Ask the US Consul: Student visa requirements

Where can I find information about studying in the United States?

More than 690,000 international students studied in the United States during the 2009-2010 academic year – a record high — and U.S. officials would like to see that number increase.  A great resource for those considering study in the United States is the EducationUSA (http://www.educationusa.info/) website, which provides a wealth of information on types of programs (undergraduate, graduate, specialized professional study, opportunities for scholars, short-term study), the admissions process, financial aid, standardized tests, and tips on choosing an educational institution.   The website also provides information on the more than 400 EducationUSA Advising Centers worldwide, including in the Eastern Caribbean, that actively promote U.S. higher education by offering accurate, unbiased, comprehensive, objective and timely information about educational institutions in the United States and guidance on how best to access those opportunities.

What type of visa do I need to study in the United States?

Most individuals desiring to study in the United States need an F-1 visa, which covers the majority of individuals who want to study in the U.S.  Other visa types that permit individuals to study in the U.S. are the M-1 visa for those engaged in non-academic study or vocational training and the J-1 visa for people participating in educational and cultural exchange programs.

In order to apply for these types of visas, you must first have a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) compatible form (either an I-20 or a DS-2019) issued by the U.S. college, university, or organization.  The institution will provide you with the form after you have been accepted to the school or program.  Next, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee online at www.fmjfee.com, complete the DS-160 Non-immigrant Visa application online, and then make an appointment for your visa interview.  Bring your SEVIS receipt or I-901 Fee Confirmation sheet to the Embassy at the time of your interview.  Once you have these two required documents (I-20 or DS-2019 and I-901 Fee Confirmation sheet) you may apply for the visa, even if you do not intend to begin your study or exchange program for several months.  Applying early will help you enroll in school on time while also allowing sufficient time for visa processing.

You should make sure that you have all the required documentation for the interview.  For more information about what to bring please visit our student/visitor section of our website http://barbados.usembassy.gov/visa-student_exchange.html.

My school just sent me the I-20 and I am due to begin school soon.  Can I get an expedited appointment?
Expedited appointments are usually not needed and are provided on a case by case basis.  Before contacting the Embassy, the applicant should try to schedule an appointment online following the instructions found on the Embassy’s website at http://barbados.usembassy.gov/non-immigrant_visas.html.

A special appointment calendar was created especially for students, exchange visitors and workers, so you should try to obtain an appointment on the FIRST calendar that appears in the drop-down box after you select “Barbados” for your country of interview.  If no appointment is available prior to the date the applicant must travel, you may either call the NIV appointment hotline at (246) 227-4000 (Monday-Friday 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.), send a fax to (246) 431-0179, or e-mail BridgetownNIV@state.gov  to request an emergency appointment.  A representative will respond to you know if an expedited appointment is warranted.

Can I have more than one non-immigrant visa at a time?  If I apply for a student visa, do I have to cancel my B1/B2 visa?

Non-immigrant visas are issued depending on the purpose of travel – for things like study, business, tourism or temporary work. An individual may have more than one type of non-immigrant visa valid at one time.

The most frequently issued non-immigrant visa class – a B1/B2 visa – entitles the holder to visit the U.S. for the purposes of tourism or business. However, this type of visa does not allow the visa holder to study in the United States.  If someone who has a B1/B2 visa wants to study in the U.S., they will need to depart the U.S. and apply for an F-1, J-1 or M-1 visa. When such a person applies for the student visa, their tourist visa is not cancelled.

More information is available as “Frequently Asked Questions” on the U.S. State Department’s web page: http://travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_4401.html   Additional information on the visa application process is available on U.S. Embassy Bridgetown’s website at http://barbados.usembassy.gov/.

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7 Comments

  1. D
    June 2, 2011

    There are alot of resources out there but one just have to do a lot of searching. I and many of my friends received full scholarships for undergrad. My friend is currently doing a PHD and have not paid a dime towards tuition. However, its important to have a plan. It also is not impossible to start with little fund and complete your degree but its much harder than times before. Be prepared to work hard,,,,, Good luck to anyone who is interested and take a chance..

  2. Prophet
    June 1, 2011

    For those of you who intend to study in the US, be very careful. If it is possible, speak to someone who is studying in the US so they can give you the full story. Most peoples experiences are different but you will get some very important details that were not explained there.

    First of all, choose your school wisely and ensure it is an accredited institution. Then find out if they offer any assistance in job placement after graduation. Have a clear plan of what you want to do because as far as the US is concerned, they want you to return to your country after your studies. Be aware.

    Also, when applying for the student visa, they did not tell you that you have to show your resources for survival in the US. If you are going to study in Florida, you will not be entitled to financial aid as a non citizen. Most of the scholarships are also geared only for US citizens. There are few scholarships which you can qualify for but be prepared to search. The student visa allows you to work on campus only. You are limited to 20 hours a week at minimum wage. Know that you are going to pay three times the amount a resident pays for school.

    It is alot to know and absorb before leaving your home. If this information is well receive, I will give some more details.

    • Patriotic B
      June 1, 2011

      I totally support you in your claim for students to get as much information as possible, however,how is it that you claim “Also, when applying for the student visa, they did not tell you that you have to show your resources for survival in the US”. You must show one year of financial resources to obtain the visa. Myself an all 5 of my siblings over a 10 year period had to do so. What some people do is get a bank statement from someone just to get the visa and not have the actual funds to pay their expenses in the US and end up in the bind when they get up here. Also when I applied for my sister to attend a CUNY school a few years ago I had to pay a semester of tuition up front, get the proof of payment to be sent to her to take to Barbados and when she got to her appointment her name and all information was already in the database they recently created for all international students in the US.

      The grounds for obtaining a student visa is to return home. In addition, NO state offers non-citizens financial aid. These are fundamentals which are given on the school’s website and you can get by speaking to the international student advisor even before you come to the US – PART OF THE PROSPECTIVE STUDENT’S RESEARCH. As far a job placement, if one is on a student visa they are only entitled to the 1 year Optional Practical Training and this is as far as the school can assist with BECAUSE IT IS UP TO THE COMPANY TO SPONSOR BEYOND THAT POINT OR EVEN CONSIDER TO HIRE YOU ON THE OPT KNOWING THAT IT IS ONLY VALID FOR ONE YEAR(STEM careers get an additional 1 year).

      Therefore even if the school has an excellent placement rate it does not really apply to non citizens. Instead non-citizens should be proactive, network, get internships and learn about organizations in their fields that sponsor students as soon as their second semester. Don’t wait until the end.

      The bottom line is while one would want to gain some experience beyond graduation, you are supposed to return home upon completion of the degree. That is why if you are asked what are your plans beyond graduation by any immigration office you are supposed to say to return home or your visa will be DENIED.

      ALL PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS SHOULD SPEAK TO THE INTERNATIONAL ADVISER BEFORE APPLYING TO THE SCHOOL AND REACH OUT TO AS MANY DOMINICANS AS POSSIBLE WHO ARE IN THE US STUDYING.

      • well
        June 1, 2011

        You are 100% correct.. And please don’t go in mind with finding a company to sponsor you. That option have been gone a few years now.

  3. MzEducated
    June 1, 2011

    This is really good stuff, I hope to see more articles on these things in the future. I’m quite sure that many students or people who desire to further their studies have been asking the same questions answered here, Kudos to DNO!

  4. Rose!!!!
    May 31, 2011

    Good Info!!!!!!

  5. kk
    May 31, 2011

    I Like this!

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