|THE US continues to be one of the top destinations for Indian students despite tough visa norms
OBTAINING a visa is generally the last stage of a long process of academic matchmaking and other formalities that a student going to any university abroad has to undergo. Almost all countries would want you to appear for a personal interview. And even immigrant-friendly countries like Canada and Australia (not withstanding the recent events) do have an extensive evaluation process before they admit you in to their country.
The US traditionally has one of the toughest Visa processes and it involves primarily an extensive interview with the visa officer, which will eventually decide whether you will take a flight to the country. The applicant will do well to try to make a good impression on the visa officer within the first two to three questions of the interview. The interview focuses on such parameters as your seriousness, financial ability, and the intention to return to India on completion of your studies.
Drawing on my experience of the visa process before going for my Master’s at University of Southern California, Los Angeles, I am noting down some of my learning and observations for the benefit of all students.
The interviewees are commonly asked about their motivation in choosing the university and the course that they have chosen. A sensible answer to that question is the preeminent position of the American universities in the world and the research opportunities that are available in the chosen university. The applicant may also like to inform the visa officer about the relevant research being done in that particular university and any information that they have found by speaking with some of the existing students, as a basis of their choice of institution and course. Such information demonstrates the seriousness of the students in their studies and also research.
|Help at Hand
|Many websites offer online tools that will, for a fee, evaluate your visa application package, help you put together your information, and even provide mock interviews. There are also face-to-face advisory sessions available. It is always preferable to go in for an approved consultant and do your basic research. Ed.
Ability to pay
Another common question has to do with interviewee’s financial health and ability to pay for the education. It’s important to be precise and to-the-point in answering questions about your ability to pay. Any wayward answer will invite newer, trickier questions.
The applicants should quickly summarize the total assets that they possess to support, say, two years of Master’s education, and how it is split between liquid assets (LIC, fixed deposits, shares, mutual funds, etc.) and solid assets (property, etc.). The applicants should clearly inform the visa officer that they have collected liquid assets for first year of expenses, so that there is no shortage of quick cash any time in the US.
Many websites offer online tools that will, for a fee, evaluate your visa application package, help you put together your information, and even provide mock interviews. There are also face-to-face advisory sessions available. It is always preferable to go in for an approved consultant and do your basic research.
Documents you need
- DS-160 form: Visa application form through which US officials collect information regarding the applicant’s background and identity.
- I-20 document: An invitation by the US University for Enrolment in the programme.
- SEVIS Fee receipt: It Is a part of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and is the next document after the D-160 form. The SEVIS I-901 fee is mandated by US Congress to support the program office and the automated system that keeps track of students and exchange visitors.
- Bank fee receipt: The visa application fee is currently to be paid at identified HDFC bank centres.
- Visa interview appointment letter
- Bank loan documents
- Degree certificates and transcripts: To be collected from the student’s college.
- Proof of relationship with financial sponsor
Having relatives living in the US is often the reason why people on temporary US visas
may try to stay back there. So the visa officers gauge the possibility that an applicant might decide to stay back in the US after their graduation by asking, “Do you have relatives in the US?” If you do have relatives in the US, you may try to convince the officer that your family in India is well-to-do and is happily settled in India. The applicants are also like to say that Indian economy has been booming and provides them good career options.
You will do well to be very particular about creating the ‘financial document summary’ that will further help the visa officer in evaluating your and your sponsor’s financial health. Another important point is to make sure that you arrange for funds that can cover your finances for at least 1.5 times of total expenses mentioned in the I-20 (invitation for enrolment) letter.
Questions in a nutshell
- Why choose the particular country and why that specific university?
- If there is no scholarship, who is sponsoring you financially?
- Do you have relatives in the USA?
- Will you immigrate to the US, given a chance?
- Why would you come back after your education?
- How will you pay back your loans, if any?
- Does your degree have substantial job opportunities in USA?
Needless to say that it’s advisable for you to greet the visa officer with a smile and not overdo things by wearing very formal clothes and affecting an American accent. Being honest is the best route to get that elusive visa!
Suruchi Wagah is Founder, nextLeap.