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The Golden Ticket

“Mother! Look! I’ve got it! Look, Mother, look! The last Golden Ticket! It’s mine!” - Charlie, from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ Just as Charlie needed the sought-after golden ticket to enter the chocolate factory, one who wants to study in the United States needs a student visa to enter ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave…[play ball!]’ What is a student visa and how does it differ from other kinds of visas, such as a tourist visa? There are two types of U.S. visas - the immigrant visa and the non-immigrant visa. A student visa falls under the category of ‘non-immigrant,’ meaning one is temporarily staying in the United States in order to pursue one’s studies. How then does it differ from the usual ‘tourist visa’? By having a ‘tourist visa,’ the holder is assumed to be in the United States for the purpose of sightseeing and visiting family and/or friends. Someone who holds this type of visa can not do other activities inconsistent with being a visitor, such as working or studying. Meaning, a trip to Disneyland is perfectly fine - but getting a job dressing up like Mickey Mouse is a no-no. However, one can change his status if he qualifies. There are three different types of student visas : F, M and J. Check out which one applies to you.

1. F-Visa - this visa is applicable for individuals who have already been accepted into study or research programs in U.S. colleges or universities Benefits of an F-Visa (*taken from VisaProm) A. You can enter the U.S. as a fulltime academic or language student B. You can legally work part-time on-campus. You may also work off-campus if necessary C. You are eligible to take up employment as a part of your optional practical training D. You can travel in and out of the U.S. or remain in the U.S. till the completion of your studies E. You can bring your dependents (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) to live with you in the U.S. F. F1 visas are issued quickly Requirements for an F-Visa : (*taken from VisaProm) A. You have successfully completed a course of study normally required for enrollment B. You have been accepted for a full course of study by an educational institution approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The institution must send you a USCIS Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant F-1 Student Status for Academic and Language Students C. You are sufficiently proficient in English to pursue the intended course of study, or the school you intend to attend has made special arrangements to teach you the English language or conduct the course in your native language Note: You may be exempt from this requirement if you intend to come to the U.S. to participate exclusively in an English language-training program D. You have sufficient funds to cover the first year of study, and access to sufficient funds to cover subsequent years E. You have a permanent residence in your home country, which you do not intend to abandon F. You intend to depart the U.S. upon completion of the course of study. You may establish this by presenting evidence of economic, social and/or family ties in your homeland sufficient to induce you to leave the U.S. upon completion of studies G. Your proposed education in the U.S. would be useful in your homeland, and therefore induce you to leave the U.S. upon completion of studies ~ * ~

2. M-Visa - applicable for individuals who have been accepted in programs in non-academic U.S. institutions Benefits of an M-Visa (*taken from VisaProm) A. You can enter the U.S. as a fulltime vocational student B. You can legally work part-time on campus. You may also work off campus if necessary (with prior approval from the USCIS) C. You can freely travel in and out of the U.S. while on a valid visa D. Your dependents can live with you as long as you maintain your M1 status E. M1 visas are issued quickly Requirements for an M-Visa : (*taken from VisaProm) A. You have successfully completed a course of study normally required for enrollment B. You have been accepted for a full course of study by a vocational institution approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The institution must send you a Form I-20M-N, certificate of eligibility for nonimmigrant (M1) student status for vocational students C. You are sufficiently proficient in English to pursue the intended course of study, or the school you intend to attend has made special arrangements to teach you the English language D. You have sufficient funds to cover the first year of study, and access to sufficient funds to cover subsequent years E. You have a permanent residence in your home country, which you do not intend to abandon F. You intend to depart the U.S. upon completion of the course of study. You may establish this by presenting evidence of economic, social and/or family ties in your homeland sufficient to induce you to leave the U.S. upon completion of studies G. Your proposed education in the U.S. would be useful in your homeland, and therefore induce you to leave the U.S. upon completion of studies ~ * ~

3. J-Visa - particularly for “educational and cultural exchange programs,” these visas are applicable for individuals accepted in programs wherein they are sponsored by organizations through “exchange visitor programs” Benefits of a J-Visa (*taken from VisaProm) A. You can enter the U.S. as an exchange visitor B. Your dependents can stay with you as long as you maintain your J1 status. They can also attend school while on the J-2 dependent visa C. You are exempt from Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax withholdings D. Your dependents are eligible to apply for employment authorization, and may work in the U.S. However, they cannot get work authorization if the money earned is needed to support you Requirements for a J-Visa : (*taken from VisaProm) A. You are sponsored by an organization approved by the Department of State (DOS), and granted authority to issue a Form DS-2019 to prospective J1 applicants B. You have sufficient funds to cover all expenses, or funds must be provided by the sponsoring organization in the form of a scholarship or other stipend C. You have sufficient scholastic preparation to participate in the designated program D. You are sufficiently proficient in English to participate in the designated program, or the sponsoring organization has made special arrangements to teach you the English language or conduct the course in your native language. You may be exempt from this requirement if you intend to come to the U.S. to participate exclusively in an English language training program E. You have a permanent residence in your home country, which you do not intend to abandon F. You intend to depart the U.S. upon completion of the course of study. You may establish this by presenting evidence of economic, social and/or family ties in your homeland sufficient to induce you to leave the U.S. upon completion of studies G. Your proposed education in the U.S. would be useful in your homeland, and therefore induce you to leave the U.S. upon completion of studies If you are coming to the U.S. to receive graduate medical education or training: H. You have passed the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination in Medical Sciences I. The program does not include patient care For more information on being a non-immigrant student in the U.S. and U.S. visas in general, visit : USCIS - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services SEVIS - The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System


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