Bridgetown U.S. Embassy’s “Ask the Consul” series – Student Visa Requirements
- Where can I find information about studying in the United States?
More than 690,000 international students studied in the United States during the 2009-2010 academic year – a record high — and U.S. officials would like to see that number increase. A great resource for those considering study in the United States is the EducationUSA (http://www.educationusa.info/) website, which provides a wealth of information on types of programs (undergraduate, graduate, specialized professional study, opportunities for scholars, short-term study), the admissions process, financial aid, standardized tests, and tips on choosing an educational institution. The website also provides information on the more than 400 EducationUSA Advising Centers worldwide, including in the Eastern Caribbean, that actively promote U.S. higher education by offering accurate, unbiased, comprehensive, objective and timely information about educational institutions in the United States and guidance on how best to access those opportunities.
- What type of visa do I need to study in the United States?
Most individuals desiring to study in the United States need an F-1 visa, which covers the majority of individuals who want to study in the U.S. Other visa types that permit individuals to study in the U.S. are the M-1 visa for those engaged in non-academic study or vocational training and the J-1 visa for people participating in educational and cultural exchange programs.
In order to apply for these types of visas, you must first have a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) compatible form (either an I-20 or a DS-2019) issued by the U.S. college, university, or organization. The institution will provide you with the form after you have been accepted to the school or program. Next, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee online at www.fmjfee.com, complete the DS-160 Non-immigrant Visa application online, and then make an appointment for your visa interview. Bring your SEVIS receipt or I-901 Fee Confirmation sheet to the Embassy at the time of your interview. Once you have these two required documents (I-20 or DS-2019 and I-901 Fee Confirmation sheet) you may apply for the visa, even if you do not intend to begin your study or exchange program for several months. Applying early will help you enroll in school on time while also allowing sufficient time for visa processing.
You should make sure that you have all the required documentation for the interview. For more information about what to bring please visit our student/visitor section of our website http://barbados.usembassy.gov/visa-student_exchange.html.
- My school just sent me the I-20 and I am due to begin school soon. Can I get an expedited appointment?
Expedited appointments are usually not needed and are provided on a case by case basis. Before contacting the Embassy, the applicant should try to schedule an appointment online following the instructions found on the Embassy’s website at http://barbados.usembassy.gov/non-immigrant_visas.html. A special appointment calendar was created especially for students, exchange visitors and workers, so you should try to obtain an appointment on the FIRST calendar that appears in the drop-down box after you select “Barbados” for your country of interview. If no appointment is available prior to the date the applicant must travel, you may either call the NIV appointment hotline at (246) 227-4000 (Monday-Friday 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.), send a fax to (246) 431-0179, or e-mail BridgetownNIV@state.gov to request an emergency appointment. A representative will respond to you know if an expedited appointment is warranted.
- Can I have more than one non-immigrant visa at a time? If I apply for a student visa, do I have to cancel my B1/B2 visa?
Non-immigrant visas are issued depending on the purpose of travel – for things like study, business, tourism or temporary work. An individual may have more than one type of non-immigrant visa valid at one time.
The most frequently issued non-immigrant visa class – a B1/B2 visa – entitles the holder to visit the U.S. for the purposes of tourism or business. However, this type of visa does not allow the visa holder to study in the United States. If someone who has a B1/B2 visa wants to study in the U.S., they will need to depart the U.S. and apply for an F-1, J-1 or M-1 visa. When such a person applies for the student visa, their tourist visa is not cancelled.