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Financial documents and student visa process for USA colleges

Congratulations, after months of preparation, writing essays and submitting applications, you have finally received an admit to your dream university. However, your friends tell you that a crucial step, the visa approval is still pending. A single misstep can lead to the visa being denied and derail your plans.

While the visa process is quite rigorous, it is well documented with clearly defined steps. As such if you follow the correct procedure, you should sail right through and soon be studying at your dream university. Read on to understand the next steps after receiving your admission letter.

Types of student visas

There are two types of student visas for studying in the USA, the F-1 and the M-1. The course as well as the university you plan to attend is a deciding factor on which one you require.

The F-1 visa is for students who wish to pursue either academic or language-based courses. All the thesis based or research based courses fall under this category. Students planning to pursue Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate studies fall under this category.

The M-1 visa is for students who wish to pursue vocational courses. Vocational studies are studies that prepare students for jobs that are based on manual or practical activities and related to a specific trade or occupation. These are short term vocational courses for example: hairdressing, plumbing, photography, carpentry etc.

After receiving the admission letter

Students usually receive admission letters from several different universities. In case you have been accepted by more than one university, you need to research and decide which university best suits your goal and budget. The next step is to accept one admission letter and pay the security deposit to that university. Upon receiving your security deposit by the due date, the university will confirm your enrollment and provide, a) the amount you need to show financial support for and b) the timeline by which you need to submit the supporting documents. Students normally submit some of the following documents as proof of funds.

  • Family bank statements.

  • Student loan sanction letter.

  • Documentation from a sponsor.

  • Financial aid letters.

  • Scholarship letters.

  • Letter from an employer showing annual salary.

After establishing that an international student has adequate funds, the university issues the I-20 form. The I-20 form is crucial for international students who wish to study in the USA. It proves that they are a legitimate student who is enrolled in an accredited college or university.

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After receiving the I-20

Students pay their Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee after they receive their I-20 form. The SEVIS fee is mandatory for students seeking to study in the USA and should be paid before applying for the student visa. The next step is to fill the DS-160 application form. A DS-160 application tells the US government that you have been accepted into an accredited university program and that you have met all the requirements for study in the US. The next step is to schedule an interview at the US Embassy or The Consulate. You need to pay a one-time application fee while registering for the interview.

Visa Interview

A consular officer will interview the student to determine if the student is qualified to receive a student visa. They also try to ascertain your connections with your home country and the chances that you may not return after the completion of your studies. Some common interview questions are:

  • Why do you want to study in the USA?

  • Why did you choose to study at this particular university/ college?

  • How many universities did you apply to before getting accepted?

  • Do you plan to live in the USA after completing your studies?

They want to see how confidently you can answer their questions so try to remain calm and confident during the interview. The final decision on whether or not the student receives their visa rests with the consular officer. A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States.

A visa only allows you to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (airport) and request permission to enter the United States. Only the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to either permit or deny admission to the country.

After you present your passport, visa, and the original Form I-20 with an ink signature  at the port-of-entry, a CBP official will make this decision.  Once you are allowed to enter the United States, the CBP official will provide an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.

While we have tried to explain the financial planning and visa processing for students planning to study in the USA, you should refer to the official website or talk to an expert for more information. Similar processes exist for other geographies (UK, Canada, Australia) also. Please refer to their official websites for additional information.

Thousands of international students successfully receive their visas every year to study in the USA. Following the right steps carefully, will help you sail through this process and study at your dream university.


About the Author: 

Shubhi Joshi is an Editor at Scholarly. She has a B.A. in English and a M.A. from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology. She has an interest in history and current affairs. An avid blogger, Shubhi loves to write about higher education and self-improvement.

Scholarly helps ambitious international students locate the right universities and courses to pursue their education. We provide college credit courses and research papers to students that want to learn more and differentiate themselves. We help students develop and present their best version to their dream university. Our recommendations are based on the student’s field of interest, academic performance, financial resources and career plans. We provide test preparation classes from the best teachers to help improve scores and thus the prospects for admission. We also assist students with their visa and loan applications to reduce the anxiety associated with international education.

For additional questions about international education, choice of majors, university selection or admission strategies please visit the Questions section of our website.

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