US VISA Master Guide – Everything you need to know about the F-1 VISA Interview!
- All about F1 visa
- Scheduling the F1 visa interview
- Documents required for visa interview
- Frequently asked questions
- Top reasons for visa rejections
- Top 10 tips to crack the visa interview
A] What is F1 visa?
F1 visa is a study visa which is issued to international students who wish to study in the United States of America. It is required to pursue any kind of a long-term study or training program in the USA. In order to qualify for the F1 Visa, an applicant must be able to demonstrate the following:
- Strong ties to the home country which can be shown through various means such as a well settled family background, a good family income, job offers, assets, etc.
- Admit from an SEVP approved college/university in the USA, and successful completion of the program from the institution for which the visa was granted.
- Enough financial capacity to support his/her stay in the USA for the entire program duration.
- Most importantly, enough professional and personal reasons to come back to the home country after completing the program.
B] How to Get the I-20?
- Accept the admit from the university.
- Pay deposit, if required.
- Send the financial documents, if and when requested by the university.
Timelines to get the I-20:
1-4 weeks, variable from one college to another.
C] Visa Application Process:
Step 1 – Complete SEVIS fee Payment of USD $350 using a Credit/Forex card. Carry the receipt of this payment for the Biometric and consular interviews.
The first step in procuring a visa is paying the SEVIS Fees. SEVIS refers to Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. It is a nationwide internet-based system which the US government’s homeland security department uses to maintain the data of students on non-immigrant visa.
You can pay the SEVIS fee of USD $350 using this link.
Click on PAY I-901 FEE and fill in the asked details.
Step 2 – Complete and submit the DS-160 form on this link
DS-160 is a non-immigrant visa application form, which has to be filled for any type of visa to the United States. This form is submitted electronically to the Department of State Website via the internet.
Select the location, enter the code and start an application. Save the login details and application ID as you would need them to retrieve the form every-time.
The form is divided into sections such as Personal Data, Contact Information, Passport Information, Travel Information, U.S. Contact, Family, Education, Work and Training followed by questions on Background and Security.
Once you submit the form, you get a confirmation page as shown below – Carry this to the visa interview
Step 3 – Complete the Visa Application
Use this link for the US travel docs website, (also known as CGI federal website), to pay the visa fees of USD $160 and schedule the visa interview.
On clicking the link, you will arrive at the below page:
Once you fill all the details of the dashboard and complete the payment, an MRV receipt number would be automatically populated within an hour to 72 hours (3 working days) of visa fee payment.
You can pay the visa fee (USD $160) via Axis/Citi Bank Deposit, NEFT, and IMPS. Once the MRV receipt number reflects on your visa account, you can click on NEXT and select date for Biometrics followed by the Visa appointment.
Note that at this stage, you will get an appointment confirmation. You will have to print this from your account and carry the same for both your Biometric and your consular interview.
D] Frequently Asked Questions (visa application-related):
- How long is DS-160 valid post submission?
Provided there isn’t any changes in your profile or you want to update/rectify some details, the DS-160 will remain valid without any expiry till the visa interview.
- While filling the DS-160 form, I am getting the message ‘session timed out’, what should I do?
Go to the DS-160 login page and click on retrieve application.
- How long will it take to complete DS-160 form?
If you know all the answers, you should be able to fill the form within 20 to 45 minutes. Keep your passport and I-20 handy while filling the form.
- Should I fill the DS-160 form in one go?
Not necessarily, you can save the form before logging out and then retrieve the form whenever you want to continue.
- Can I retrieve the DS-160 form post submitting it?
No, you will have to fill a new form and then link it to your visa account.
- How early can I schedule a F1 visa interview?
You can schedule a F1 visa interview date that falls within the period of 120 days prior to the program commencement.
- Is it possible to reschedule my F1 visa interview?
Yes, you can reschedule the interview. However, there are limited number of attempts for rescheduling.
- Can I switch my University after scheduling the visa interview?
Yes, you can accept an admit from a different university post scheduling the visa interview.
E] Documents Checklist:
For Biometric Appointment-
- I-20 and passport
- SEVIS fee receipt
- DS-160 confirmation page
- VFS appointment letter
- Visa fee payment transaction receipt issued by the transacting bank.
For Visa Interview (carry the above visa documents plus the following)-
Educational and work-experience documents
- Transcripts/marksheets (all years)
- GRE, TOEFL/IELTS score cards
- SOP (not compulsory)
- Work experience letter
Depending on what liquid assets are to be shown for the required amount (all documents should be dated within 3-4 weeks of the visa interview date)
- Savings account – Bank statements for past 6 months.
- FDs – Bank letters
- Gold – Jeweller’s evaluation certificate
- Shares – Demat account statement for past 6 months
- MFs – Latest statement showing current NAV
- Insurance policies – Surrender Value Certificates
- EPF/PPF – Statements
- Loan – sanction letter
- Fixed assets – maintenance receipts/agreement, etc. (this is not compulsory)
F] On the Interview Day:
- Reach the consulate at least 15 minutes prior to the interview.
- Dress formally and appear well-groomed.
- Maintain a good posture, sound and look confident.
- Have all your documents organized prior entering the consulate.
G] Frequently asked visa interview questions:
- Why did you choose XYZ program?
Focus on your passion for your intended domain and talk about how you arrived at your choice of program. You could focus on the relevant courses that you took or projects that you worked on during your undergraduate program. You could also talk about relevant work experiences and how those motivated you to take up further education in the same domain.
- Why did you choose ABC University?
Talk about your criteria for choosing the university. Make sure you focus on factors related to the intrinsic value of the program such as curriculum, research opportunities, good infrastructure, opportunity to learn from professors, etc. Do not focus on anything extrinsic to the program such as job opportunities in the area.
- Why do you want to go abroad for higher education?
Talk about how you could benefit from global exposure and how it could help you make a great career in your home country.
- Why did you choose the USA for education, when you could have chosen UK/Canada or Australia?
Talk about the salient features of the programs you applied to in the USA. Mention how they were different from other programs in the USA/UK
- How many universities did you apply to and why did u choose university A over university B?
Mention the main universities where you applied and then talk about how you finally chose the university where you intend to go. Focus on showing how the course aligns with your learning objectives.
- What are your plans after graduation?
Mention specific plans of working in an industry relevant to your masters and indicate how that industry is booming in your home country.
- Do you plan to work while you are in the USA?
Mention how taking up an internship would help you apply skills learned through the master’s program, thus enriching your learning experience.
- Do you plan to use your OPT period to work in the USA after graduation?
Mention you will do it only if working for a short term helps you fulfill your long-term career goals back here in India.
H] Visa Decisions:
Visas can be denied for these major reasons
- Insufficient funds to sponsor your education and living expenses for the intended period of stay.
- If the visa officer senses that you have no intention of returning to your home country or you unknowingly express the intention of migrating to the USA.
- If you provide incorrect information or furnish false information or documents to the visa officer.
- You are not clear about the program you are going for or the university.
- You are unable to prove your academic competence or unable to justify the gaps in your education.
- If you display lousy conduct, meek body language or are overly nervous or under confident.
While these are some pointers for answering the questions, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to the visa process. Your answers may need to be customized to your situation, especially when it comes to answers to questions related to your goals and finances.
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