F1 Visa: Top 13 Frequently Asked Questions

Q.1 What is an form I-20 and how do I obtain it?

The Form I-20 is an official US Government form, issued by a certified school, which a prospective non-immigrant student must have in order to get an F-1 or M-1 visa. Form I-20 acts as proof-of-acceptance and contains the information necessary to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee, apply for a visa, or change visa status, and be admitted into the United States. The Form I-20 has the student’s SEVIS identification number, which starts with the letter N followed by 10 digits, on the top left-hand side.

Q.2 How early should I apply for my student (F1) visa?

You are encouraged to apply for your nonimmigrant student visa as soon as you have your I-20. To ensure you get an early and timely date you may apply at anytime. However, a student visa may be issued no more than 120 days prior to the start date mentioned on your I-20.

Q.3 I received my visa, when should I travel?

You may only enter the United States within 30 days of the beginning of the course of study stated on your I-20 form, regardless of when your visa was issued.

Q.4 What if I receive the I-20 form to a different school?

If you receive an I-20 form after scheduling your appointment, then you can inform the US consular officer of the new I-20 form at the time of the interview.

Q.5 I was working on an H-1B visa and have now been admitted to a university as an F-1. Do I need to return to my country to apply for a student visa?

No. Once you are in the United States, you do not need to apply for a new visa because the visa is only for entry into the United States. Check with USCIS to determine if you need to adjust the status of your existing visa. If you leave the country, however, you’ll need to apply for the student visa in order to re-enter the United States.

Q.6 What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) program requires schools and exchange programs to verify the enrolment status of all new and continuing foreign students and exchange visitors. Student visa applicants are required to pay a SEVIS fee before a visa can be issued. Applicants are then required to provide the SEVIS I-901 fee receipt as proof of payment. The SEVIS website has more details on this.

Q.7 Can an F-1 student work in the United States?

Full-time students on F visas may seek on-campus employment not to exceed 20 hours per week. After the first year in student status, an applicant may apply for employment off campus with authorization from USCIS.

Q.8 Can my dependents apply for a tourist visa instead of dependent visa if they only want to visit me and stay in U.S. for a short period of time?

Yes, they can apply for a Tourist visa.

Q.9 How do I read and understand my visa?

As soon as you receive your visa, check to make sure all your personal information printed on the visa is correct. If any of the information on your visa does not match the information in your passport, or is otherwise incorrect, please contact the issuing authority (i.e. the US Embassy) immediately.

The expiry date of your visa is the last day you may use the visa to enter the United States. It does not indicate how long you may stay in the United States. Your stay is determined by the Department of Homeland Security at your port of entry. As long as you comply with the Department of Homeland Security decision on the conditions of your stay, you should have no problem. Further information about interpreting your visa can be found at the Department of State’s Consular Affairs website.

Q.10 My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?

No. You may stay in the US for the period of time and conditions authorised by the Department of Homeland Security officer when you arrived in the US, which will be noted on the I-94, even if your visa expires during your stay.

Q.11 What address should I mention on Form DS-160, if my current home address and my address on the passport is not the same?

You must mention your current home address in India and not the address printed on your passport.

Q.12 What if I receive an I-20 from a better university after getting the F1 visa?

If you have obtained your visa and need to change the name of the university on your visa, you have to go through the complete process once again by scheduling a new appointment after paying the application fee and service charges.

Q.13 Is there a quota for the number of student visas issued each year?

No. All qualified students receive visas.

For detailed guidance, avail of our visa counselling services by attending our Visa workshop webinar on 27th February at 9:00 am. 

If you are not already an Admission Counselling student at the academy, register for the webinar here: https://rzp.io/l/YoS0BjR3

Once you pay and enroll, you will receive the zoom registration link shortly.

US Student Visa: Basics and application process

The US government issues different types of non-immigrant visas.  For example, tourists and business-men are issued B-1/ B-2 visas and those authorized to work in the US are given an H-1B visa. Students going for vocational courses for shorter duration such as, in flying schools,  English language courses etc. get an M-1 visa.

However, most students going to an accredited university for a full-time academic program, require an F-1 visa stamp.

Students are allowed to apply for the F-1 visa 120 days before the date of reporting mentioned on their I-20 form. The I-20 form is an official document issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The following important details are mentioned in the document:

  • the name and passport number of the student
  • the name of the university which the student is joining
  • the program to which the student has been admitted
  • the date of commencement of the program
  • the date by which the program has to be completed
  • the total cost of education for one year.

The fall 2022 semester will begin sometime in the third week of August. So, if you plan to join an American university this fall, you can start applying for your visa from the third week of April.

How to Apply for an F1 Visa?

  • Get your I-20 from the SEVP institution
  • Apply online by filling the DS-160 form
  • Pay the general visa application fee ($160)
  • Pay the SEVIS  fee ($350)
  • Schedule your OFC appointment and F1 visa interview
  • Attend the F1 visa interview on the scheduled date

Keep in mind that you should have adequate liquid funds to cover the total cost of one year of education – this is mentioned in the I-20 form. Many students are under the wrong impression that their sponsor needs to deposit this entire amount in the bank and that otherwise their visa can be rejected. This is not true. Funds can be shown in the form of bank deposits as well as other liquid assets including education loans. Of course, having adequate funds alone does not guarantee a visa approval. The consulate officer also considers the following points:

  • whether you have admission to an accredited and reputed university
  • whether your academic background is good
  • whether your GRE score is satisfactory
  • whether your sponsor’s income is adequate

You should also have good communication skills and should be able to give convincing and honest answers to the consulate officer’s questions.

Start preparing your financial documents now and apply for an F-1 visa as soon as you get your I-20 form from the university you desire to attend. 

For detailed guidance, avail of our visa counselling services by attending our visa workshop webinar on 20th February or 27th February at 9:00 am. 

If you are not already an Admission Counselling student at the academy, register here: https://rzp.io/l/YoS0BjR3

Once you pay and enroll, you will receive the zoom registration link shortly.

The Difference Between Co- and Extra-curricular Activities and Why They are Important!

For those of you who want to pursue higher studies abroad, it is time to start brainstorming about your admission essays. And, though they may seem insignificant, important aspects that need to be covered in both these documents are your co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Especially for those of you applying for undergraduate programs, i.e. your bachelor’s, the co-curricular and extra-curricular activities carry equal weight along with your academic and SAT score. For the master’s program, your co-curricular activities will set you apart.
While “co-curricular activities” refer to those activities that go together with your academics in school or college, an extra-curricular activity is any activity you take part in that does not involve your academics.

Here are a few examples of co-curricular activities you can highlight in your application

Undergraduate Applicants (BS/BA): school Headboy/girl, class prefect, House Captain, college newsletters, science clubs and projects, inter-class and inter-school competitions and state/national level competitions, elocution, etc.

Graduate Applicants (MS): technical quizzes during college fests, Robocon, SAE BAJA, filing for patents, articles contributed for academic publication, state/national level technical competitions.

A few examples of extra-curricular activities: sports, athletics, debate, dramatics, learning foreign language, arts, chess and book clubs, Rotary/Rotaract, Lions/Leo club or AIESEC memberships, Boy Scout or Girl Guides, volunteer work (blood donation, tree plantation, old age homes, underprivileged children, etc.), painting or dancing, National Cadet Corps (NCC), National Sports Organisation (NSO), National Service Scheme (NSS).

If they are “extra-curricular”, why do colleges and universities care about these activities?
Colleges and universities like students who take efforts to develop their talents and passions. They want students who interact well with others and add something to the community. There is more to college life, particularly in the US than just attending classes. US colleges and universities appreciate students who will go the extra mile by taking initiative and participating in academic as well as social activities on campus.

Which are the activities to highlight and how to describe them?

Before you decide to include co-curricular or extra-curricular activities in your SoP or essay, consider the following questions:
1. Did you actively participate in the activity: provide specific details of the role you played in the activity.
2. Did you engage in this activity for a significant number of years: give specific numbers to give the admissions committee a clear idea of your dedication towards the activity.
3. Were you specifically chosen for any activity: list events, competitions, or showcases that you were selected for based on your expertise in the field.
4. Did you take initiative: state your experience as a leader or mentor and discuss what impact you had on others.
5. Did you make positive changes to the activity: describe the work you did to expand and improve any clubs or events that you were a part of.
6. Did the activity change you in a positive manner: illustrate the changes the activity brought about in you such as deciding to be a part of the debate team to get over your fear of public speaking.

Now, that you have this information, make sure that you focus on the co-curricular and extra-curricular activities when you draft your admission essays. Remember, it is never too late to start participating in activities and events that can highlight your skills and abilities to make your profile diverse and well rounded.

Jobs After Studying in America

Is there scope to take up jobs after studying in America? Most students do take up a job in the United States after they have finished their course of study there. However, the student (F1) visa that you get from the US embassy in India does not permit you to take up full-time employment. You have to take permission from the Immigration Department first. The good thing is that obtaining this permission is not very difficult. You are allowed to work after finishing your MS, MBA etc. under Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Once you have got a job it often happens that your employer will request the authorities for a change of status in your visa from F1 (education visa) to H1 (work permit). This can be renewed for 3 years more. During this time many people apply for a Green Card i.e. permission to live in the United States permanently. Once you get your Green Card you will be able to live and work in the United States for as many years as you want.

Web Development Skills: Engineers Read This!

In March 2012, we had put up a post advising ECE students, about job opportunities in the US. Today, let’s talk about something related but slightly different: while you are waiting for an admit or preparing for an MS, you can use the time to build useful skill sets. If you are an engineer who would like to explore options in software development, you could think about the area of web-development and related technologies.

Web development specialization: Making an educated choice in operating system technologies and related skills

If you are a wannabe web developer, picking the right skill sets is key to a successful career. Once you have chosen the web development skills you want to acquire, there are many ways to develop them:

  • extra “private” courses or certifications
  • regular college and work-related project work
  • ad hoc additional projects at college / work

(The latter two will also allow a hands-on tangible demonstration of your skills.)

The question is “what web development skills should you focus on?”

Continue reading