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International Exchange

American VISAs 101

3 September 2019

This post details the procedure for this particular student’s case and is not advice from a qualified visa advisor, this post is not considered to be a statement of responsibility on the part of the student or University. Visa and immigration rules change frequently and should be checked regularly, the advice in this post is not a substitute for official immigration instructions available on USA Government webpages. Each student is personally responsible for obtaining and maintaining their immigration status during the placement abroad. For further questions on the process of application, you will need to contact the appropriate USA Embassy or USA Immigration office directly.

So you’ve been offered a place to study abroad in America! That’s great, but once the excitement has worn off you may start to worry about getting an American VISA. That’s why I’m going to explain the process that I went through to get my VISA to hopefully make the process a little less stressful for you!

There are quite a few steps involved in obtaining your US VISA (and a bit of money involved too) so try not to get too overwhelmed when I explain the process!

The first of these steps is to make sure you fill out any paperwork sent to you by your host institution promptly to ensure you get your DS-2019 form quickly! Once you have this form you will then be able to get on with the VISA process.

As an exchange student, the VISA you will be applying for will be the J1 VISA. In order to do so, you’ve now got to spend a bit of money. The first being a SEVIS fee (this is going to Homeland Security) and you can find this simply by googling. Make sure you get a receipt for this as you will be asked for it multiple times in the coming months, by your host institution, the US Embassy and by border security.

The form you are going to submit is the DS-160, this form is going to ask you for a photograph too which will eventually be used on your J1 VISA.

Now once those two are complete you can finally schedule your VISA interview! (YAY) You’re also going to have to pay for this too but this includes the fee for your VISA itself. My advice is to schedule your interview as far in advance of when you intend to leave for the US as possible, it makes the process slightly less stressful if you’re not panicked that your VISA won’t arrive in time!

Now for the actual interview. The interview will be held at the US Embassy in Vauxhall, London (a ten minute walk from Vauxhall station) so if you don’t live in close proximity to London then make sure you have reliable transport organised and possibly a hotel for the night before if you do live a distance away! On the day I had my interview South Western Railway decided to strike, luckily I live on the outskirts of London so my mum drove me to the nearest tube station instead of our local station. Due to this, I left lots of time to get to the Embassy just in case any other transport failed me. If like me you arrive really early, I would recommend locating the entrance to the embassy (it’s kind of round the side) as you won’t be able to enter until your appointment time, along with lots of other people (so you want to make sure you’re one of the first people in the line – otherwise you’ll be in for a long wait inside)!

Once inside, you will go through security, be given a number and be directed to a large waiting room. This is where your documents will be checked and your interview will be conducted. Be prepared for questions about where you’re going, what you’re studying and how you’re intending to pay your way once you’re in America. After this, they will let you know if your VISA application has been successful. If so, they will keep your passport in order to issue your VISA – this will be sent back to you within a given timeframe.

So there you have it, that is the process for obtaining your VISA to study in America! If you have any questions about the process please feel free to comment them or get in touch with me as I’d be happy to answer them!