It is thrilling after the acceptance letter from your choice of college. You would probably receive an acceptance letter via email and mail with a big Congratulation on the admission. You will receive all the instructions on the next steps like securing your spot at the school, paying your tuition fee, finding a place to stay, etc.
Note: securing your spot at the school normally applies to private schools. It can range from $500 to $2,500 non refundable. It is important to budget for that too.
Getting a student visa to the U.S can be challenging, but it depends on where you are and your situation. Student visa expiration varies from country to country. It ranges from three months up to 5 years or more. It is best to investigate the student visa expiration so that you won’t worry or spend extra to leave too early or too late for school. Always have room for errors.
How to apply for student visa
Get SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)
SEVIS is a web-based system that the U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses to keep track of students and exchange visitors under F1, J1, and M1.
You will get the I-20 letter from your school with the acceptance letter. You will then need to register for SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) if it is your first time studying in the US. It is a one-time payment that you need to pay about $250. You can find out more information here.
Apply for a visa interview at the US Embassy
The next step is to apply for a student visa at the US Embassy at your home country. First, you need to prepare some documents before scheduling your interview.
You prepare documents such as bank statements, criminal records, certificates (if any to boost your credibility), employment records (if any) and I-20. These documents might take time to process. It all depends on your home country and condition.
When you have all the necessary documents, go to the US Embassy website and apply for a student visa. You will then fill out the DS-160 form online. It requires you to fill in all details about yourself and your dependents (if any). Then you need to pay the application/interview fee ($160) to schedule the appointment. Please be aware of the limited time slot available; it can affect your visa process.
Prepare for the interview
The interview lasts about 30 minutes. However, the waiting time is more than 1 hour. The US Embassy is very secure. You are not allowed to bring in any electric devices inside. There are reading materials and news to keep you company while waiting for your turns. Make sure to arrive early.
The counselor will ask questions about you and the purpose of visiting the US. Do you have any relatives in the states? What is your future goal after completing your degree? Answer every question honestly and calmly. It demonstrates your confidence and your English level.
Be alert that sometimes students are turned down for the first and second visa interviews. If it happens, you need to contact your school immediately. They might be able to look into the system and advise you accordingly.
To sum up, make sure that you have enough time to apply for a student visa. It can save you time and money in the process. Seek help from your community and schools if problems arrive. Be sure to have room for errors.