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US Student Visas

Helping International Students With Their Student Visa Applications

A group of students gather around a computer

The United States welcomes international citizens who come to the country to study. Hundreds of thousands of people come to the U.S. each year to pursue educational programs at different levels, for which a student visa is required.

US Student visas are issued only to students who will attend U.S. schools that have received prior approval from USCIS for enrollment of foreign students. Virtually all public and accredited private colleges, universities, and vocational schools have been approved.

Once you have chosen a school and the school has accepted you, it will issue a certificate that can be used to continue with the immigration application. If you have had trouble getting visas in the past, have ever overstayed a visa, are from a country thought to sponsor terrorism, or you just do not have the time to monitor closely the process and to be on top of deadlines, etc, assistance from an immigration attorney can be well worth the investment. Also, note that certain areas of study may bar you from entry on a student visa, depending on the planned course of study and its national security implications. The immigration attorneys at NeJame Law in Orlando can assist you in evaluating or obtaining a student visa in the U.S.

Types of Student Visas

There are three types of student visas:

  • Academic Studies (F Visas)
  • Non-Academic Studies (M visas)
  • Academic Studies as an Exchange Visitor (J Visas)

Student Visas - Qualifications

To qualify for student visa, you must:

  • Have been accepted at a school approved by the U.S. government.
  • Be entering the U.S. as a bona fide student pursuing a full course of study.
  • Choose a school program that leads to an objective such as a degree, diploma, or certificate.
  • Have enough money to study full-time without working *. (*extenuating circumstances may be an exception.)
  • Be able to speak, read, and write English well enough to understand the course work. Alternatively, the school can offer special tutoring or instruction in your native language to help overcome any language barriers.
  • Prove that you intend to return to your home country when your program of studies is complete.

In most countries, first time student visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview. However, each embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas. Students should consult Embassy web sites or call for specific application instructions.

Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period. Students need to plan ahead to avoid having to make repeat visits to the Embassy. To the extent possible, students should bring the documents suggested below, as well as any other documents that might help establish their ties to the local community.

Length of a Student Visa

Commonly, people receive a visa from the U.S. consulate in their respective country. The visa may be valid for a year, or even five or ten years. It is a common misunderstanding that these issued visas permit you to remain in the U.S. for the length of time designated on your visa. The expiration date on any nonimmigrant visa, including a student visa, simply denotes how long you have the right to request entry to the U.S. It does not define how long you may stay in the U.S. once you arrive.

Both F-1 and M-1 entry student visas are usually issued for the anticipated duration of time it will take to complete your projected course of studies. Consulates will exercise their judgment in deciding the expiration date of the actual visa.

More importantly, when you enter the U.S. using a valid student visa, you will be provided with a small white card identified as an I-94 card. With all other types of nonimmigrant visas, a border officer will usually stamp the I-94 card with an expiration date as you enter the country, to inform you how long you are authorized to remain in the U.S. On the other hand, with a student I-94 card, principally for an F-1 student, it is more probable that the border officer will stamp the I-94 card with a “D/S,” for duration of status. This signifies that you may stay in the U.S. in student status for the duration of your educational objectives, provided you finish within what USCIS and your school deem a reasonable period of time.

Economic-Necessity-Based Work Permit Application

Generally, you are not allowed to work off campus, outside of the requirements of your student visa. However, under certain circumstances, you may be eligible to apply for permission to work based on economic need. An experienced attorney will know how to handle the case and will be able to increase your odds in getting a work permit in to provide or complement your financial source.

International Student Visa Process

The application process for a student visa varies depending on the type of visa to be pursued and on the specific characteristics of each case.

The general process can be "simplified" as follows:

  • Choose the program and school you would like to attend. Please note that certain areas of study may bar you from entry on a student visa, depending on the planned course of study and its national security implications.
  • Initiate the application process with the school you chose.
  • Once the school has accepted you, it will issue you a certificate that you can use to continue with your immigration application.
  • Pay the required fees.
  • Schedule your Initial Entry Visa Interview with your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The policies and procedures vary depending on the specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate, so make sure you check which ones apply to you.
  • Gather the documentation you need for your Initial Entry Visa Interview.
  • Attend your Initial Entry Visa Interview.
  • Closely monitor your application process to make sure that you comply with the deadlines and that you provide any additional information required by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Most schools provide students with assistance and advice with the application process. At every government-approved school, there is a person on the staff known as the designated school official (DSO). The DSO is recognized by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the consulates as having primary responsibility for dealing with foreign students.

There are some situations that could complicate your student visa application process, among them:

  • If you have had trouble getting visas in the past
  • If have ever overstayed a visa
  • Being a citizen from a country thought to sponsor terrorism

Contact Our U.S. Student Visa Attorneys Today

When deciding between hiring an immigration attorney to help you out with your student visa application process or doing it yourself, please bear in mind that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has changed the visa procedures making the approval process more rigorous, and student visas are not an exception.

There are many factors involved in the US student visa application process. Our team of Orlando student visa attorneys offers in-depth knowledge about immigration matters and is dedicated to providing assistance to international students with all their immigration needs. We have helped thousands of clients cases in the past.

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