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International students explore visa options for study in U.S

Posted on October 24, 2013
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This fall, ISU international students came from 106 different countries and throughout history students have come from more than 150 countries worldwide. To study in the United States, all of them needed a valid visa.

The U.S. government can grant different visas, depending on the purpose of the stay. Students at Iowa State typically obtain a F or J visa. These are both student visas that enable the applicant to study in the United States.

“An F visa is the most common student visa here in Iowa State by far,” said Ashley Huth, program coordinator in the International Students and Scholars Office. “J visas are often granted for students in exchange programs or sponsored programs, such as Fulbright, which is a federal government program that provides money to both American and international students to pursue their studies.”

Those with J visas sometimes might be required to go back to their home country when they have finished their studying, Huth said. Most international students at Iowa State are F visa holders.

F visa holders can work for up to 12 months after their studies through an optional practical training.  The process of obtaining either visa has to be planned well in advance before arrival in the United States. After being admitted at an U.S. institution, those seeking F visas will be issued a document called an I-20. A student’s personal information has to be entered in a system called the Student Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS. The I-20 is a paper record of personal information.

“Students will have to pay a fee to the program that runs SEVIS and, with a receipt of that and the I-20, make an appointment at an U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country,” Huth said. “Then they go there and apply for a visa.”

Those seeking J visas receive a document similar to an I-20 called a DS 2019. Applying for any visa means going into the embassy or consulate for an interview with an officer.

“First, I was kind of nervous because I saw some people who were talking longer and their officer would be walking out and around,” said Rocio Aviles, sophomore in industrial engineering and international ambassador from Guatemala.

Both F and J visas are nonimmigrant visas.

“Students are not supposed to be coming with the intent of staying according to the regulations,” Huth said. “The officers in those interviews are supposed to start with the assumption that you do want to stay. The burden is placed on the applicant to prove that they do not. … But, in reality that plays in different ways. It is not as intense as it sounds.”

Aviles agreed that his interview was not too intense.

“The officer asked me what my plans were, where I wanted to go and why,”  Aviles said. “I don’t remember having a lot of trouble with [obtaining my visa].”

Once students finish the interview, they will leave their passport behind at the embassy. The staff will do a security check and then stamp the appropriate visa into the passport. After two or three weeks, the student will receive his or her passport in the mail and then may enter the United States for study.

The duration of those visas depends on the degree level the student is seeking. A 60-month visa is the standard for a bachelors degree, a 24-month visa for a master’s degree and five- or seven-year visas for a Ph.D.

For more news and updates, assistance with your visa needs or for a Free Assessment of your profile for Immigration or Work Visa’s just visit www.y-axis.com

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