BRANCH CHIEF ALFRED
BOLL: Hello and welcome. My name is Alfred Boll, and
I represent EducationUSA and the Bureau of Educational
and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of
State in Washington, DC. Today’s Facebook Live is about
navigating the student visa process. If you’re an international
student and need help with the application
process for a student visa, this program is for you. Joining us today are Jennifer
Sudweeks and Emily Almas. Jennifer is a Foreign
Service officer with the U.S. Department of State. She has worked in many different
aspects of Consular Affairs, including both immigrant
and immigrant visas. Jennifer is joining us
virtually from New Delhi, India, where she serves as the U.S.
Embassy’s non-immigrant visa chief. Welcome, Jennifer. Joining me in our
studio is Emily Almas. Emily is the Associate Dean
of Admissions and Director of Recruitment at Swarthmore
College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, where
she coordinates international
student recruitment. Thank you for joining us, Emily. ASSOCIATE DEAN EMILY
ALMAS: Thank you. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
To our viewers, this conversation is
meant to be engaging, so if you have questions
on student visas, please don’t hesitate
to ask in the comments section on your screens. We will do our best to
answer your questions live during the program. I want to take the time to
welcome a viewing group joining us virtually from the
EducationUSA Advising Center in Lahore, Pakistan. Mariam Zarahan is the
EducationUSA advisor there. Hello, Mariam. Can you tell us a little
bit about your group and their questions? MS. MARIAM ZARAHAN:
I’m Mariam Zarahan. I’m an education advisor
with EducationUSA in Lahore, Pakistan. And I’m accompanied by
a group of 15 students. They’re from all
across Pakistan. A few of them have
already gotten acceptances in different schools all
across the U.S., some with full funding, a few are
paying out of their pocket. And they have questions related
to our financials, generally visa enquiries. So we’re all excited
for this session. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you, Mariam. We will come back to your
group throughout the program. So to begin, Jennifer, can
you start our discussion by sharing some insights on
the student visa process? MRS. JENNIFER
SUDWEEKS: Yes, I can. First let me say that
international students are really important to the
Department of State. They are one of
our top priorities. We recognize the
important contributions that students make to
the college communities and university communities
across the United States, and the academic cooperation
and opportunities that come from having
international students mixed in with regular classes. We’re committed to supporting
the U.S. academic community, and we also try and
strive very hard to have efficient
visa processing, while at the same time
meeting our national security and border security
requirements. National security
is our top priority when we’re adjudicating
these applications. Every visa decision is a
national security decision, and so that’s why we have
an extensive screening process for each applicant. However, worldwide,
most students– in fact, the vast
majority of students– receive their visa
when they apply to study in the United States. We have over a million
students at higher education institutions in
the U.S. right now. And there’s no cap. There’s no quota. So if we could make that two
million in the next few years, we’d be happy to
do that as well. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Jennifer,
thank you very much. Could you tell us a
little bit about what students should do first before
applying for a student visa? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Well, before
applying for a student visa, you first have to be
accepted at a university, and you have to have received
your Form I-20 from the school that you want to attend. So once you have
your Form I-20, you pay the SEVIS, the Student and
Exchange Visitor Information System fee at FMJFee.com. Then you can go to
travel.stage.gov and complete your visa application form
that’s on that website. And you can also find out
what the wait times are at each embassy and consulate. That’s really important because
some consulates and embassies have very long wait
times in the summer. We do our best to get
students in first, but you want to include
that in your plans. So apply for your
visa as early as you can, but no more than 120 days
before your program begins. After you have set your
appointment, then you will– I mean, after you’ve filled
out your application, you’ll go to the embassy
website and look for information on how that application
process works in that country. You pay the non-refundable visa
application fee, which is $160, and we ask you please
do not book your airline tickets until you actually
have your visa in your hands. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Jennifer, thank you. Any tips specifically on
scheduling the visa interview? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Well,
one of the things that I want to make
sure to address is some sort of tips on what
to say in your interview. The first thing is that nobody
can tell your story better than you can. You should approach
this interview as an interview and not an exam. There’s not memorized
answers to questions that you should be giving. So the Consular Officer
will focus on four things during your interview. The first is who are you
and what are your ties. What is your story about
your academic journey? The next is what
do you want to do? Where do you want to study? Why do you want to study that
particular major or subject? The next question will
be about how you’re going to pay for your university. We have to be confident
as consular offices that you control for the entire
length of your study program, so make sure to have all that
information with you when you apply. And we’re going
to ask you, also, about what you want to do
when you finish your studies. So schedule an appointment at
the consulate or embassy that’s closest to you, and then on
the day of your visa interview, make sure to bring this
list of things with you. Your Form I-20, which the
school has already sent to you, your DS-160 visa
application that you need to print out
the confirmation page after you fill that
out on travel.state.gov. You need to bring your passport. It’s important that your
passport has at least six months left on it by the time
you get in the United States, so make sure that it’s
not going to expire in the next little while. You’ll need to
bring a photo that meets our photo requirements,
which you can also find on travel.state.gov. Your visa application
fee receipt, also your SEVIS fee receipt, and
any other additional documents that the specific embassy or
consulate you’re applying at requires. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank
you very much, Jennifer. During the visa interview,
do they collect fingerprints? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes. At the visa interview we will
collect your fingerprints electronically. It’s a very easy
and simple process. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank
you very much, Jennifer, for this very
valuable information. I’m sure that our viewers
are going to come back during the program
with questions about specific aspects of
what you just went through. Let me turn to you,
Emily, and ask– can you tell us what role a
university or college might play during this whole process. ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS:
That’s a great question, and first, to everyone who’s
watching, congratulations. Welcome. We’re very excited
to welcome you to colleges and universities
in the United States. There are some things that a
U.S. university or college can do and some that we can’t, and
certainly one of the things we can do and will do for
you is issue that I-20 Form. So it’s really
important for students to understand the process
to getting an I-20 issued from your institution. I’d like to start there. I think a lot of
students have questions about how that happens. So the first thing
you want to do is follow the instructions
at the institution where you’re enrolling. They might have steps on
a website, for example. They might have a portal
or an email address. You’ll need to provide
documents to the institution where you’re enrolling so they
can issue the Form I-20 to you. That includes things
like information from your passport,
certification of your financial
situation– how are you going to pay, as
Jennifer mentioned, for your time studying
in the United States? It might include
an additional form. And a helpful hint
I have for viewers is to understand
the addresses that are involved in this
process, because eventually the college or university
will mail you that Form I-20, and so you want to make sure
they understand where they’re supposed to be mailing it. Sometimes colleges
and universities will give you a chance to
choose how you want that mailed, and so I would
encourage students to elect to have that mailed
Express Mail or tracked mail. Otherwise it could take weeks
for your I-20 to get to you, and that just delays the
process even further. So be sure to follow the steps
that the college or university where you’re enrolling provide
on how to get your I-20 issued to you, and
be sure, once you receive that form, to check it. Does everything match? Is your name correct? Is the program
and the start date correct to your understanding? Because you want all of
your documentation to match and you want it to be
correct and accurate. What if it’s not accurate? That’s OK. If anything changes or there
is a mistake or an issue, be sure to reach out to
the college or university. Every school will
have a person that you can contact, an international
student advisor. It might be someone
in admissions or an international
student services office. You want to go and
contact that person, and also just generally keep
them informed if and as there are changes in the process. So that’s the first thing that
I would be sure to mention. Coming to the United States
to study is really exciting, and so you probably have a lot
of questions as a new student. Where might you get
answers to those questions? Many schools have websites
that have information about this process– the steps you need to follow,
what forms they require, again, to issue the I-20,
when you might need to come on campus, for example. So as a prospective
student, you want to follow the information
available on the website or in other information
that’s been distributed to you from the school. So schools can and will
issue you the I-20. What schools can’t do and
won’t do is issue the F1 Visa. And so sometimes students
have questions about the roles that institutions play in this
process for a student going through the application. We can certainly provide
information to students. We can help ensure
that a student has all the forms and documentation
and paperwork they might need. For example, you’ll want
to bring your SEVIS fee receipt with you to
the F1 student visa interview, things like that. Unfortunately, ultimately it’s
up to the student to go and do the interview themselves. But if a student is not
successful in that interview, you want to be sure to come back
and tell the school that you’re going to enroll in as
well that that happened, and we can talk to you, counsel
you, about the next steps that may include, for
example, reapplying, delaying your start date, and
trying to reapply for the visa. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: That’s
all very valuable advice. Thank you very much, Emily,
for that great perspective, and I know that
we’ll be coming back to you throughout the
program with questions from our viewers. Now let’s go to
our viewing group at the EducationUSA
Advising Center in Lahore, Pakistan for some questions. Hello, Lahore. Can you give us your first
question for our experts? AUDIENCE: Yes, sir. My name is [INAUDIBLE],, and I’m
applying for a student visa. And my father is
[INAUDIBLE],, but he has put all his data required
in my personal account. And I have been working for
the last 20 years as well. I have saved a bit
amongst myself. So I still be showing
him as my sponsor? Will that– any chance of
getting started with that? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
OK, can I ask– Jennifer, did you
hear the question? Are you able to answer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: I think
I can answer that. As consular officers,
we don’t really consider parents a sponsor. We would consider
that family funds. And so what you want to do is
bring your financial history of where those
funds came from, be able to talk about how
your father’s been saving over several years, maybe bring
bank records, and your, also, income. You might want to bring some
pay stubs and things like that to show, if the
Consular Officer asks you to provide some financial
information and documents. AUDIENCE: Thank you very much. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thanks, Jennifer. Lahore, do you have
another question for us? AUDIENCE: Yes. I have a fully
funded scholarship, so is it required to show
a financial statement to support my visa application? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So I think
that’s for me again. If your scholarship
covers everything that’s listed on your I-20,
including room and board and books and miscellaneous
expenses, all you need to do is bring the evidence
from the university that you have the scholarship. If it’s only a partial
scholarship, though– which many of them are,
they’ll cover just tuition– then you’ll need to make sure
that you have enough to pay for your personal finances. MS. ZARAHAN: Thank you. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you. Excellent questions, Lahore. Thank you very much. And let me turn to Emily
to follow up on that. I assume schools, if they
are providing scholarships, should– I mean, a best
practice is to lay out exactly what is being provided
so that students can inform the Consular Officer of that. Is that correct? ASSOCIATE DEAN
ALMAS: Absolutely. So part of submitting
the documentation to the institutions so
that we can issue a student a Form I-20 is the
cost of attendance, and so that includes
room, board, books, and personal expenses, any
necessary or required fees as part of coming
to the college. And as an institution,
if you are awarded a scholarship
or financial aid, for example, the school should
outline what precisely you’re being given, and then your I-20
should illustrate the remainder how it’s being paid
for, for example, personal funds or a family
member or something like that. So you’ll want to make sure to
bring with you and have on hand any documentation related
to what’s being offered to you from your school. It might be a
scholarship letter. Certainly that should
be reflected already in your Form I-20, but
always good to bring all of your documentation
and paperwork with you. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So be
thorough and be prepared, and make sure and– if the
school has provided you with something, make sure
that they have documentation that shows that, right? Because everything helps
during an interview. ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: It does. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. So thank you very much, Lahore. Excellent questions. Let us go to our friends on
Facebook to see what questions. Tongo from France would like
to know, what type of visa is needed for an internship
after completing a semester of study at a university? Jennifer, could I
turn to you for that? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes,
and I can actually only guess because I don’t have
the specifics in front of me. But in general, internships are
usually on a J1 exchange visa. But you can do an
unpaid internship as part of academic
credit on your F1. If you’re already in
the United States, you really want
to your university about those
regulations and which visa they think you
should apply for. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
That’s very good advice. So if you’re in
the United States, make sure you speak to
your own university, your own institution,
to get information. Emily, I assume that’s common. ASSOCIATE DEAN
ALMAS: Absolutely. So there are variety of
ways that a student could do an internship while
they’re a student, but it’s important to talk
to your international student services advisor at the
university or college where you’re attending before
engaging in that. You want to maintain your
status on an F1 visa. Something you might
have heard of before called Curricular Practical
Training, or CPT, for example. That could be what this
student is referring to. But most importantly, check in
with the international student advisor at your college
or university first, and they can help
figure out what kind of paperwork
or arrangements need to be made in
advance of doing anything like engaging in an internship. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you both. Excellent advice. The following question is from
an international student who would like to know,
can I apply for a visa before I have been admitted
to a college or university? Jennifer. MRS. SUDWEEKS: So yes, you can. Actually there’s something
called a Prospective Student Visa. It’s a B2, sort of
like a tourist visa. And we can put the
name of the school that you’re interested
in on that visa, or you can travel on your
tourist visa or the visa waiver program to go look at
universities in the United States if you want to see
them in person before making your decision. But once you are
studying full time, you need to be in status on an
F1 visa, and it’s much harder and it takes a lot longer
to switch that status in the United States. So we would suggest,
probably, if you’re not on a prospective
student visa, that you return to your home
country and apply there before studying in the U.S. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. That’s very interesting to
know, and great for students who want to check out different
colleges and universities. As you know, we have
4,700 accredited colleges and universities throughout
the United States, one for everybody. Our next question is from
Martin who would like to know, what happens if you get the visa
but can’t travel to the United States to start the university
program due to family problems? Jennifer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So it’s
going to depend on how long your student visa is valid
for and your form I-20. So this is a case
where you’ll want to be talking to both your
university and the consulate. If your visa has
already expired, then you’re going to need
to apply for a new visa. If your visa is still
valid and you’re still attending the same
university, you might contact your university
and get them to send you a new form I-20 with
a new start date and you might be able to
travel on that same visa. But definitely ask the consulate
or embassy and your school first before doing that. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: And Emily,
I assume that’s common. Schools issue I-20s all the time
because student status changes? ASSOCIATE DEAN
ALMAS: Absolutely. So if there is a change,
it’s important to be in touch with the international student
services advisor or designated school official, whomever you’ve
been instructed to check in with at your
university or college, and tell them what has
happened or what is changing. Maybe ask for their
advice in some cases. And they can either
reissue a Form I-20 or work with you to figure
out your future plans. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you. So Osama asks, can I
work in the United States after I finish my program
or my course of study? Jennifer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So there are some
circumstances in which you can. We mentioned Curricular
Practical Training before. Emily talked about that. That’s during your
course of study. You can also work afterwards in
an Optional Practical Training if you didn’t do the
Curricular Practical Training. And there are
limitations on that and limitations on
the kinds of jobs and how long you’re allowed
to do that, so again, please talk to your school’s
international advising office before moving on
with that program. It has to be authorized
on your I-20. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you. Thank you very much, Jennifer. Our next question is from
an international student from Pakistan who is
already in the United States on an F1 visa that is
going to expire in 2020. And she says, I’m
going to graduate from a master’s program
in July this year, 2019. I got accepted to do a PhD
from another university that’s going to start this year. It’s very expensive to
go back to Pakistan. Can I get my visa
renewed in Canada, or can I get a
new visa in Canada for the course of study
I’m going to start? Jennifer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So if
your visa has already expired but you’re
in the United States and you’re in student
status, you probably do not need to renew your
visa until you’re actually going to go home to
Pakistan, or unless you want to go to Canada on vacation. If you’re just going
to Canada on vacation, then you can try to apply there. Just make sure to
bring everything that you would bring to a
normal student visa interview. It’s the same whether you’re
applying in Toronto or Mexico City or in Lahore. So you can do it, but if
you are in the United States and CBP has given you
the duration of status– if they wrote [INAUDIBLE]– they let you stay
in the United States as long as you are current
in the SEVIS system. So again, make sure your school
transfers your SEVIS properly and you don’t even need a new
visa to start your program if you don’t leave the U.S. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Jennifer,
just to come back to this, this raises a very
interesting topic of the difference between being
in status and having a visa. If I understand correctly,
the visa is for travel. It’s to be able to come and
go in and out of the United States, whereas the
status part is what’s especially important
for students who want to be in proper status
while they’re in the United States, and they’re not
really the same thing. Is that right? MRS. SUDWEEKS: That
is absolutely true. They are not the same thing. The visa, we explain,
is your ability to knock on the door of the
U.S. Your status is your ability to stay there. And when you arrive
at the border, the officers will tell
you how long you are allowed to stay on that status. Normally for students, as long
as the school keeps your SEVIS information updated, you can
stay in the United States. But again, you need to
report to the school. You need to talk to your
international student advisors and ask them to help you
figure out what’s best for you. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So as long
as, as a student in the United States, I keep my school
informed, I’m in status, they keep me updated, even
if my visa has expired, that’s OK because I’m properly
in status in the United States. But then if I needed
to travel, as soon as I leave the
United States, I need to get another
visa to come back. Is that correct? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes,
that’s absolutely correct. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. That’s great. And Emily, is that typical? Is that something you see
often in international students that they, for example,
may not have a valid visa but they’re in status and
they have simply said, I’m not planning on traveling. I’m not going to
leave, so I’m just going to be in status
properly and study, and then I’ll get a visa
whenever I need it, if I leave? ASSOCIATE DEAN
ALMAS: Absolutely. As long as you are still in
your duration of study, which is the terms of
most status, you are fine to remain in school as
long as you’re keeping up with any requirements about
checking in or updating the international student
services office on your campus. And so the only issue is
if you, as you mentioned, leave the country. Then you will need
a valid F1 visa to re-enter the country
if it has expired, and all documentation
related to that, so for example, an unexpired
passport, things like that. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So even
if the status is fine, if your visa has expired,
you need a visa to travel. ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS:
That’s correct. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: And you
get that outside the country. ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS:
That’s correct. And I just want to
mention we’re talking about international travel. So one of the real
joys and benefits of studying in the
United States is that you have the
opportunity to travel freely throughout the United
States without any concern. So I really encourage students
who are studying in the U.S. to take advantage of
that, to go and see a different part of the country. The United States has a really
broad array of histories and geographies and cultures
and food– such great food– in many different
parts of the country. So once you’re in
the U.S., you should feel free to take advantage of
those opportunities to travel. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
That’s fantastic. And we keep saying, not only
are there 4,700 schools, but all the way from
Alaska to Puerto Rico, it’s all the United States
and we have a huge country to see and take advantage of. Travel and explore. So thank you. Thank you both. That’s great advice
and perspective. Our next question is
from a viewer who asks, if I already have
a visitor’s visa, or, for example, I’m from
a visa waiver country, do I also need to get a
student visa if I come study? Jennifer, could you take that? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes. If you’re from a
visa waiver country, when you entered the United
States you enter on visa waiver status and you cannot switch
to an F1 status in the United States. So if you’re from a
visa waiver country, you must absolutely
apply for the F1 visa before arriving in
the United States. As we mentioned
before, we really suggest that you
apply for your F1 visa and not travel to the United
States on your tourist visa. You can keep your tourist visa. You can use that later once you
graduate if it’s still valid. You can have both kinds
of visas in your passport. But when you’re
studying you really need to be on the proper visa. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. That’s a great perspective. We have a few questions that
have come in on the visa interview itself. What happens at the interview,
our questioner asks. Whom do I meet with and what
are they going to ask me? Jennifer, could you
take a stab at that? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes,
I’d be happy to, because that’s what we do
here every day in New Delhi. You are going to meet with
a consular officer, somebody who knows visa law and knows
the circumstances of the country that you’re applying
in, and they’re going to ask you questions
like I mentioned before about your process of all
the universities or schools that you’ve applied to,
your financial information, how you’re going to pay for
it, your [INAUDIBLE] journey. And you should think of
this as an interview, that you’re going to
participate in a conversation with a consular officer. The last thing that
we want is to hear a bunch of memorized
speeches that don’t really have anything to do with the
questions that we’ve asked. So it’s not a test that
you can prepare for. It’s a conversation that
you’re going to have. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
So Jennifer, am I right that, in our system in
the United States, as you say, it really is a
conversation, an interview? In other countries, sometimes
they just look at documents, but our consular officers really
want to speak to students. Is that right? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Absolutely. And in fact we, a lot of
times, can issue a student visa without actually
looking at the documents just by hearing the
answers to the questions that we give the student and
looking at the information that they’ve already
provided in their application and on their I-20 form. So the Consular Officer
might not look at anything at all except your passport
and your I-20 form, and that’s still just fine. You can still get a visa. The papers are not important. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So
students should be prepared, and they should be
proactive, and they’re their own best representatives. MRS. SUDWEEKS: Absolutely. Nobody can tell your story
better than you can yourself, don’t listen to people who
tell you, oh, I said this and I got a visa just fine. Please do not bring
fake documents. If somebody has told
you that you should buy this package of
documents and that will guarantee you a visa,
that is simply not true. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Yeah, terrible. MRS. SUDWEEKS: Just be yourself
and enjoy the interview, because we’re going to
ask you a lot of questions about your school
and it’s a good time to talk about how much you
want to study in the U.S. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
That’s great advice. Our next question is
also about the interview. Are students required
to show funding for the duration of
the program or just for the first year
of the program? Jennifer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So
you actually are required to show
that you have funds in hand for the first
year of the program, and then show a
plan that indicates that you will be able to pay
for the rest of the program as well. So like we said
before, for students who are on scholarship, that’s
a really easy conversation if it’s a full ride scholarship. But for students
who are planning on studying in
the United States, they should bring all
the financial documents they can to show, one,
that they have enough money to give right away
for the first year, and two, that they can afford
the rest of the program. So for master’s
students, you’re going to need to bring evidence
of two years of funding. For PhDs, four. For undergraduates, if you want
to go all through your PhD, you’re going to have to
have a lot of funding in place for that. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank
you very much, Jennifer. So let’s go back to
EducationUSA in Lahore, Pakistan for a few more questions. Lahore, do you have
another question for us? AUDIENCE: Yeah, hi. My name is [INAUDIBLE]. My question is, what
are the factors that can help us convince
the visa interviewers that, after completing
our education in the U.S., we will be coming
back to Pakistan? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: OK,
that’s an excellent question. Jennifer, let me
turn to you in terms of the dynamic in the interview. Are there things that students
can talk about in terms of their ties to their country? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So we
realize, actually, that ties for students are
going to be different than ties for a businessman or
a grandparent wanting to go visit their grandchild
in the United States. We know that students
don’t usually own property, so we’re going to ask you
questions about your family. We’re going to ask you questions
about your plan, the reasons that you want to study
in the United States, and what you intend to do
with that degree afterwards. I think the thing
that you’re getting at is that students are
very often refused because they do not
overcome the presumption of immigrant intent. The way that our
law is written is that we assume you are an
immigrant first until you show us that you’re not. So be [INAUDIBLE]. Have goals. Have aspirations, and
tell us what those are. Just be honest in your
interview about what you want to do in the future. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. Excellent question, Lahore. Thank you. Do you have another
question for EducationUSA? AUDIENCE: Yeah, I
have a question. So my family applied for an I-30
immigration several years back, but it hasn’t been processed
yet and we haven’t even gotten a call back. And should that
affect my F1 visa? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Jennifer, did you– MRS. SUDWEEKS: [INAUDIBLE] your
F1 visa, if you have already applied for an
immigrant visa, we know that people’s families
apply for those sometimes years and years in advance. Just make sure that when
you go to the interview you’re honest about that. We ask you that question
on your application form and you need to give
us the honest answer. As long as it’s very clear
that you intend to study and that you’ll come
back to Pakistan before your immigrant
visa is ready, then it shouldn’t be an issue. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. Excellent question
and important answer. So one has to be transparent
in a visa interview, and ready to talk about
all aspects of wanting to go to the United States,
including when you have issues like that where there might
be an immigrant application as well as a student application. So let’s go back to some
more questions from Facebook. They’re pouring in. Our next question is, if I am
denied a visa, can I appeal? Jennifer, do you want
to take that first and then I’ll turn
to you, Emily? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So
there is actually no appeals process in the U.S.
non-immigrant visa process. If you are denied your visa,
the only thing that you can do is reapply, but
there is no reason, unless the Consular
Officer tells you that you’re ineligible
for another reason, there’s no reason that you
shouldn’t just go ahead and reapply. The thing that you’ll run
into, though, are the long wait times, and we
prioritize students who haven’t had their
interview first. So make sure and apply
early just in case. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. Emily, does this
happen occasionally? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: It
does happen on occasion. This is really a situation where
we would encourage a student to reach out to the
college or university where they’re going to
enroll and to express what has happened. Oftentimes, institutions
can provide information, maybe have a conversation,
help a student walk through the process
of what has happened and what would be different when
they’re reapplying for a visa the second time around. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Are there times when you as an institution
might say, hey, it might be better
to wait a year? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS:
Depending on the time line, it’s entirely possible
that a student may need to defer enrollment
to a U.S. institution based on how quickly they
need to be on campus. So we know, as
Jennifer mentioned, there can be wait times. It might not be possible, if
a student has been denied, for them to go
through the process again and get the visa to
start during that start time. It could be a
financial situation. Perhaps something has changed
in a student’s financial picture and they need to wait to have
the necessary funds to make them eligible for
this process as well. And so that’s really where
talking to the college or university where you
plan to enroll is important, and letting them know
what has happened, what your plans are, and see
the ways that they can help. We aren’t able to
contact consular officers and ask them to give
you a visa, for example, but certainly,
through the experience that international student
service offices have, they have information,
and I think information is really important. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: OK. Thank you very much. I think we’ve got
another question for you from our viewer. What if I want to
transfer schools? Can I change my program
or course of studies? So two questions, in a way. Transferring schools
once you have a visa and changing my program
or course of study at the same school. ASSOCIATE DEAN
ALMAS: Absolutely. You can do both things, whether
at the same school or another. It’s, again,
important to reach out to the international
student services officer for your institution and
explain what you plan to do. So if you’re
transferring schools, you’re going to need to transfer
your SEVIS account, basically, and you’ll need to have your new
institution issue you an I-20 form. And there’s a process
for doing that. Every institution has a
slightly different array of steps you’ll need to follow. But functionally, you’ll
need to get that new I-20 from your new institution. You do not need to leave. Typically, depending
on your circumstances, you can do that process
while in the United States as long as you are still a full
time student and in status. In terms of changing your course
of study or major, of course. Many students choose to do
that, and that’s not a problem. You’ll just need to
update the institution where you’re enrolled. Some schools may require
you to come into the office and have a conversation
with a person. Other institutions,
especially large universities, may have an online system
where you could input the data and they can revise
your documentation and revise your information
in the system, which is what’s important. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. Jennifer, from the perspective
of a consular officer, does it matter what
a student intends to study when he or she
is going to the U.S.? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So
we don’t really consider the school
as a factor when we are looking at student visas. As long as the student has an
I-20 from the school where they want to study, that’s
what we look at, the information on the I-20. So for our office,
it doesn’t really matter if they start
at one university and transfer to another. There are so many American
students who do that. It’s a natural thing. It’s hard to know if a
school is a good fit for you before you arrive
there, so to us, it doesn’t really
make a big difference. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: And
thank you so much, Jennifer, for pointing out one
of the big things we try to convey
at EducationUSA. Of course, our
services worldwide– our basic services–
are free to students, and our whole aim
is to help students find the right fit
in an institution, to find institutions where
you will succeed academically, professionally, personally,
and that there are so many institutions that
offer different things. Our advisors are trying to
help you find the tools to find the right place. So thank you for
pointing that out that. That is one of the benefits
of studying in the United States is that certainly our
whole education sector is geared towards student success. That’s always something
we try to point out from EducationUSA’s perspective. So our following
question, I think, is also for you, Jennifer. Will my visa interview be in
English or my own language? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So if
you are not studying English as a second
language, your visa interview will be in English. What we’re looking
for is a student who can contribute to
an academic conversation and have a back and
forth with a professor or with another
group of students and contribute to that. So if your I-20 form
says that you still need to study English,
then some of your interview might be in your
native language, but we’d still expect you to be
able to have everyday phrases and vocabulary at the ready
so that you can tell us about your life at the school. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: That’s great. So again, be transparent
about what you’re doing, and this is a chance to
show that you can actually do what you intend. MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. A related question. Can I work on a student visa? Can I stay with you, Jennifer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So you
need to really talk to your international
student advisor about that. If you are an
undergraduate, and I believe after your
first year, there are certain cases where
you can work on campus. There are some cases where
you can work off campus. But you can’t just
go out and get a job and then come and
tell your university that you want to work. You really need to have
that all prepared in advance and have the proper
authorization before you do that. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So I’m going
to turn to Emily in a second but, does that mean that a
student who came and said, yeah, my school has proposed,
has said that I’m allowed to work a certain amount of
time or in a certain way, that that is something
that’s an acceptable thing to say to a consular
officer as part of the big picture of studies? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Oh
yeah, absolutely. Especially for
graduate students, we expect PhD students will
be teaching classes or being research assistants,
things like that. So yeah, of course. Please tell the Consular
Officer that that’s what your plans are because
some of that might be included in your funding package. But if you just want to
work for work experience and not attend classes, that
you can’t do on a student visa and you should not apply
for a student visa. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you, Jennifer. Emily, let me turn to you from
the institution’s perspective. Can you go through– because it sounds
like the rules are different for different
kinds of students. ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS:
They are, and I just want to echo what Jennifer said. If you’re coming to study
in the U.S. on an F1 visa, your primary time in the U.S.
should be spent studying, so coming to the
U.S. and working is not the goal or the aim of
coming in that circumstance. There are opportunities–
limited opportunities– typically part time,
generally 20 hours or less, on campus, so maybe in a
dining hall or a bookstore, depending on the
student and depending on what degree
program you may be in as a student on an F1 visa. It’s really important to talk
to the international student advisor at the institution
that you are attending to ask questions about what’s
allowed and what isn’t. You should not plan to fund your
education in the United States through working while you’re
a student on an F1 visa. That’s generally
not feasible and you wouldn’t be certified for
the financial component to be issued an I-20. So definitely check
in in advance, but generally there are
part time opportunities. Depending on your
circumstances, in the summer there could be more work
opportunity or opportunity off campus. Also, again, depending–
some of the programs that we’ve mentioned, things
like CPT, things like that. But typically it’s limited in
hours and scope and location, so on campus. The most important thing
is just to check in with the international
student advisor and make sure that this is
aligned with the regulations that you’re trying to maintain. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So bottom
line, students come to study. Work is a limited side thing. ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Exactly BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
That is possible. But a student has to be showing,
the whole time, that she or he is focused on studies. ASSOCIATE DEAN
ALMAS: Absolutely. And that’s really
how you can take the most advantage of coming
to study in the United States. We want students to explore
the areas that the schools are located in. We want them to enjoy
American culture, get to know people from
across the United States and maybe other international
students as well. So the focus of your
energy while you’re on a campus in the
U.S. really should be studying and
exploring and learning American culture and your
education, and not working. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. Thanks to you both. So Jennifer, a question for you. Our viewer asks,
is a visa issued for the entire duration of my
education or my time of study in the United States, or
just on a yearly basis? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So that
actually depends on the country that you are from, the country
that issued your passport. Visa duration is
based on reciprocity, so whatever your home country
gives American students who want to study in
your country, we give the same length of visa. So in some cases, that
may be five years. In some cases, that
may be a full 10 years. In some cases, it
may be three months. So it really just depends
on where you are from. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank
you very much, Jennifer. We have a second
question, I think, that goes to you as well
from Angel, who says, I received a student
visa last year but I didn’t actually
travel to the United States. I now have a new I-20 to
attend a different school. Can I use the same visa that
I already have from last year to attend this new institution? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So I would
not advise that, actually, because when you arrive
in the United States, the officers are going to
ask you questions about why this school that has
printed on your visa is not the same
as the I-20 form. So when you get to the United
States, you may have trouble. They may not even admit you. So if you’re planning on
attending a different school, I would definitely
get a new visa with the right
school name on it, and then you should
have no issues. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank
you very much then. That was echoing what
Emily said earlier as well. Make sure that you are really
dealing with the school regularly, getting
everything updated, making sure that they
do the paperwork, so that everything is
correct as possible, and that it’s not a problem
for schools to do that. ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS:
Right, no, not at all. You want to make sure that your
student visa matches the Form I-20 that you’ve been issued. And then it’s also important– Jennifer mentioned
this earlier, just to touch on something about
the actual entry process. You want to make sure you’re
entering on your student visa. If you had another
visa in your passport, you want to make
sure that you are being issued a particular
form, Form I-94, excuse me. We won’t get into those
details, but it’s just important that you enter on
your student visa, because when you check in with
your international student advisor at the beginning
of your course of study, they are actually going to
check to make sure you have all the right paperwork, that
everything has been documented properly in the system, and say
that you’ve arrived on campus. On that note, while
you’re traveling, make sure you keep your
documents with you. Don’t put your papers
and documentation in your checked luggage. You want to make sure you have
them in your hand bag or hand luggage because you’ll
need to present them and you never know. You probably won’t have
access to your checked luggage till after you go through
the port of entry. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Absolutely. So keep the documents with you
on your person as you travel. ASSOCIATE DEAN
ALMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Excellent advice. Excellent advice for everybody. So we actually
had this question, but it’s come back so
I think it’s important. Can I have two different types
of visas at the same time, say, a student visa and a
visitor’s or a tourist visa? Jennifer, is that OK? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes, that’s OK. You can have more than one
type of visa in your passport at the same time. Let’s say you’re applying
for a new student visa and you have an old student
visa in your passport. We’ll go ahead and physically
cancel that old one because we can’t issue
you the same one twice. Does that make sense? But if you have a
tourist visa, we’ll just leave that on
your passport and, when you finish your program,
you can travel in and out of the United States on
that if it’s still valid. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. Our next question
is from Louise, who would like to know, what
is the specific definition of full time student status? What does that mean? Emily, can you take us to that? ASSOCIATE DEAN
ALMAS: Absolutely. So that’s a great question. So every institution
has guidelines for each of its programs
that are authorized to issue I-20s for and
what meets the criteria for full time status. So this might depend on
the specific degree program or course of study,
but you’ll want to make sure that you are
applying for full time status because you need to be
a full time student, except some specific
situations in which you can talk to an international
student advisor about, to continue on as an
F1 student visa holder. So you’ll definitely
want to check in with the international
student advisor. If, for any reason, you want
to take a reduced course load, for example, if
you want to go part time, as you might hear
the terminology used sometimes in
the United States. Don’t do that until
you have a conversation with the international student
advisor because they’ll know. There’s a minimum number
of credits or credit hours, depending on the program
that you’re enrolled in, for your student status. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
So, good advice. So lots of things are
possible, but again, you have to be in touch with your
international student advisor to make sure that you
are always in status and maintaining that status
appropriately through the way you’re taking your courses. ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS:
That’s correct. Typically you need to
be a full time student. So if there’s anything
other than that, you’re going to need to talk
to the international student advisor in advance of
making that decision. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. Let’s go back to
our viewing group at EducationUSA in Lahore,
Pakistan for a few more questions. Lahore, do you have
another question for us? MS. ZARAHAN: Yes, we do. Go ahead. AUDIENCE: My name
is [INAUDIBLE].. [INAUDIBLE] financing
my education. So how is it viewed [INAUDIBLE]? What sort of questions can I
[INAUDIBLE] regarding this? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Jennifer, can
we turn to you first for that? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So, I’m not sure
I heard the whole question. It was cutting in and out. It’s about what
financial documents they need to bring or– AUDIENCE: No. If an extended family member
is supporting my education, so how is it viewed in
my visa application? Is it considered a negative
impact on my application, and how can I defend
that, if someone is supporting my education
or financing my education. MRS. SUDWEEKS: So
you’re saying someone outside of your immediate family
is supporting your education? AUDIENCE: Yes. MRS. SUDWEEKS: OK. So you need to be very
clear with the Consular Officer on where that
money is coming from, that that person is not a
member of your immediate family, and you need to be
clear about why they are willing to support you. It really is going to depend
on your personal circumstances. It could be just fine. Or if it seems like it’s a long,
convoluted way to get money and you don’t actually have
the funding, [INAUDIBLE].. There’s no one
specific formula that I can tell you that will help
you pass your interview. Just bring all of your
financial documents and make sure that you
tell the officer upfront where the money is coming from. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you very much. Lahore, do you have
one more question? MS. ZARAHAN: Yes. AUDIENCE: So I’m fully
funded [INAUDIBLE],, and my [INAUDIBLE]. So is [INAUDIBLE]? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: I’m sorry. You cut in there. Could you repeat
the question again? AUDIENCE: I got a
fully funded package. My financial package is
in the form of TAship. Is J visa the most
appropriate visa for me? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Emily,
are you able to answer that? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: I heard
a little bit of your question. I think you’re asking
about which kind of visa you should be applying for. And if that was the
question, I think different programs
are going to be tied to different kinds of visas. And so typically, if you’re
enrolling as a full time student at an approved
institution– and as mentioned, there are over 4,000
different fantastic colleges and universities in the
United States to choose from– then you’re going to
need to be on an F1 visa. There are other circumstances,
depending on the situation. It might be an M or
a J. But generally speaking, if you’re coming
to the United States to study as a full time
student and if you’re in a degree program, it’s
going to be an F1 visa that you need to apply for. The ED USA website actually
has really helpful information on this topic. If you’re not sure what kind
of visa is right for you or where to get
more information, I always send students
to the ED USA website. They can find lots of
great information there that can be really helpful. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
That’s a great point. And likewise, the school
would be in a position to guide students, right? ASSOCIATE DEAN
ALMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely. If you’re talking about a
specific academic program, the school would tell
you which visa you need and which visa they’re able
to issue documentation for. That is going to be
program specific. But if you’re wondering
generally what kind of visa you might want, I would
encourage students to check out the ED USA website. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Absolutely. The EducationUSA website
has a lot of information, and we also refer to the website
of our Bureau of Consular Affairs, where Jennifer
works, currently, at Embassy New Delhi, with a
lot of very specific information about visa categories. Thank you. Thank you, Lahore. We appreciate your questions and
your engagement on the program. Let’s go to one more question
from Facebook before we close. So this is for Emily. Emily, where can a student
get more information about what to expect upon
arrival at their institution? That’s a great question. ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS:
That is a great question, and one of the great programs
that many universities and colleges offer is what’s
called an orientation. So you may be expected to
come to campus a few days before classes begin and learn
about everything from where’s the dining hall or
how does it work to get your mail and
your residence hall, as well as sort of bigger
questions like what is American culture
like in the classroom? How do you participate in class? Can you go and talk to
your faculty members? What do students do for fun? All of these great topics. But generally
speaking, you’ll want to take advantage of
any opportunities you have to participate in
things like orientation. Most colleges and universities
have, on their websites, information step by step what
to expect and how to enter and what to do once
you’re on campus. So, pretty universal. You’ll need to check in with
the international student advisor or designated school
official on your college campus once you get there. That might be part of
the orientation program. It might not officially
be part of that. But either way, you’ll
want to say, I’m here. We’ll say welcome. Congratulations. Welcome to the United States. And make sure that all
of that documentation we’ve been talking about is
accurate and reflects correctly in the system that we have
access to to double check. First, I encourage
students to be in touch with colleges
and universities where you’re going
to enroll if you have any questions, any
problems any issues. I had a colleague
tell me a big tip that I never thought to
mention to students before, but oftentimes, if you’re
landing in the United States and connecting to
a domestic flight, a student, for
example, might not know you need to, after
you go through immigration, get your bags from customs,
go through customs, and then recheck them. So that’s some little
tip for you there. But lots of great information
on college and university websites about the actual
process of entering, and also what to do
once you’re on campus. We want to help you,
so ask us questions. Let us know how
we can be helpful. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
That’s fantastic advice. And one thing from
EducationUSA’s perspective is that our advising
centers around the world provide pre-departure
orientations for students, which are
free of charge, which we encourage you to attend. Oftentimes we’ll do
so in partnership with U.S. colleges
and universities who may be visiting,
who may be looking to do their own
pre-departure orientations. So we want to provide
you with the tools that you need to successfully
start your studies in the United States. Unfortunately, we are
almost out of time, but before we conclude
our conversation, Jennifer and Emily, could you each
share a final thought on the student visa
process or anything that you would like
to for our viewers? Jennifer. MRS. SUDWEEKS: Sure. I would say my biggest
tip is just to relax. Consular officers love
interviewing students. It’s our favorite
kinds of interviews. Students are so excited and
full of life and energy, and we love that
interaction with them. So just be yourself,
be enthusiastic, and tell us your story. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
That’s fantastic advice. An interview is a great chance
to have a nice conversation with someone who is excited
about what you intend to do in the United States. Emily, any last words of advice? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS:
Yes, I would just say we’re really excited, at
colleges and universities, to welcome international
students to our campuses every year. So if and as you have questions,
you want to know more, please don’t
hesitate to reach out to the officials on
the school campus where you’re going
to be enrolling because we want to be helpful. And the earlier you get in touch
with us with any questions, the better. My number one tip
would probably be to make sure that, as you do
different steps of the process, you save your documentation. So for example, if you
have access to a printer, you print things out if you
have access to print things. Or you save them. You email them to yourself. You want to make sure to
have backup copies of things where feasible. Just a little helpful hint. But know that we’re all
really excited to welcome you to American colleges
and universities, and congratulations on
starting this journey. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL:
Thank you so much. Thank you for joining us
today, Jennifer and Emily, and thank you to our
viewers joining us from around the world. A very special thanks to
our live viewing group gathered at the
EducationUSA Advising Center in Lahore, Pakistan. MS. ZARAHAN: Thank you. MRS. SUDWEEKS: Thank you. BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thanks again. We also had viewing groups
gathered around the world, including EducationUSA Advising
Centers in San Salvador, El Salvador, Yaounde, Cameroon,
Baku, Azerbaijan, and Bamako, Mali; at American Corners
in Pristina, Kosovo, Buea, Cameroon, and Gitega, Burundi;
the American Corner in Port of Spain, Trinidad and
Tobago; and the U.S. embassies in Conakry,
Guinea, Abuja, Nigeria, and Windhoek, Namibia. You can find more information
about studying in the United States by visiting the
EducationUSA website at www.educationusa.state.gov. There you can find information
on the five steps to U.S. study, locate an
EducationUSA center in your country, one of
over 436 around the world, connect with us
via social media, learn about both in-person
and virtual upcoming events, research financial aid
opportunities, and much more. Thank you, and please join
us for future EducationUSA interactive web chats. Goodbye from Washington.