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Help on Visa Procedures


It is possible that you have more than one I-20 forms with you. Usually the univs send it after you send your acceptance to them. However you may recieve I-20 forms from the univs with your offer letters. It is up to you to choose your I-20. So you can have multiple I-20 forms with you. However this does not mean that you can use multiple I-20 forms. It is illigal to use more than one I-20 form. Sign only on one of them. A univ cannot force you to accept their offer by sending I-20 form.

GETTING A VISA:
The USA issues different types of visas to temporary visitors, including students. As a full-time student, you would receive an F-1 or M-1 visa. Your spouse and children would receive F-2 or M-2 visas. As an Exchange Visitor, you would receive a J-1 visa. Exchange Visitors come to the USA for consultation, specialized training, research, or teaching. After a college, university, or English language school has accepted you for admission to full-time study, the school will send you a document called an I-20 form, for an F-1 visa. If you will be an Exchange Visitor, the organization or US Government agency that is sponsoring you will send you an IAP-66 form for a J-1 visa. The M visa is for students at technical schools. If you enter the USA on an M visa and then decide to study at a college, university, or English school, you will not be able to change your M visa to an F visa. However, you can enter the USA on an F visa and later change this visa to an M visa if you transfer to a technical school. If you will be studying English before entering college or university, your government and the US Embassy or Consulate may require you to have a "conditional acceptance" from the college or university you ultimately wish to attend after your English study. Your conditional acceptance letter will promise you admission at a later date, if you satisfactorily complete the English language course. You also will need an I-20 from your English language school.

WHERE TO GO:
After you have received your I-20 form or IAP-66 form, take the form along with your passport to a US Embassy or Consular official in charge of non-immigrant visas. You will also need to show that you have financial support for the entire time you plan to study in the USA Get an "Affidavit of Support" form from the US Embassy or Consulate. Complete this form with information about your sources of financing, and submit the form along with your other documents. You may also need to prove that you are in good health. Check with the US Embassy or Consulate to find out if this is necessary in your country. The American Institute in Taiwan processes US visa applications for students from Taiwan. The US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will expect you to study at the school that is named on your I-20 form. If you decide to go to a different school, you will need a new I-20 from the school which you will be attending, and you should see the US visa officer before you leave home. Once you arrive in the USA, you may transfer to a different school with permission from INS. You will also need an I-20 form from your new school if you transfer.

AFTER YOU FINISH:
If you have an F or M visa, after you finish your studies, either you must leave the USA, get permission for practical training or apply for a different type of visa. If you have an F visa, you may apply to stay in the USA up to one year for practical training directly related to your field of study after you finish your studies if you have been an F-1 student for nine months. A student in an ESL program is not eligible for practical training, although the time spent as an F-1 student studying English can count toward the nine month requirement if the student later switches to a full-time course of academic study at another school. The INS may authorize students with M-1 visas to stay for up to one month or practical training for every four months of study, not to exceed six months. Your school would recommend you for this training if you could not get the same experience at home. If you are an Exchange Visitor and you must be trained to complete your program, if that training is not available in your home country, you may be permitted to stay in the USA for this training for up to 18 months after you finish your studies. Your sponsor must approve this training. If your Exchange Visitor Program is financed by a US government agency or by your country's government, or if you have acquired skills that are listed as needed in your home country, such as graduate medical education or training, you will be required to return to your country for at least two years after you finish the Exchange Visitor program. For more information about getting a visa, please visit the United States Department of State, Visa Services home page.


A Step-by-Step account of the proceedings at the US Consulate.

Before leaving for the consulate....

Keep
<1> Your Passport
<2> Signed I-20
<3> DD with your name and address written in ink on the back side.
<4> Visa Fees in Cash.
<5> Completed Visa Application Form with your signature and photograph.
in one folder.
These things will have to be produced at the consulate. Note that you can collect and complete the Visa Application Form on the same day at the consulate as well.

You can keep all other material in separate folders. Carry these folders only in a plastic bag. Handbags etc will not be allowed. Also, do not carry any electronic gadget like a cellphone, pager etc.

Come prepared for an interview, with answers for the standard set of questions. You may have to go through an interview.

Reach the consulate anytime between 8:00am and 10:0am. Apart from the consulate itself, Breach Candy Hospital is another landmark in that area.

At the consulate...

At the entrance, a security guard will ask you to show your I-20 and DD. If you have not got the Visa Application Form along, collect if first from the counter nearby and complete it. After the security guard checks these documents, you will be asked to enter the premises. Anybody accompanying you (parents, relatives etc) will not be allowed to enter, so its better you go with your friend(s) who are seeking a visa too.

Inside, another security guard will examine the contents of your bag and ask you if you have any electronic gadget like a cellphone, pager etc. If you have any unallowed item, like a handbag or cellphone, you will simply not be allowed to carry it inside, so make sure you don't bring them at all.

Next you be asked to enter the consulate office.

When you enter, the office will most probably be buzzing with activity. There will be several counters in front of you.

I'll mention counter numbers from now on. I don't know if the same counter is always put to the same use as it was, when I went there.

[1] Collect a Token


First, you will have to collect a token from counter 3 or 4. Usually, the queues for counters extend beyond the counter window, so ask the security guards, which queue you should stand in. You may even be asked to sit and wait for your turn to stand in the queue; just do as the guards tell you. The guards are very helpful, you can approach them for any clarifications.

When you reach the counter window, you will have to submit your Visa Application Form, Passport and I-20. Note that your I-20 has a student copy attached to it, which the person at the counter will detach and return to you. Keep this with you, its of no use during the rest of the proceedings. You will also be given a token which will have a number on it. This token will be used at all stages during the rest of the proceedings, so keep it carefully.

[2] Submit your DD
Next, you will have to submit your DD at counter 1 or 2. Stand in the corresponding queue. At the counter window, you will have to submit your DD and show your token. In return, you will be given a receipt (and its copy).

[3] The long wait...(there are fewer atheists at the end of it)
Now, the waiting period. You will have to wait till your token number is called. Take a seat close to one of the speakers in the room as it gets quite noisy at times. Your token number will be called only once and in an American accent, so pay attention when the numbers are being called. Typically, the waiting period is between 30-60 minutes.

[4] The BIG moment

[a] If you have full financial aid, you will probably not have to go through an interview. Token numbers (or even names) of such applicants are called at counter 3. When called at the counter window, you will have to submit your token and the copy of the receipt you were given earlier. In return, the officer will scribble the type of visa and the expiry date of the visa that you will be given (ie something like 'f1 200x'), on the token itself and return it to you. No questions asked...your visa application has been accepted! In addition, you will be given a USEFI feedback form. Keep the token very carefully. You will need to submit it later to collect your visa-stamped passport.

[b] If you do not have full financial aid, you will have to go through an interview. Some applicants with full financial aid may also have to go through an interview, so its always better to come prepared for it. Your token number will be called at either counter 6,7 or 8. These counters are manned by American officers who will ask you a few questions. If you're really lucky, you may not be asked any questions at all. But if you are, then answer the questions slowly and confidently. Mainly, the officer is interested in two things. Firstly, that you have sufficient funds to finance your tuition fees and living expenses in the US. So its always better to show financial ability in excess of the amount required on your I-20. Secondly, they want to ensure that you do not misuse the F1 visa issued to you. Misuse would imply using the visa to work or for business activites etc. So convince the officer that you will use the F1 visa only to study.

Keep all relevant documents handy, as each application is typically processed in 3-5 minutes only.

If the officer is convinced that your visa application can be accepted, you will have to submit your token and submit the copy of the receipt you were given earlier. In return, the officer will scribble the type of visa and the expiry date of the visa that you will be given (ie something like 'f1 200x'), on the token itself and return it to you. In addition, you will be given a USEFI feedback form. Keep the token very carefully. You will need to submit it later to collect your visa-stamped passport.

If your visa application is rejected (though I sincerely hope you don't have to face this situation), you will be given a reason why it was rejected and told to come after atleast 3 days. Don't argue or plead with the officer, s/he will simply call security and ask them to clear you out, so its better you leave the counter and the premises on your own. Don't get overly depressed, you still have another chance.

[5] Paying the visa fees
Now, coming back to those fortunate ones whose visa has been approved. You will have to pay the visa fee cash amount at counter 1, so stand in the appropriate queue. You can complete the USEFI feedback form while standing in the queue. When you reach the counter window, you will have to submit the cash, the USEFI feedback form and show your token. In return, you will be given a receipt (and its copy). You will be asked to come at 4:00pm to collect your visa-stamped passport.

[6] Ab waqt hain ek break ka...
That's all for the morning session. It should be about 1:00pm by now. Leave the consulate premises.

[7] The last queue of the day
To collect your passport, I suggest you return at around 4:30-4:45pm. At 4:00pm, there will be a very long queue outside the consulate. The queue becomes much shorter after 4:45pm, so you won't have to wait in a long queue. You can collect your passport even on the following day at the same time, though I don't think many of us will go for that option.

[8] Getting your F1 visa $-)
At the counter window, you will have to submit your token and the copy of the second receipt given to you. In return, you will get your passport with an envelope stapled to it which contains the I-20 you had submitted earlier (along with your passport). Before leaving, make sure your passport has the visa stamped on it.

[9] So long !
You can now go home (or anywhere else you plan to go) rest assured that the final step in your effort to go for further studies to the US has been completed.



All the best for getting your visa. And wish you all success for the future !

 

 

 

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