As a student, the dream of studying in the United States might be everything you have hoped for. If you are actually interested in applying for a F1 or M1 visa to study on US ground, you will have to follow three essential steps, as any immigration attorney will tell you:
1) Get accepted to an US school
2) Prepare your visa or change of status application
3) Attend a visa interview
Let us look at each of these closely:
According to the law, you cannot start the entire immigration process until you have solid proof that you have been approved in one of the schools located on United States territory. Keep in mind that the respective school has to fill out an I20 form.
So, if you intend to apply to any academic programs, start contacting universities at least twelve months before you plan to start your year of studies. An entry competition in a US college or university can be very tough, especially for established institutions like Stanford or Harvard. Thus, it would be a good idea to submit between 10 and 15 applications to a good mix of schools, and try and make sure to include at least some that you know you actually have a very good chance of being admitted to.
A few of the academic schools will give you an answer on the spot, but some require some months to come upon a decisions. Especially if you are applying to an undergraduate program, you should know these are normally due in January and rejections or acceptances will come between April and June.
If you are wondering where to submit your application, here are a few tips:
– If you are not a US resident and living in your home country, contact the nearest US Embassy or consulate. They will be the ones handling your visa application. Typically, some states will only take one day to give you your visa. Some other countries may take several weeks to review and deliver your application. Before visiting your consulate, it is best to call them and set an appointment or email them an application.
– If you are on another type of visa, you can apply for a change of status without leaving US territory. If you are applying from overseas, you need to fill in the DS160 form. You can find it online on the State Department site. For a change of status within the US, you will need to fill in USCIS Form I-539. In this case, the last step of the process will be to receive a receipt notice from the US Immigration Service USCIS. An interview is the typical way of approving your change of status.
In most instances, even if you have been accepted by a US based school for a student visa, it is best to work with an immigration attorney to make sure your visa process will go smooth.