U.S. Student Visa
According to the Institute of International Education’s 2016 Open Doors Report, the United States continues to be the most preferred country for Indian students studying abroad.
U.S. student visas are a hot topic in India. Currently, there are more than 166,000 Indians studying in the United States. That is a 25 percent increase in students from the last academic year. In fact, according to the Institute of International Education’s 2016 Open Doors Report, the United States continues to be the most preferred country for Indian students studying abroad. India is the second highest sender of students after China; every sixth international student in the United States is from India. Last year, Indian students in the United States contributed $5 billion (Rs. 32,400 crores approximately) in economic activity and supported 66,000 American jobs. This represents more than $31 billion (Rs. 1,99,700 crores approximately) in the last decade. With such a large number of students applying for visas, we at the U.S. Embassy New Delhi aim to make the application process as clear and simple as possible.
Before applying for a visa, students must gain admission to a U.S. university that meets their needs. While the United States has some of the best educational institutions in the world, it also has some of the most expensive ones. In addition to researching and applying to universities or colleges, students must have a realistic financial plan. We encourage students to work with the Department of State’s EducationUSA network for assistance with finding the right U.S. college or university and navigating the application process. In India, there are seven EducationUSA advising centers with more than 30 advisers providing accurate, current and comprehensive information on U.S. higher education through sessions, at the centers, online, and at schools and universities.
After acceptance, the university or college sends an I-20 or a DS-2019 form, which is required to apply for a student visa.
The U.S. student visa application process is as easy as 1-2-3:
1) Fill out the application;
2) Pay the fees—including SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System);
3) Schedule the interview and biometrics appointments.
At the time of the visa interview, the only documents required are the appointment letter, passport, CEAC (Consular Electronic Application Center) barcode page (DS-160), SEVIS receipt, I-20 for F1s and M1s or DS-2019 for J1s.
It is important to note the U.S. student visa interview is brief and is not based on any additional documentation. Applicants must be able to convince interviewing officers their primary intent of travel is to study; they are able to afford their educational program; they will use the visa properly; and, they intend to return to India after their studies in the United States are completed. Consular officers are trained to handle each visa application as an individual case and to issue visas to qualified applicants.
Students should not apply for their U.S. student visa more than 120 days before the report date listed on their I-20. Even students with a valid U.S. student visa will not be admitted into the United States more than 30 days before the stated report date at their school.
Student Visa Day
To celebrate higher education ties between India and the United States, and facilitate student travel, Student Visa Day is organized every year. On Student Visa Day, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India schedule only student visa interviews. This year, it was held on June 8. Of course, prospective students may also apply for visas on any other day we are open to the public. We also prioritize students to ensure no one misses their school start date. The United States strongly supports educational study and exchange programs, as these have been a hallmark of the U.S.-India bilateral relationship for decades.
For more in-depth information on how to apply for a visa, please visit our website (www.ustraveldocs.com/in).
Also, check out our Consular Quiz of the Week, Visa Myth Busters and Visa Fridays online chats with a visa officer on the U.S. Embassy’s Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/India.usembassy) and on Twitter at @USAndIndia.
Alaina R. Brown is a Consular Officer at U.S. Embassy New Delhi.