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Study in the USA: Student Visa Application

Our special guests were Mr. Powell and Mrs. Rachel Brunette-Chen. Mr. Powell has been a Consular Officer dealing with visas for over 25 years, also has two children currently studying in college in the US. Mrs. Brunette-Chen is a consular officer at AIT/Taipei, and she is also the officer in charge of education-related issues at AIT.

Study in the USA: Student Visa Application
Thursday, March 11 2004 (2:30 PM - 3:30 PM)

Please note: Portions of this transcript have been edited for clarity

Moderator:

Dear all, Welcome to our chat program. Our program is now starting. Ms. Brunette-Chen and Mr. Powell are our speakers today. Let's welcome them.

 

Host: (Mr. Powell)

I am pleased to be here today. I have been a Consular Officer dealing with visas for over 25 years. I also have two children currently studying in college in the US.

 

Host: (Ms. Brunette-Chen)

Hello, my name is Rachel Brunette-Chen and I am a consular officer at AIT, Taipei. I am the officer in charge of education-related issues at AIT.

 

 


Start of Chat


 

Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
I plan to visit Taiwan in the summer but my F-1 visa is expired. Do I need to re-apply a F-1 visa? My I-20 is still valid.
A
If your visa has expired you will definitely need a new visa to return to the US. (2004-03-11 15:25)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
I got a second I-20 after obtaining a F-1 visa. Do I need to re-apply a visa if I choose to go to the new school?
A
No. The only time that the name of the school on both your visa and I-20 has to match is on your initial entry to the U.S. After that, as long as your visa is valid, you can present the I-20 from your new school at the port of entry. You will not need a new visa simply because the names of the schools differ. (2004-03-11 15:27)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
If I transfer school after arriving U.S., do I need to come back to apply a new visa?
A
No, you can transfer from one school to another while remaining in the US. But you must report to the school for which you were headed at the time you were issued the visa and entered the US before simply showing up at a different school. (2004-03-11 15:28)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
If I cannot finish my study in time, will I be able to extend my stay in the U.S.? If yes, how much longer can I extend?
A
The amount of time you are permitted to remain in the US is reflected on the I-94, the card you are given by the officers at the Port of Entry. For students they are often admitted for 'duration of status'. That is as long are you are a full time student, you can stay, even if you change programs or it takes longer than you expect. If you are given a specific time limit, you can apply to the immigration service to extend that stay. (2004-03-11 15:31)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
Whom should I ask questions if I have visa/status problems after arriving U.S.?
A
International student advisors at most schools are an excellent source of information on student visas. I also recommend the following websites for updates on visa-related legislation and procedures: http://educationusa.state.gov and http://www.ait.org.tw/en/visa/niv/Student_menu.asp (2004-03-11 15:31)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
During my stay in the U.S., do I need to re-apply a new visa if my F-1 visa expires? Where can I renew my visa in the U.S.?
A
The amount of time you are permitted to remain in the US is reflected on the I-94, the card you are given by the officers at the Port of Entry. For students they are often admitted for 'duration of status'. That is as long are you are a full time student, you can stay, even if you change programs or it takes longer than you expect. If you are given a specific time limit, you can apply to the immigration service to extend that stay. If you leave the U.S. and your visa has expired or will soon expire, you will need to apply to renew your visa at AIT. (2004-03-11 15:33)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
I would like to know if there is any other way to make an appointment in addition to the 0204 --- payphone number.
A
Currently, the only way to make an appointment is through the caller pay system. Our appointment system will change at the end of March. Please check our website for the new information. http://www.ait.org.tw/en/visa/niv/Student_menu.asp (2004-03-11 14:32)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
I am a graduate student at Tulane university of Louisiana and going to graduate in August this year. Before my graduation, I will apply for an OPT since August. Everything to me is fine, but the question is regarding to my wife. Now my wife is going to apply for F2 visa because she just resigned her job recently. Can she get F2 visa and enter America in May or June? Do you have any regulation about deadline for entering? She is studying English for TOEFL exam in Taiwan. Her plan is to take a GRE exam in United States and to look for a graduate school. Probably she will go to school in 2005. Can she switch F2 to F1 as a full time student while she is in United States? Thank you so much for answering my questions.
A
Your wife can apply for an F2 visa at any time. She just needs her own I-20 from the institution where you are currently attending. While in F2 status she cannot be a fulltime student, though she may take classes part time. She can apply to adjust status to F1 at a later. Just allow for several months to do so. (2004-03-11 14:33)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
I am going to the United States for my master degree, but I am quite interested to continue my study to get a PHD degree in the future. Because I am an international student (Native Taiwaner), that means the tuition in the States would be very expensive if I am planning to get my master and Phd degree. Therefore, I joined the lottery for green card. I thought it might give me a little chance to save tuition from out-state to in-state. In this way, if I really win the lottery, will it affect my possibility to get the student visa?
A
If you win the visa lottery you obviously wouldn't need a student visa, you would get an immigrant visa and then a 'green card' when you enter the US. If you don't win the lottery, you would certainly need to apply for a student visa to continue your study in the US. Keep in mind, though, that to get a student visa you must demonstrate that you intend to leave the US and return (to Taiwan) at the end of your studies. The fact that you applied for the 'Green Card Lottery' means you may have some explaining to do concerning your ultimate intensions to stay or leave the US. (2004-03-11 14:38)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
I've heard that international students would have one year time for intern or practium after graduation. Does that mean I could stay one year after getting master degree and stay another year after achieving PHD degree? Or I only have one year for intern no matter how many degrees I got from the United States?
A
You can qualify for Optional Practical Training after each degree...up to a maximum of three. (2004-03-11 14:39)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
I will get my I-20 very late due to the departmental consolidation. (I am applying for 2004 Fall Ph. D program.) I will probably get the I-20 in early August, or mid August. May I know if I have to make appointment for student visa interview? How many days will I get my visa?
A
From the time of the visa appointment/interview you can typically expect to receive your visa in 3-6 days. However, during the summer 'rush season' the wait for appointments can back up several weeks. When you have your interview, if there is a concern about time (getting close to when classes start) just make sure you tell the interviewing officer. Also, make sure you have at least tentative plane reservations, as those can get very hard to get at that time of year. (2004-03-11 14:45)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
After getting I-20 and visa, can go to U.S. 30 days before the school start? I already have a tourist visa. Can I go to U.S. earlier?
A
You can enter the U.S. only 30 days prior to starting classes. If you want to go to the U.S. beforehand, you may enter on a tourist visa, but you will need to explain your intention to adjust status to the immigration officer at the port of entry. After entering the U.S., you will then need to apply for CHANGE OF STATUS to that of "F-1 student" at your local DHS office. To change status from B1-B2, to F-1, you will need to fill out DHS Form I-539, Application for Change of Non-Immigrant Status, and you will need to pay a fee of $140.00. At that time, you will also need to submit form I-20 A-B or I-20 M-N and the required financial evidence. (2004-03-11 14:40)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
The rule from AIT said that international students only can enter the States 90 days before the beginning of semester. Could I enter the States earlier than 90 days for settleing down, getting used to the environment, or joining the summer session for the further study?
A
You can see the response to a similar question. You can enter the U.S. only 30 days prior to starting classes. If you want to go to the U.S. beforehand, you may enter on a tourist visa, but you will need to explain your intention to adjust status to the immigration officer at the port of entry. After entering the U.S., you will then need to apply for CHANGE OF STATUS to that of 'F-1 student' at your local DHS office. To change status from B1-B2, to F-1, you will need to fill out DHS Form I-539, Application for Change of Non-Immigrant Status, and you will need to pay a fee of $140.00. At that time, you will also need to submit form I-20 A-B or I-20 M-N and the required financial evidence. (2004-03-11 14:41)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
I have applied conditional admission to three universities. I got one I-20 from one school. I plan to go to U.S. and study language school this April. If I get I-20's from other two schools, do I just go to the new school directly, or do I need to come back and re-apply a U.S. visa. I plan to come back to Taiwan in the summer. Please tell me what I should do. Thanks!
A
The only time that the name of the school on your visa and the name of the school on the I-20 need to have the same name is on your FIRST entry into the U.S. Therefore, you will apply for your student visa using the I-20 from the FIRST school you plan to attend, in this case, the language school. AIT will then issue you an F-1 Student Visa with the name of the language school listed on the annotation. After being accepted by the college/university you plan to attend in the fall, you will receive an I-20 showing that you have been accepted for study in the fall semester. After you receive your new I-20 from your university this summer, you can use the original visa to re-enter the U.S. in the fall. Simply show the immigration officer your new I-20 when you enter the U.S. There is no need to get a new visa. (2004-03-11 14:47)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
If I do not have work experience, may I leave it blank on the form?
A
Just write 'no experience.' (2004-03-11 14:49)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
How do I provide continual financial proof? A bank statement?
A
Your I-20 will say how much money the school says you will need. The rule is that you have to show us, up front, that you have enough money to cover your first year's expenses. You also have to give us some indication of how you will pay for onward year expenses. So a bank statement showing that you have your first year's money is a help. But the interviewing officer may want to know where that money came from and, if it is only enough for the first year, what you will do for money in future years. If you get financial aid from the school or support from other people, that needs to be shown and documented. (2004-03-11 14:49)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
I've worked before but am not employed right now. Will it affect my visa application?
A
Not necessarily. It will affect how you show us you will pay for your education. It may affect the consular officer's questions relating to your intentions to return to Taiwan after completing your course of study. (2004-03-11 14:52)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
How long will it take to get a student visa?
A
Depending when you apply, it may take a few days to make an appointment for an interview. From the time of the appointment it typically takes 3-6 days to get your visa. (2004-03-11 14:55)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
I am in a U.S. high school now and will apply for college soon. My F-1 visa will be expired on October 8, 2004. Due to Taiwan's compulsory military service, I will not return to Taiwan to get a new visa. Will it affect my study in the U.S.? Does it violate any U.S. rules for immigration/aliens?
A
As long as you are in continuing student status, you can stay in the U.S. on your F-1 visa. However, you will not be able to leave the U.S. and re-enter the country on that visa after it expires. Once you leave the U.S., you will be required to return to AIT to renew your student visa, bringing with you evidence that you remained in student status continually during your entire prior stay in the U.S. U.S. visas are not to be used as a means to avoid military service. (2004-03-11 14:56)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
If I am applying a two-year community college, will it be difficult to get a student visa? Or you will issue student visa if there is I-20?
A
We issue many visas to students going to attend community college. The basic requirements are no different from any other school. (2004-03-11 14:57)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
Do I also need a student visa to go to the summer programs of the university I intended to study?
A
It depends on the nature of the program. You should ask the school whether they issue I-20's for students who attend that program alone. If so, you should get the I-20 and enter on the F-1 for that program first. (2004-03-11 14:59)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
If I get my I-20 very late, do I have other alternatives to go to U.S.?
A
We cannot issue a student visa without a valid I-20. If your I-20 arrives late, make an appointment as early as possible for your interview. We will do our best to process your application as quickly as possible to enable you to arrive in the U.S. in time for classes. If you haven't received your I-20 two to three weeks prior to starting classes, please contact the university to check on the status of your I-20. (2004-03-11 14:59)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
I want to visit U.S. first before I decide which school I want to go. Can I enter U.S. with tourist visa, then change to F-1 visa?
A
Yes, but you should declare when you apply for the tourist (B-2) visa and again when you enter the US, that this is your intention. See several questions above to see how you can adjust your status to student after you enter the US. (2004-03-11 15:01)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
Can you define 'full time' student (in order to apply a student visa)? Some schools offer flexible programs, like evening courses, and day courses. Can F-1 visa holders take these courses (more than 18 hours/week)?
A
Undergraduate F-1 holders must take at least 12 credit hours during Fall and Spring Semesters. Graduate students must take at least 8 credit hours during fall and spring semesters unless they are doing a teaching assistantship in which case they can register for just 6 hours. If your school offers a flexible program, feel free to take advantage of it as long as you stay above the required number of credit hours. (2004-03-11 15:02)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
Can F-2 spouses work in the U.S.?
A
Essentially no, F-2 spouses cannot work. (2004-03-11 15:24)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
Where can we get the guidelines for student conduct or other considerations about studying in the U.S.?
A
Each school typically has a 'code of conduct' for students attending that school. It can vary enormously between schools. Most schools have this information available on line. You should definitely check it out as part of your research to see whether the school is a good 'fit' for what you want from your education. (2004-03-11 15:04)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
Can you tell me if there are less Taiwanese students studying in the U.S. because of your new tough visa policies and procedures? The graduate programs in the U.S. are more expensive and longer than the programs in the U.K. and I heard that it is also much more complicated to get a student visa.
A
There have been fewer applicants for US visas from Taiwan in the past few years, but how much of this is due to perceptions about the 'tough visa policies' and how much has to do with the soft Taiwan economy, the relative cost of education, the increased education options in Taiwan, etc. it is very difficult to sort out the factors. The numbers of applications seems to be trending upward this year. But the while the perception is that it is tougher to get a US visa, for 99% of applicants from Taiwan it is really not much different now than several years ago. (2004-03-11 15:07)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
I heard that it is much harder and more expensive to get a U.S. student visa versus Britain, Canada or Australia. Is this true?
A
The cost of a student visa for all countries is roughly the same. I cannot say whether it is 'harder' to get a student visa to study in the U.S. because each applicant is unique. However, I can tell you that the majority of Taiwan students (over 95%) applying for U.S. student visas are approved. Once you receive your student visa, it is valid for 5 years as long as you are a continuing in student status. (2004-03-11 15:08)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
I got wrong information from the toll telephone service. I paid an extra NT$3,600 visa fee and want to know where I can get a refund?
A
You can write a letter to AIT explaining the circumstances and we will see whether or not it is appropriate to authorize a refund. (2004-03-11 15:08)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
My family will not travel to the U.S. until one year after I start school, should I apply for their visa now?
A
No, you should wait to apply for their visas until they are ready to join you in the U.S. Please contact your school to inform them that your family will be joining you. The school will have to issue I-20s to each of your family members in order for them to obtain visas. (2004-03-11 15:11)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
Can I have the part-time job, if I use student visa?
A
Generally on-campus work/study at the school is not a problem. If you want to work off campus, you usually can work up to 20 hours a week WITH PERMISSION OF THE SCHOOL! (2004-03-11 15:13)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
After 911, does it take longer time to get a student visa?
A
If you have the I-20 from the school and the school has correctly entered the information into the SEVIS system, it shouldn't take any longer to actually get the visa from AIT than it did prior to 9/11. (2004-03-11 15:14)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
Three years ago I applied a F-1 visa. It is valid until 2006. I also have a tourist visa. Now I plan to study in the U.S. again, do I need to apply a new student visa?
A
You will not need a new visa, however, you will need a new I-20 from the school that you now plan to attend. When you enter the U.S., you will need to show the new I-20 to the immigration officer. You cannot enter the U.S. on your student visa until 30 days prior start date listed on your I-20. I would also recommend bringing transcripts from your first school with you in case you are ever asked to prove that you were in student status during the entire period that you first used the student visa. (2004-03-11 15:15)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
Due to my ignorance , I apply for US Visa during a job shift, that is, a time window between my previous job and next job, I consider a good timing for a escape trip to US, and see my families there. As a result, the immigration officer thinks I am quitting my job to go for my families, and never come back. I can understand the rational, but I am not a skilled applier, I made stupid mistakes. This month I get an admission from California State University, Fresno. They are granting me I-20. The only thing I worry about is my rejection record. Please be understanding and help me out.
A
You do not say when this all took place. You should be as honest as possible with the interviewing officer. Do not attempt to hide your previous rejection. You will have to explain it. The bottom line is that each time you apply the officer considers your situation AT THAT TIME. When you apply for an F-1 to go to Fresno, you will have to explain why you intend to return to Taiwan and not remain in the US. (2004-03-11 15:11)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
What could be the reasons for visa denial after I provide all the documents you need?
A
Every individual case is different, so I can only speak in general terms. The two most common problems are money and 'ties'. That is the interviewing officer is not satisfied that the applicant has sufficient funds for the education program or that the officer is not convinced that the applicant will leave the US after completing the education program. See our website at http://ait.org.tw/en/visa/niv/Student_menu.asp for more info. (2004-03-11 15:18)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
what's visa lottery??
A
The diversity lottery is a lottery for immigrant visas. All diversity lottery applicants must have at least a high school diploma. Please see the following website for information: visa.http://travel.state.gov/dv2005.html (2004-03-11 15:18)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
I have a question about the DS-156 form: item 24: 'What address will you stay in the U.S.?' If now I am not sure, what should I fill out? Can't I get the visa before I know where I will live in the U.S.?
A
You can list the address of the university. (2004-03-11 15:19)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
If I get a I-20, does it mean I could get student visa? What factors might effect me not to get a student visa?
A
An I-20 does not guarantee visa issuance. Please see Mr. Powell's response to the question about visa refusals above. (2004-03-11 15:20)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
I could enter States 30 days prior starting classes. If my class will be started at 6/2, does it mean that I can enter States on 5/2?
A
As May has 31 days, you could enter on May 3. (2004-03-11 15:21)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
If I want to go to the summer school,is it also need the student visa?
A
It depends on the program you plan to attend. For the most part, academic summer school programs require a valid I-20 and an F-1 student visa. (2004-03-11 15:22)
 
Host: (Mr. Powell)
Q
School asks, 'financial statements must be notarized.' Does AIT have this service? What is the procedure?
A
AIT's American Citizen Services Unit is able to notarize documents as true copies of the original. See AIT's website for details concerning operating hours and costs. (2004-03-11 15:22)
 
Host: (Mrs. Brunette-Chen)
Q
Can F-2 dependents (children) study in the U.S.?
A
F-2 dependent children in grades kindergarten through 12th grade can study in the U.S. at public or private schools as long as you, the principal applicant, remain in valid, F-1 student status. F-2 spouses, however, are not allowed to enroll in full-time study in the U.S. (2004-03-11 15:24)


End of Chat


 

 

Host: (Mr. Powell)

I appreciate this chance to answer some of your quetions about studying in the US. Do check out the information on our websites. Keep in mind that while the process can seem intimidating, thousands and thousands of students from Taiwan successfully get their visas and go to the US every year. The US has colleges that can provide a great education to just about everyone. I hope you will find one that fits you.

 

Host: (Ms. Brunette-Chen)

Thank you for participating in the discussion this afternoon. We look forward to meeting you when you apply for your student visa. Best wishes as you prepare to study in the U.S.