Demystifying the Student Visa Application Process

by neville

Whether you are seeking an F visa or J visa, you face the seemingly arduous task of traveling to a US consulate for a face to face visa interview. Since both visas fall in the “non-immigrant” category, there is a legal assumption that governs its issuance. In effect, you, the applicant, face a legal burden of proof the minute you walk up to that window.

Let us explain. According to US immigration law, every person who enters a US consulate to apply for a non immigration visa is presumed to be an intended immigrant unless that person can show evidence to the contrary. This is serious! It is an assumption under Section 214 B of the Immigration and Nationality Act ( INA).

The government of the United States has instructed every counselor at the window to believe that you might be using the student visa as a pretense for entering the US on a permanent basis. So you will have to show them that such is not the case when you get there. How do you overcome such a burdensome presumption?

The key is proper preparation and understanding what is required. Let’s talk about the documents:


You will have your passport. Generally, if you have traveled to the USA before and not violated the law or the terms of your visa, you are probably most likely to get the student or exchange visa. If you have traveled extensively in developed countries, that helps.

However, if you have been to Cuba or are from a Middle-Eastern or communist country, you may have to do some explaining. While these factors may not directly impact the decision, they are complications that will make the interview a bit more nerve wrecking.

Forms DS-156 and DS-157

You will fill out a form called the DS-156 (and the DS 157 if you are male). The first is the visa application form; the second is the security form. The form requires two passport photos with clearly indicated dimensions, and a $100 US or local equivalent application fee. The form itself is not complex. But you will need to have your intended address (so get it from the university), and you will need to answer questions about your plans.

One touchy issue on the form is about your previous travels to the USA. Records exist, especially for post 2001 activities, so be honest. Another touchy issue is that of relatives. If you have had a previous immigrant filing or a current immigrant petition, then it is not advisable to seek a student visa. You would not be able to clear the “intended immigrant” hurdle. Previous, but not current filing can be explained but might be a hurdle.

Having relatives in the USA is NOT an asset. Don’t believe for a minute that your uncle in New York or your sister in Los Angeles would work in your favor. On the contrary, it demonstrates ties to the USA and not your home country.

If such a condition exists, be prepared to explain why it would not be a factor in your plans to return home after completing your degree.


Fees can be costly. So a mistake the first time could result in you having to re-apply and pay another $100. But even if you have everything right, prior to going for the interview, you must pay a SEVIS or form I-901 fee, in addition to your visa fee. That is also $100. You must have evidence that you have paid this fee online prior to arriving for your interview.

Making An Appointment

Online is a good way to make a visa appointment (where available), and also to submit your DS-156 and or DS-157. Submitting the forms electronically and arriving at the embassy for your scheduled visa  interview can help to expedite your case and give you a preferred place in line. You will have a bar-coded printout that you can take with you allowing easy access to your application.

Supplemental Documents

Supplemental documents are critical. In addition to the passport, photos, forms, and documents, always carry your financial information that you submitted to the school. But it is also wise to carry any additional evidence of current or future financial support.

Carry all your academic documents and copies of your test scores. Carry any correspondence from your school especially scholarship offers or housing confirmation. If you have a family business, a house, a significant other, a pending job, or a bond, or evidence of anything that suggests or compels you to return, then these are great things to carry.

Remember, the purpose of the interview is to simply assure the counselor that you intend to go to school in good faith and complete the intended program and then dutifully return to your home country.

It is also important to convince him or her that you have the language skills, academic ability, and the financial means or support to accomplish this. Given those circumstances, you should have no problems getting your visa.

Read “Student Visa Interview – How To Get The US Consulate on Your Side” to improve your chances of getting the student visa.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlesetta Gramajo April 18, 2011 at 8:37 am

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professor_b July 2, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Gracias….we are trying to give the best.


vallentine April 2, 2009 at 1:14 pm

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yours Vallentine


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