Florida is among the top four states with the largest number of SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) certified schools, hosting nearly 58 thousand students studying in the US on an F-1 and M-1 visa, (SEVIS, June 2017). The weather, varying landscape and rich cultural diversity are just a few reasons why students choose to study in the Sunshine State. Before they can enjoy these and other benefits, though, they have to go through what many view as a tedious and daunting application process.
Applying for study in the US requires a lot of diligence and perseverance. Completing applications and waiting for a response can be agonizing, but shouldn't stop students from an unforgettable and life changing, multi-lingual and cross-cultural experience. At this time, most universities are preparing to welcome new and returning students; student and parent orientations are being scheduled, dorm rooms being assigned and schedules being finalized. It’s not too late, though, to apply to an ESL (English as a Second Language) program. Most universities offer such programs at affiliated centers. Upon completion of the courses, these centers often ‘feed’ into university admission.
Before starting the application process, students need to decide where they want to study. That not only means selecting the particular state but also the university. It’s always a good idea to select more than one institution to increase the chances of acceptance. Once the choices have been made, research the university’s admission procedure and then the US Embassy or Consulate visa application process. It goes in that order, first the school then the embassy, because if you are applying from abroad, US embassies require acceptance and approval by the university before students can apply for a student visa
University, college or ESL center admission - All the information required for application can be found on the university’s website. Be sure that you navigate to the International Student application tab. Following is a general overview of the steps need to complete the application:
1. Most universities require that you create an online account with a username, password and email address before you are guided to the online application. E-mail will be your primary form of communication with the university.
2. Complete the online application. This can take between 30-60 minutes.
3. Submit requested academic records. These can include, but are not limited to, grade reports, transcripts, diplomas or certificates, standardized exam results and so on. Make sure you have a certified English translation if these records are not written in English. If the records are in English, your school can mail or email an official transcript directly to the university.
4. Submit exam scores; SAT, ACT, TOEFL or IELTS. Unless you are applying to learn English at an ESL center, you must have minimum subscore in English and Math. These are often given on the website.
5. Some universities require an essay in which you highlight why you chose to study there. Some universities also require recommendation letters from teachers, professors, employers, etc. Both of these need to be in English.
6. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) oversees lawful immigration to the US (including student visas) and requires all international students to provide proof or evidence of sufficient funds to cover all expenses, including tuition, fees, and living expenses for a full academic year of studies in the US. This should be a recent, official and original bank statement.
7. All these documents should be submitted at the same time to prevent a delay in the application process and issuance of an I-20.
8. If all requirements have been met and you have been accepted for admission, you will receive a packet. In the acceptance packet you’ll find the approval documentation to be submitted when applying for the student visa.
US Embassy/Consulate visa application - Do not attempt to go to the embassy if you don’t have an appointment and all your documents in order. The US Embassy or Consulate website in your country will have detailed information about the visa process, often even in your native language. Here is a brief and general outline of requirements and stops to take when applying for an F-1 student visa.
1. Complete a nonimmigrant visa electronic application or DS-160 Form online.
2. Pay the visa application fee and keep the payment receipt with CGI number.
3. Schedule an appointment online. Make sure you clear your calendar for the day and that you have all your valid and accurate documents with you. In general, can reschedule your appointment up to 24 hours before the scheduled day. Failure to do so, or you don’t show up, or your documents are not complete often means you have to start the application process again. In general, to schedule your appointment, you will need the passport number, the CGI number you got when you paid the fees and the barcode number for you DS-160 confirmation page.
4. Go to the Embassy or Consulate. Make sure you bring a printed copy of the appointment letter, the DS-160 confirmation page, current photos, current (with more than 6-month validity) passport, and the original visa fee payment receipt. You should also bring financial and other documents that tie you to your home country and will compel you to return to your country after your program of study in the US ends. Academic documents, school transcripts and test scores as well as original bank statements will also be useful.
International students from 231 countries are studying in the US this year. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), a part of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), recently released its biannual report on international student trends. As of May 2017, the number of active F-1 and M-1 students studying in the US has increased by 2%, up to 1.18 million students. In addition, students from South America, Australia and the Pacific Islands, Africa and Asia have seen the highest growth rate this past year. These numbers and trends are very promising so students should be intimidated by the daunting application process. As a great teacher once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”
Cross Culture Concierge (3C) can help students with their university and visa application process. 3C does NOT guarantee acceptance to the university nor admission to the US. Contact us here.