A citizen of a foreign country should acquire a permit to enter any other country for various reasons. This permit is called VISA. A person entering any other country without a visa is considered illegal and shall face legal consequences.
There are various types of visas issued for various reasons. Specifically talking about student visas to the United States, there are three types of visas, namely, F-1, M-1 and J-1.
- The F-1 visa is a visa issued to students who have their course of study for more than 18 hours. This basically includes all programs including undergraduate and graduate programs. The dependants of the F-1 visa holder, that is, spouse or children shall hold an F-2 visa while accompanying them. These dependants or F-2 holders shall not work in the US at any cost. If they prefer to work in the country, then they shall require their own F-1 visa under their name.
- The F-1 visa is a time-consuming process, hence the applicants are required to submit their application prior in time to the program start date such as 120 days. The most important document to submit for the F-1 visa is the I-20 visa obtained from the university accepting the candidate.
- The candidate who obtained the I-20 visa shall not work outside the campus but can work in places that are tied up with the campus, such as, cafeteria, bookstore, etc. If a student wishes to work outside the campus it is under two reasons: OPT and CPT. CPT is Curriculum Practical Training where students are allowed to work as interns outside the campus with the approval of the University they have enrolled. The candidates are allowed to start their CPT only after 9 months of training. OPT is Optional Practical Training where students are allowed to work for a period of 1 year after their graduation. The students are required to find a job within 90 days of graduation. STEM-based students can extend their OPT for 24 months. To continue working after their time allotted, the candidates are required to obtain an H1-B visa.
- The F-1 visa applicants shall study only under the educational institution the I-20 is obtained. They shall also show proof that they are capable of paying the tuition, books, accommodation, food and additional expenses for at least one year of study as published by the university.
- The process of obtaining an F-1 visa is to pay the SEVIS fee on getting I-20 from the university. The whole process is online. Carry the hardcopy of the confirmation page to the visa interview process. Also, the visa fee should be paid either through NEFT or authorized bank locations. Schedule a biometrics appointment to click a photograph and get fingerprints scanned for the visa. The next step is the personal interview where questions shall be asked based on course, college, finances, etc. If you are granted a visa, they shall keep your passport to get the visa stamped.
The M-1 visa is also a type of student visa which is reserved for students pursuing studies in vocational and technical schools. The visa process for F-1 and M-1 visa is the same but the visa is time-stamped in M-1 visa and the M-1 visa holders shall not over visit their stay in their country.
The documents required are valid passport, I-20, interview appointment letter, online application form, visa fees payment confirmation receipt, bank statement to show the assets that you are capable of paying fees for a year which can be from financial support, pay/salary slips, original marks sheets and scores of additional exams such as GRE/GMAT, TOEFL/IELTS, tax returns, loan approval letter by the bank, scholarship letter if received by the applicant. These documents are also similar to the documents required for the F-1 visa.
The J-1 visa is an Exchange Visitor Visa for students who are traveling to visit scholars or lecturers on exchange programs. The usual J1 visa holders are working professional who visits the USA on an exchange program which includes 10-months vocational training or some research fellowship or many such reasons. The dependants of the J1 visa holder shall obtain a J2 visa while accompanying them. One major plus in this visa is that J2 visa holders are also allowed to work in the USA on asking for permission prior in advance.
All these visas are applied online and shall visit the center on the day of appointment for verification. A student MUST carry a visa along with other required documents on traveling to the US for whatever reason and shall follow up on the expiry date and the procedures to follow being a visa holder or he/she shall face a lot of legal complications.