Your Ticket to: The United States
Choosing a course at the right university is a big decision. However, once this has been decided there are many important things you should know before arriving in the United States. Entry into the U.S. should be your first priority and this article deals with matters relating to your Visa.
I already have a passport. Is this enough for entry into the United States?
In simple terms ......No! - However, your passport is an equal part of the package. Your passport is your governments permit for you to leave and re-enter your country. Keep your passport valid. The validity date should be at least six months beyond the applicants intended period of stay in the United States. The U.S. government requires your passport to be valid for entry.
A visa is also needed. A visa is a stamp placed in your passport by a U.S. Consular officer in your country. It simply notes the purpose of your visit. One of the most important aspects of a visa, for immigration purposes, is the last date you can enter the U.S. the number of entries allowed and, of course, the length at which you will be permitted to stay!
How do I obtain a Visa?
For a student visa you should generally apply to your U.S. Embassy or Consulate at your home of permanent residence. Your visa is the final product of a number of forms. Once you have applied and accepted on a course of full-time study the International Officer there will send you through the post a I-20 or IAP-66 form. This known as a Certificate Of Eligibility. These forms will provide all the information for you to obtain not only a visa, but the right visa for you.
The I-20 ID is the second part of the I-20 form. It is the official immigration identification document for students of F-1 status (see below) The form records all immigration information: identification numbers, school of approved study, school transfers and employment authorization.
The I-20 or IAP-66 is an extremely important document. The Immigration and Naturalization service (INS) expects you to keep hold of this document and to have it to hand at all times. DO NOT GIVE THE DOCUMENT UP ON A TEMPORARY DEPARTURE FROM THE UNITED STATES. Not only will it be needed to re-enter the country but you will also need it for potential employers to prove your eligibility to work
F.J,M-1? There are so many types of Visa's. Which one relates to me?
As an international student you will be classed as a nonimmigrant and there are a potential three visa's that you may be eligible for F-1, J-1 and M-1.
The F-1 visa is for most international students. It is for international students in full-time study. Once you have completed your Certificate Of Eligibility, in this case a I-20 A-B, the International Officer at the university of your choice will process the documents. To satisfy the Immigration and Naturalization Service you must be able to prove that you are in an approved full time course of study (12 hours of class time per semester) and that there are sufficient financial resources for you to support yourself. This may be submitted on a I-134 form which is an affidavit of financial support from family or another person.
The J-1 visa is for international students who are sponsored by their government, their foreign University, an international organisation or a source that is other than personal ( ( an IAP-66 form needs to be completed) These are known as exchange visitors. Please note that with J-1 visa holders there are often strict guidelines for leaving the country after their studies. Please check the terms and conditions that you are contracted to by the people you are funded by.
An M-1 visa is for students who are admitted for vocational and technical training programmes (For I-20 M-N must be completed) Once again through the same system as F-1 you must prove that you are in full-time study and have adequate financial support. It is important to check full details of all you visa restrictions and requirements at your local U.S. Embassy or consulate so that you maintain your visa status.
How do I maintain my visa status?
This is very easy. Just follow the procedures and you should have no problems. However, it is important to know that if you have any immigration problems your International Officer is there to help you with any problems that you may have. To maintain your visa status, simply keep to the minimum amount of hours in a full time course. Changing your status may mean you have to change your visa to remain as F-1 status and to stop attending your course is seen as a violation of your visa requirements and may move towards immediate deportation.
What documents do I need to keep hold of?
Your passport and visa
Your I-20 form
Also your I-94. This is a record of arrival and departure from the United States and is a form stapled into your passport. It notes the length of stay permitted. F-1 visa holders will have "D/S" instead of a specific date put on the form. This means Duration Of Status, which means you may stay in the country whilst you are of F-1 Status.
I am a Postgraduate Student. Does this mean I have any other additional requirements?
Not really. However, find out the nature of your course to help determine what visa you will need. A full time course may vary at post graduate level. However, generally for visa maintenance you will need to be in at least 9 hours of credited study per semester. You must also show the financial resources to support yourself. Ask your International Officer for any advice on employment restrictions.
What if I want to change my University or my course. Will that change my visa status?
Not necessarily. As long as you are in full time study you should still continue to be of F-1 status. It is important to know that in all cases a fresh I-20 form must be completed and processed through the International Officer at each school
Obtaining a visa is a simple and straight forward procedure. For more useful information ECIBA recommends that you contact your nearest U.S. Embassy or the International Officer at the university of your choice. It is important to remember that the INS has the authority to refuse entry to the United States. It is only until your visa has been signed by the INS official at your chosen port of entry that you are given full visa status into the United States. However, if you prepare yourself with all the information you may need, entry into the United States should be a simple and painless procedure
Author: Emma Salt
Your Ticket to: The United Kingdom
UK Visas - General Information and Application
British Embassy in the USA
ACS British Studies Summer Program
Volunteer Opportunities in the UK and the US