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How to Apply for a US Student Visa

Flag display A student visa is a necessity for any prospective college student hoping to study in the US. If you’re one of these hopefuls, you’ll have to prepare thoroughly for the visa application process.

But simple mistakes can affect whether or not you’re issued a visa. So it’s important to know in advance what missteps to look out for, and be sure to avoid them when applying.

Not Having Proper Paperwork

Make sure to stay on top of the sizable stack of paperwork that you’ll need for your student visa. It’s easy enough for an important document to get lost in all of your other school preparations. But it’s possible that you’ll have to say goodbye to your visa altogether if you don’t have your documents ready to go.

You’ll want to prepare a passport, a 2″x2″ photograph of yourself, all the necessary application forms, and receipts that show you’ve paid the various visa application fees. But don’t stop there: the embassy or consulate will likely need to see lots of other documents.

This additional paperwork varies on a case-by-case basis. To be on the safe side, have school transcripts (including any college credits that may transfer), test scores and financial information ready to be submitted as part of your application. You can always check with your embassy or consulate to see what is recommended.

If your school does not keep records in English, you may be required to have your transcript, diploma or other documents translated.

Not Keeping Track of Time

You want to make sure that you get started on your student visa application as quickly as possible. There’s a lot of background work that has to be done before your visa can be issued, and this can take weeks or even months.

And in case you forgot, you’re working with a firm deadline: you have to leave enough time to get your visa before the beginning of your school term.

But there’s no need to rush your application too much. The US State Department can only issue your student visa 120 days (about four months) before you register at your school, so you won’t be receiving your visa any earlier than that.

Registering ahead of schedule isn’t a huge problem, though.  An early application will simply be held until it can be processed. However, you may want to use that extra time to make sure that your application is as accurate as possible.

Not Planning Out Your Visit

You need to remain aware of how long your visa allows you to stay in the US as a student. Your visa could end up expiring when you’re still pursuing your studies, so you’ll want to know how to renew it. Your school’s international admissions department should be able to provide you with this information.

Also, keep in mind that having a student visa does not necessarily mean you will be able to enter the country. You still have to get through customs, where the Department of Homeland Security has the final say in who will be allowed entry to the United States.

If you’ve ever gone through customs before, you’re familiar with the rules: don’t bring food, exotic plants or animals or other forbidden items. Just to be on the safe side, you may want to revisit some of those rules and regulations. It will at least give you some practice for all the studying that lies ahead!

There’s no need to be denied access to your dream school just because you forgot to hand in a document or because you waited to fill out your visa application until it was too late. If you keep careful track of your application and proceed carefully through the student visa process, you should end up studying in the US in no time!

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