holder) in the U.S. for 15 years

If you come under the exceptions listed above, you should still take the civics test but can take it your native language, but only if your command of spoken English is insufficient to have a valid test in English.

If you are aged 65 or older and been a permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of applying for citizenship, you will be given special consideration regarding the civics requirement.

You may also qualify for a waiver of the tests because of a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment. Under such circumstances, you should file Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. This form must be completed by a licensed medical or osteopathic doctor, or licensed clinical psychologist and has to be filed along with the citizenship application.

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