Last year, more than one million international students studied at colleges, universities, and ESL programs across the United States on an F1 visa. However, other international students were denied this very same opportunity for making some common mistakes.
Below are a few mistakes that you should avoid making as you begin the student visa process:
Lack of financial evidence.
The visa officer must determine that you have access to the financial resources necessary to support your tuition, fees, and living costs for at least the first academic year. This is typically demonstrated through personal savings, family support, scholarships, private sponsorship, or a combination of different sources.
Planning to work in the United States will not provide sufficient evidence of financial support. International students are permitted to work on-campus part-time, but this can only help with a small portion of the overall cost of attendance. You can expect to earn about $5,000 per academic year with an on-campus job, which can help with some basic personal expenses.
Not doing enough research.
The visa consular will ask questions regarding your choice of college, university, or program. In turn, you must be able to demonstrate that you did your research to find the ‘best personal fit’ for your budget and future goals. If the college, university, or ESL program issued you student visa paperwork, it means it is approved for the student visa program. Your job is only to explain how and why you made your choice.
Don’t rely solely on rankings-based research. Unlike many countries, the U.S. does not have an official higher education ranking system. U.S. News & World Report may offer popular school rankings, but it is only a consumer magazine. Visa officers do not consider magazines as an official reference, and higher education is not simply a consumer product. Regardless of where or what you plan to study, do your research when choosing your higher education. The visa officer is trained to know if you did not.
U.S. higher education continues to make amazing advancements in the use of learning-based information and communication technology in the classroom. Some international students, however, believe that they can study online while residing in the U.S. on a student visa. While it is true that some classes may be taken online, you must plan to take most of your classes on campus with a student visa.
The student visa program is designed to provide international students the opportunity to attend classes while residing in the United States. If you prefer to earn a degree online, you should not apply for a student visa. If you are currently in the U.S. on a student visa and must return home for a temporary amount of time, don't worry! Talk to your international student adviser about ways to study online back home without losing your student visa status in the United States.
Applying for an immigrant visa.
Student visas are considered non-immigrant, meaning your only intention is to study in the U.S. and return back home after your academic program and internship period is completed. If the visa officer suspects that your intention is to immigrate rather than study, the student visa will most likely be denied.
The U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery is a good example of an immigrant visa program. If you apply for this or any other type of immigrant visa programs, your record will show an ‘intent to immigrant’ — one of the most common reasons for student visa denial. If you really do plan to study in the U.S., you should avoid applying for any visa program that would show evidence to the contrary.
Paying an agent.
Some study abroad agencies will claim to know the ‘right answers’ to the student visa interview and that they have some special pathway to success. These agents are only trying to trick you out of money, and they often charge very large fees.
Avoid paying agencies that make any student visa claims. If you do your own research, you will be more successful at the visa interview. The visa officer is trained to know if you did not. For free advice, you should visit an EducationUSA advising center supported by your local U.S. embassy. They are located in more than 150 countries, and you can find one near you at www.educationusa.state.gov.