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“Students need to spend time researching which options are best for them”, says Michael Evans

US Consulate General Mumbai’s Consular Chief Michael Evans answers a few questions regarding applying for higher education programmes in the US and factors to keep in mind when applying for a student visa

What will consular officers look for at my student visa interview?

During your student visa interview, the consular officer will look for the three Ps: Preparation, Planning, Purpose. Exploring these topics will help the officer determine whether you are a credible student visa applicant.

Preparation: The consular officer will be interested in learning about your past academic and professional backgrounds, to confirm you are prepared for your advanced study in the US For example, if you would like to do an undergraduate degree in the US, have you completed the twelfth standard here in India? Have you prepared for and taken standardized exams such as the SAT, GMAT or GRE? Can you explain how your intended studies in the US relate to your past professional and academic experience?

Planning: Consular officers try to determine if students have given thoughtful consideration to where they are going to school, and how they will finance their education. You need to start planning your study in the US as early as a year and a half before the start of your programme. Most students spend a lot of time researching various school options based on size, specialization, faculty, resources and location. You should be prepared to discuss details of your planning during the interview. Financial planning is a large component of this as well, as you must demonstrate you can finance your programme of study in the US

Purpose: You should be prepared to discuss how you plan to utilize the higher education you obtain in the US You will likely be asked questions about your future plans, and how your particular course of study will help you achieve your professional goals. The officer may be interested in discussing what particular skills or knowledge you hope to gain from your studies in the US as you continue on your professional journey.

Being able to openly and honestly discuss your Preparation, Planning and Purpose will help demonstrate to the officer you are a credible and qualified student visa applicant.

I am planning to apply for a student visa but I have never worked anywhere and hence do not have any experience. I was advised by my agent that the consulate grants student visas easily if students have some work experience. Am I eligible to apply for a student visa without the experience letter?

Yes, you are qualified to apply for a student visa even if you do not have work experience. In fact, many students do not have any work experience at the time of their interview. To qualify for a student visa, an applicant must be accepted by a school and issued a Form I-20, possess sufficient funds to meet his or her financial needs, be prepared for the course of study, and intend to depart the United States at the conclusion of the approved activities.
Consular officers understand that applicants often choose to complete their education before entering the workforce. This will not have a negative impact on your application as long as you can explain your situation and intentions credibly.

I took a year off from my studies for personal reasons. Somebody told me that I should obtain a fake work experience letter to account for that time for my visa application. Is this true?

No, you should never provide a fraudulent document for a visa application. By submitting fraudulent documents, you would not only risk your current visa application, but you could potentially become permanently ineligible for future visa applications as well.

You do not need to provide a work experience letter if you took a break during your academic studies. Such a break would not automatically disqualify you for a visa. During your interview, you may be asked to explain what you were doing during that break. The key is to be truthful about how you used the time. The consular officer will want to determine if the explanation is credible and you are being truthful. Telling the truth is the best way to approach getting a visa.

How would a student make sure their visa application is complete?

The easiest way to ensure a student visa application is complete is to visit www.ustraveldocs.com/in. This website describes all of the steps it takes to apply for a visa in detail. It also lists the materials students need to bring to their appointments at their local embassy or consulate.

A student visa to the US first requires a Form I-20, which is a document issued by the school supporting the student’s visa application. After receiving an I-20, the student will then complete a DS-160, an electronic application accessible through the website. The third step is to pay the visa fee. Next, the student will book two appointments, one for capturing biometrics at one of our Visa Application Centers and one for an interview at their local embassy or consulate. Finally, before scheduling the interview appointment, the student must pay a SEVIS fee. This separate fee is required by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program to ensure students maintain their status while in the United States. Applicants should be sure to bring their SEVIS fee receipt to their visa interview.

Some students choose to bring supporting documents to their interview. Some examples of supporting documents that they may want to bring include documents demonstrating strong financial, social, and family ties to their home country; supporting financial documents that show they can afford their programme; proof of relationship to an outside sponsor; and academic documents that show scholastic preparation. It is very important to never present any fake documents during a US visa application. Doing so may result in a permanent ineligibility to travel to the US for any reason.
Remember, visa adjudications are interview-based, not document-based. Consular officers may not look at any documents during the interview because they are more interested in what the applicant has to say. Being able to openly and honestly discuss his or her background, academic intentions, and financial capability is the most important preparation for a student visa interview.

Do students need to use a consultant to fill out their application?

No! The student visa application process is not complicated. As I mentioned earlier, all the information a student needs to complete the visa application is available at www.ustraveldocs.com/in. There is no need to engage a consultant for assistance.

If students have a question during any part of the application process, they can also contact one of our customer service agents. They are available Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., India Standard Time. If you are calling from India, the phone numbers are +91 120 4844644 or +91 40 46258222. The customer service agents can also be reached by email at support-india@ustraveldocs.com and live chat support at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-main-contactus.asp.

Is there any advice you would like to give students?

There are more than 4,500 accredited higher education institutions in the United States, ranging from community colleges to PhD programmes. This huge variety of options means that students really need to spend time researching what is the best option for them. Why do they want to study in the United States? Which colleges or universities will best meet their needs? Will they need financial assistance? What type of environment do they want to live in? These are just a few of the questions they should be asking themselves 18 months prior to the academic year which they hope to attend a US college or university.

The best help for answering these questions can be found at EducationUSA (https://educationusa.state.gov/), a global network of advising centers that offer unbiased, accurate, comprehensive, and current information on education opportunities in the United States. They not only provide a guide to the entire application process, from researching options to preparing for departure, but they also host personalized consultations at their many advising centers, including seven locations in India. EducationUSA is a student’s best resource for studying in the United States.

US bound!

Ishrat Jahan, Education USA Regional Educational Advising Coordinator advises student applicants

While students have multiple personal and professional reasons for choosing US higher education institutions, many are drawn to their academic excellence, technology, support services for international students, funding opportunities, wide variety of educational options, flexible curricula, and hands-on training and work experience. Some may have relatives, friends or classmates, who had studied in the United States, whereas others are going to be the first in their circle to attend college, let alone one abroad!

Many students began their higher education journeys with a visit to one of our seven EducationUSA advising centers in India at Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai. EducationUSA is the official source of accurate, current, and comprehensive information on higher education in the United States. We encourage students and their parents to check out EducationUSA online (http://educationusa.state.gov/), attend an information session, or schedule an appointment to meet with an advisor.

The United States remains the number one destination for students who seek global education and India is the second highest sender of students after China, sending more students than the next two countries combined (South Korea and Saudi Arabia). Last year, there was record growth and a record number of Indian students in the US.

Original: http://www.freepressjournal.in/education/students-need-to-spend-time-researching-which-options-are-best-for-them-says-michael-evans/960837
By: FPJ Bureau
Posted: October 24, 2016, 11:34 am