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7 Top FAQ Topics about a US Student Visa Application

These FAQs are for you whether you are still at the decision stage or completing your application for a U.S. student visa. This article deals with 7 main areas of concerns including the application process to finance-related questions and inadmissibility factors.

Jennifer ArandaOriginally posted on February 13, 2017; updated February 26, 2017

7 Top FAQ Topics about a US Student Visa Application

Questions on start dates and important milestones are listed in another section. 

Tourist visa versus the student visa


Can I study in the United States on my tourist visa?

Yes but ONLY if the course you will undertake is recreational in nature and of short duration; and your will not be earning credits toward a degree or certificate/diploma.  You must also be studying less than 18 hours per week.

I'm taking an online course but I have to be in the United States for two months to complete some academic requirements. Do I have to apply for a student or tourist visa?

If your online course is for a degree or academic certificate, you will have to apply for a student visa even if you will be staying just to fulfill some of your course's requirements.

My country participates in the Visa Waiver Program.  Do I still have to apply for  a student visa?

Yes unless your course fits the description in the answer to the first question above.


Children and the student visa.


Why are my children being interviewed? Isn't there a regulation prohibiting the interview of minors?

Consular officers can choose to interview children who are younger than 13.  The decision to interview or not is at their discretion.

Can my children enroll in a public elementary or middle school?

Your children are not allowed to attend public kindergarten to Grade 8 on their own F-1 visa.

My children have F-2 visas.  Can I enroll them in a public elementary or middle school?

Yes, your children may attend public school.  There is no need for additional permission.  You must speak to the DSO though if you intend to transfer them to a private school later.

Can I enroll my children in a public high school on an F-1 visa?

Yes, but only for one year.  You may have to pay the unsubsidized cost of education though and that will be reflected in their I-20s.

Can my older children work while I am studying?

No and they are not eligible to apply for Social Security numbers.

My child is studying in the United States.  Can I join him?

You can apply for a tourist visa or visit him if you are eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program.  You may not live with him though unless you have your own immigrant, work or student visa.


Application concerns


I received an I-20 from a different school right before my interview date and I would rather study in that school. What do I do?

You will have to inform the consular officer about it during your interview.

I currently live outside my home country.  Do I have to return and apply from there?

No, you do not have to.  You may schedule your interview at any embassy. The Department of State cautions all applicants though that "it may be difficult to qualify for a visa outside of your place of permanent residence."

Can I request for an earlier date for my student visa to be valid since I have to be in the United States more than 30 days before my program starts?

No.  If you wish to enter the United States earlier than 30 days, just apply for a tourist visa.  Caution though: you must apply to change status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and you may not begin your course of study until your application is approved.  You'll have to apply well in advance as processing times may be lengthly and you might run out of time and have to leave the country to maintain your status as a tourist. 

Should I have family members living in the United States to ensure my application is approved?

No, it is not needed.

I hold an H-1B visa and was admitted to a college as a student. Do I have to return to my home country to apply for a student visa?

No, you do not.  You may have to apply for a change of status though with the USCIS.

I have been told that the consular interview is difficult.  What questions will be asked of me?

The questions aren't tough.  In general, expect questions about yourself and your connection to your home country; your current career and future plans; the program you intend to study and your financial resources.  Remember, it is your responsibility to convince the interviewing consul that you will be returning to your home country once you have completed your program and other post-course completion optional practical training.

Will I be asked about my previously low grades?

The consul will have the right to ask about it.  You may have to prepare to address that issue and explain why you believe you will succeed in your studies in the United States when you didn't do well in your own home country.

What should I wear to the interview?

You will want to present yourself well but still be comfortable with your attire.  Remember, you want to convince the interviewing consul that you will be following not only your visa conditions but also the laws of the United States whether these are state or federal.


Inadmissibility and the student visa application.


My application was denied under section 221(g).  What does this mean?

It could be that your application is incomplete and you may have to submit additional documents.  It could also signify that the consular just needs time to evaluate your application i.e. administrative processing. Check the instructions given to you for instructions on what to do.

My application was denied under section 214(b).  What does this mean?

The consular office is not convinced that you are qualified for the student visa and/or he is not convinced that you will leave the United States when your studies have been completed.  You should therefore review best practices on documents you may need to apply for a student visa.

My application was denied under section 214(a)(4).  What does this mean?

It can be taken to mean that you were unable to satisfy the consular officer that you have sufficient financial resources for your living expenses in the United States.  The consular officer believes of the strong likelihood that you will become a public charge and will be using government resources for financial support while living in the United States.

My application was denied under section 212(a)(6)(C)(i).  What does this mean?

You may have attempted to pass of fraudulent documents or misrepresented important information in your application.

My application wasdenied under section 212(a)(9)(B)(i).  What does this mean?

The consular officer was able to determine that you were at one time, unlawfully present in the United States.  Check your records if you overstayed beyond the validity of your I-94 or entered the country without undergoing the legal admission procedure.

My application was disapproved.  May I re-apply for a student visa?

It depends on the basis for your ineligibility.  The exception is if your application was disapproved because the consular officer believed that you committed fraud or misrepresented material facts.  This will then result in a permanent ineligibility.  If you were discovered to have been living in or entering the United States unlawfully, you may be barred for a period of time.

My application was disapproved.  How soon before I can re-apply for a student visa?

If your application was disapproved on the basis of INA section 221(g), incomplete documentation, you may be given up to one year to submit the required credentials.  Best practice, unless you are barred permanently, is that you apply when you can provide new evidence that your personal and financial circumstances have changed since your last application.

Can I apply for a waiver on my ineligibility?

You may be allowed to apply ONLY in specific situations.  You will have to ask the consular officer IF you will be allowed to file a waiver.


Finance-related inquiries


My application was refused.  Can I request for a refund of my visa application fee?

No, the fee is non-refundable.

Do I have to present show money for my application?

First off, the phrase "show money" is incorrect because the funds must be in the bank accounts you disclose.  Second, you will have to present evidence that the funds were obtained legally and these are readily available for your use. Presenting fraudulent documents or claiming ownership or access to non-existent bank accounts can get you barred permanently from being admitted to the United States.

Okay, so how much funds should I present?

You must show evidence that you have the readily available financial resources to pay for your tuition fee and other school expenses AND living expenses, for the entire duration of your studies.

There are agencies in my country that advertise that I can I work my way through my studies.  Are their claims true?

No, the official stance of the U.S. Department of State is that “student visas cannot be used to circumvent ineligibility for other types of visas.”  There may be some options for you to work while studying but these offer limited hours of work.  Remember, your main objective in applying for a temporary stay in the United States is to study.  Moreover, you may have to apply for Employment Authorization before you will be allowed to do so.

Will I be allowed to apply for a scholarship?

Of course. There are a number of scholarship programs available to international students. Bear in mind though that these scholarships may be competitive.  Some universities, such as Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan also offer scholarships to international students.  It is best that you arrange this matter though before you apply for a student visa.

Will being the recipient of a scholarship hurt my chances of getting my application approved?

No, it will not.


Passport and delivery dates.


I have to travel elsewhere before I begin my studies. Can I get back my passport immediately after the interview?

No, you must allow the consular post to process your student visa and attach it to your passport.

My application has been approved!  How soon can my passport be delivered?

Processing may be as short as three working days but it could take longer.  You will also have to consider the delivery schedule of the courier service so it may well take up to three weeks before you passport is delivered.

Can my passport be delivered elsewhere instead of my house?

Yes, your passport can be delivered to your office or to the home of a family member.

Can I designate somebody else to receive my passport?

Yes, you may.  Just ensure that whoever you designate as the recipient, has a government-issued photo ID to accept the delivery.  You must also write and sign a letter authorizing your representative to receive your passport and other documents.

What do I do to change the delivery place of my passport in case my application is approved?

You can change the location until midnight the day before your scheduled consular interview.

I / My designated representative was not at home when the courier arrived.  What should I do now?

You must contact the courier service once you have the notice that he made a first attempt.  The courier will try to deliver your passport within 10 working days.  If he is not able to do so, your passport will be returned to the consular post.  Contact the Embassy or call center for further assistance.

Do I still have to show a government-issued photo ID when I receive my own passport?

Yes you do.  You must also sign all documents that the courier will present to prove that you received your passport.

My passport will expire before my program will end. Do I have to apply for a student visa?

No, you don't have to. Just use your valid visa in the expired passport ALONG WITH your new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.


Maintaining your student visa status in the United States


Do I have to contact the school immediately when I arrive in the United States?

Yes, you should get in touch with your Designated School Official once you are admitted.  You will also have to contact the DSO on your program start date.

Can I drop a subject that's too hard?

You may BUT talk to your DSO first.  If you are having difficulty attending and passing all your subjects, you must talk to your DSO about it.

I don't think I can finish all my subjects within the regular period. What do I do?

Talk to your DSO first if you believe that you will not be able to finish your course on the end date on your I-20.

Can I take half of the subjects listed in one term?

You are supposed to study full-time.  Contact your DSO immediately if you cannot do so.

My passport is expiring but I'm not yet done with my course.  Do I have to reapply for an extension of stay while in the USA or return home to apply for a visa?

No.  Apply for a passport with the nearest embassy of your country in the United States.  You can then use your current student visa with your new passport.




  • “Visa Denials.” Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State, travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/denials.html#. Accessed 20 Feb 2017.
  • "Ineligibilities and Waivers: Law." Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State, travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/ineligibilities.html.  Accessed 20 Feb 2017.
  • "Executive Order on Visas." Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State, travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/news/important-announcement.html.  Accessed 20 Feb 2017.
  • "Change of Status." Study in the States, Department of Homeland Security, studyinthestates.dhs.gov/change-of-status.  Accessed 20 Feb 2017.
  • "Dependents." Study in the States, Department of Homeland Security, studyinthestates.dhs.gov/dependents.  Accessed 20 Feb 2017.
  • "Kindergarten to Grade 12 Students." Study in the States, Department of Homeland Security, studyinthestates.dhs.gov/kindergarten-to-grade-12-students.  Accessed 20 Feb 2017.
  • "Travel."  Student and Exchange Visitor Program, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ice.gov/sevis/travel.  Accessed 20 Feb 2017.
  • "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)," U.S. Visa Information Service for the Philippines, ustraveldocs.com/ph/ph-gen-faq.asp#qlistfandm3.  Accessed 20 Feb 2017.

Authors & Contributors

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer S. Aranda is the COO of IVC Immigrant Visa Center, Inc.

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