Student Visa, USA


Overview

Last year 1.2 million international students attended American colleges and universities , according to the Voice of America (VOA).on March 24, 2017.

This year VOA says the number of “U.S. college applications from foreign students …appear to have slowed, with 39 percent of responding universities reporting declines in the number of undergraduate applications from countries in the Middle East.”

The U.S. Embassy in Manila reiterate the welcoming nature of the United States for “foreign citizens who come to the U.S. to study.”  However, like most temporary visa applicants those applying for student visas in the F (academic) or M (vocational) category must prove that they have no immigrant intent.

It is important, therefore, that the student visa applicant be aware of the following procedures in place, particularly to verify that the school is an approved provider. – and the study program is a logical academic or career progression.

Official Visa Descriptions and Qualifications (State Department website)

F-1 Visa
This is the most common type of student visa. If you wish to engage in academic studies in the United States at an approved school, such as an accredited U.S. college or university, private secondary school, or approved English language program then you will need an F-1 visa. You will also need an F-1 visa if your course of study is more than 18 hours a week.

M-1 Visa
If you plan engage in non-academic or vocational study or training at a U.S. institution then you will need an M-1 visa.

U.S. Public Schools

U.S. Public School
U.S. law does not permit foreign students to attend public elementary school (kindergarten to 8th grade) or a publicly funded adult education program. Hence, F-1 visas cannot be issued for study at such schools.

An F-1 visa can be issued for attendance at a public secondary school (grades 9 to 12), but the student is limited to a maximum of 12 months at the school. The school must also indicate on the I-20 that the student has paid the unsubsidized cost of the education and the amount submitted by the student for that purpose.

Note: Holders of A, E, F-2, G, H-4, J-2, L-2, M-2 or other derivative nonimmigrant visas may enroll in public elementary and secondary schools.

Student Assistance, Finding a U.S. School
Students who hope to enroll in an American educational institution are encouraged to contact and visit Education USA .

Application Items

To apply for an F or M visa, you must submit the following:

How to Apply

Step 1
Pay the visa application fee at a visa-fee accepting branch of participating bank. Currently it is only the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)

Step 2
Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.online.

Step 3
Schedule your appointment on the specific U.S. Embassy web page. You will need three pieces of information in order to schedule your appointment:

Step 4
Visit the U.S. Embassy/Consulate on the date and time of your visa interview. You will need to bring a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one recent photograph, your current passport and all old passports. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.

Supporting Documents

Supporting documents are only one of many factors a consular officer will consider in your interview. Consular officers look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors during adjudication. Consular officers may look at your specific intentions, family situation, and your long-range plans and prospects within your country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.

Caution: Do not present false documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent visa ineligibility. If confidentiality is a concern, you should bring your documents to the Embassy in a sealed envelope. The Embassy will not make your information available to anyone and will respect the confidentiality of your information.

You should bring the following documents to your interview:

Dependents

Spouses and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay require derivative F or M visas. There is no derivative visa for the parents of F or M holders.

Family members who do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but wish to visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas.

Spouses and dependents may not work in the United States on a derivative F or M visa. If your spuse/child seeks employment, the spouse must obtain the appropriate work visa.

Supporting Documents for Dependents

Applicants with dependents must also provide:

Other Information

Optional Practical Training (OPT)
F-1 visa holders may be eligible for up to 12 months of optional practical training following completion of all course requirements for graduation (not including thesis or equivalent), or after completion of all requirements. OPT is separate from a student's academic work, and time for OPT will not normally be reflected during the student's academic program or in the completed study date. Students applying for a F visa to do OPT may present an I-20 with an original end of study date that may have passed. However, these I-20s must be annotated by the designated school official to reflect approval of an OPT program that extends beyond the end of the regular period of study. In addition, the student must have proof that USCIS has approved their practical training program or that an application is pending, either in the form of an approved Employment Authorization Card or a Form I-797 indicating that s/he has a pending application for an OPT program.

Validity of Student Visas After a Break in Studies

Students who are away from classes for more than five months can expect to apply for and receive a new F-1 or M-1 student visa to return to school following travel abroad, as explained below.

Students within the U.S.

A student (F-1 or M-1) may lose that status if they do not resume studies within five months of the date of transferring schools or programs, under immigration law. If a student loses status, unless USCIS reinstates the student's status, the student's F or M visa would also be invalid for future travel returning to the U.S. For more information see the USCIS website, and instructions for Application for Extend/Change of Nonimmigrant Status Form I-539 to request reinstatement of status.

Students - Returning to the U.S. from Travel Abroad

Students who leave the U.S. for a break in studies of five months or more may lose their F-1 or M-1 status unless their activities overseas are related to their course of study. In advance of travel, students may want to check with their designated school official, if there is a question about whether their activity is related to their course of study.

When the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector at port of entry is presented a previously used, unexpired F-1 or M-1 visa by a returning student who has been outside the U.S. and out of student status for more than five months, a CBP immigration inspector may find the student inadmissible for not possessing a valid nonimmigrant visa. CBP may also cancel the visa after granting the student permission to withdraw the application for admission. Therefore, it is prudent for students to apply for new visas at an Embassy abroad prior to traveling to the U.S. to return to their studies, after an absence of more than five months that is not related to their course of study.

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About the Author

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.


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