As told by US Education Foundation in India (USEFI) Educational Advisors
in Visa presentation Seminar
(and my personal opinions formed thereof)
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Visa issuance is a very objective decision, and is not subjective: Every visa official has a list of requirements (s)he looks for in a visa application. If they are met, then (s)he issues the visa. If not, (s)he doesn't. It is how these requirements are met that makes a visa decision seem subjective. For instance, take the requirement of showing that you will return to India. If you provide unambiguous pragmatic evidence pointing to reasons for return, he will have no reason not to grant a visa. US Visa Official Quote: "Give a rational, objective reason that even a banker would believe". If, on the other hand, you only play with words and have nothing substantial to show, it looks like a subjective decision, since it is based upon subjective evidence.
Proper documents are only half the story: Visa officials know that documents in India can be easily forged. So what is on paper is not enough. What you say, how you say it, matters a lot. Sometimes it can even make up for inadequate documentation. US Visa Official Quote: "Some people complain that we did not see their documents. Remember, if we go through your documents when you are standing there, then that is a negative sign. It means we don't believe you and are checking the documents for proof or for grounds to reject you. So not seeing your documents in front of you is a good thing for you."
Success Rates of Visa Issuance (overall) is 60 % .i.e. 60% of all applicants, across all categories, are issued visas. 40 % are rejected. Success Rates of specific visas:
- US Visa official Quote: "People who are between 18 and 37 and single attract our attention".
How to increase your chances of Success
Legitimate Student: Show that you have a coherent plan of study. e.g. B.A. English in undergrad in India then MS in Computer Science in US is not a coherent plan. B.E. Electronics & Communications then M S (Telecommunications) is very clearly coherent. Also, try linking the plan of study to India. There should be a connection between past study and future plan.
Reputation of School: The better the ranking of the school that you finally choose, the higher your chances of getting a visa. Visa officials have actually been quoted saying that they never cancelled the visa application of a Harvard or Stanford student (they don't even look at anything else if he has a Harvard offer). Of course, everybody doesn't get Harvard, but then if you choose an obscure university, your chances of a visa decrease correspondingly, as suspicion about your choice rises. The official thinks "he's going there only to get to the US, there are better univs than this in India".
Exclusiveness of course: If the course chosen is not offered in India, then it is a positive sign - as long as you can still show that it is logically related to your past studies. So you can't choose Evangelism after a BSc Chem and then say "it's not offered in India". Well, actually, you can but you have to show compelling reason why you want that subject.
Evidence of having researched all options: Show all schools that you chose (say, printouts of websites, photostats of brochures), show clearly which ones you short listed and why, which ones you got offers from, which ones you chose and why. Basically, show yourself as a thorough student.
Proper documentation of previous study: Have original copies of Board certificates, college degrees, diplomas, extra courses (like NIIT) etc. Also have original results of GRE, A-GRE TOEFL, TSE and other standardized tests handy.
Show proof of networking (if any) with professors: If you have emailed (or written to) professors, have copies of the mails ready to show, to establish seriousness of intent to study and to show that you consider your education as an investment.
Multiple Offers: If you have received offers from many universities, show that. Especially if you have a scholarship offer from a lower ranked university and are still going to a higher one, then attach proof of this with your application.
Covering Letter: Prepare a covering letter which covers all these points and all the supporting documentation.
Be Systematic: Carry a folder with the covering letter and all these papers in order, so that (a) you don't fumble around in front of the counter window looking for the right papers (b) you look systematic and thorough.
Financial aid offer from a university really impresses the officer. This shows that they really want you. In fact, even if your visa is rejected once, if you can get a letter from the college Director of Admissions addressed to the embassy saying they want you, this increases your chances.
Assitanceships (RA/TA) offers are also good signs.
Visa for Ph.D. simplest, Masters slightly tougher, Bachelors toughest.
Self Funded: If very good school, no problem. If average to poor school, see "How to increase chances of success" above.
Ask a CA to prepare a consolidated finance statement for you. This should contain all your
current assets and sources of finance. A must for self-finance students.
All documents should look realistic. They should be in original only. Photostats will not do.
If you have a US based sponsor, know him: what is your relation to him, how many children he has, where he works, when he went. This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for potential sponsored visa applicants.
Sources of Funding - in order of preference (higher to lower):
University based funding, Self Funding, Loan from India, Parent Funding, Next-to-immediate relative (in India) funding (say Chacha, Mama), US Relative sponsor, US Family Friend sponsor, Loan from US.
- If you take a loan (from a bank or relative), then how you will repay must be answered satisfactorily. Tougher if sponsor in the US. Saying "I won't repay US sponsor" is tougher to convince.
- Types of Funding Proofs - in order of preference (higher to lower):
Bank Fixed Deposit (FD), Bank Account (Savings, Current etc), Gold, Jewelery, policies (like LIC, PPF), shares, company FD, Property.
- They generally prefer funds that (a) are more liquid i.e. easily accessible (not true with property) (b) do not lose value on conversion to cash (c) do not fluctuate in value with time. Those near the beginning of the list satisfy all three criteria. As you move further on, each is satisfied to a lesser extent.
- In case you have an FD, duration of the FD is important. An FD for 1 - 2 days is not useful. Sometimes they may ask for a passbook to see how long you've had the FD (if you seem suspicious).
- If a non-immediate relative is sponsoring you, then attach a letter giving "compelling reasons" why that relative is doing so.
- Finally, a US Official Quote: "How concerned are we where money is coming from ? Not too much. We're more concerned if the 2nd cousin in US gives you money for no reason".
- Another Quote: "A family does not use all its liquid assets to sponsor a child (esp(s)he is not the only one. It should make economic sense"
- "How to increase your chances" and "Financial Documentation"
sections are useful in case you are a counter 2 / 3 person.
- Most frequently asked questions at counter 2 / 3:
- Don't go on the day after a US holiday. There is a lot of rush that day from people who missed out the day before. Try one day before or after.
- Will you come back ? Why ?
- Where are you getting the money to pay for your education ?
- You're in computers (or going for a course in computers). Why will you come back ?
- You cannot apply for a US F1 visa more than 90 days before the day your course is beginning. This date is mentioned on your I-20 form.
- You must take some photocopies of your I-20 and get them attested from a gazzeted officer before getting your visa. These photocopies is required later when you need foreign exchange. After getting the visa, the visa authorities seal your I-20 in an envelope and you are not allowed to open it.
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Last Updated July 10, 1999
DISCLAIMER: The above narration is based on the visa seminar at the USEFI and my personal opinions. This description is meant solely to clear certain doubts about the F1 visa issuance process in Indian embassies and high commissions, and not as an authoritative discourse. I am not responsible for any loss or damage caused as a result of action taken based upon any fact given here.