There are several steps to obtain a student visa to study in the United States. Recently, VOA Learning English spoke with Megan Mankerian-Stem to find out how to improve your chances of passing the process.
Mankerian-Stem is the Director of International Relations Registration at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
She worked at Midwestern University for six years and advised international students for over 10 years. She has many stories of her students’ success in the United States
But, she also knows the difficulties that international students face before they even get to their first university course. Over the past two years, some of the usual issues have increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For example, many US embassies around the world are way behind on visas. interviews. In Abuja, Nigeria, it will take 150 days for a student visa interview.
Three types of student visa
Mankerian-Stem said students often wait too long to to apply for the F-1 student visa. The F-1 visa is one of three visas that allow students to come to the United States. The others are J and M visas, but these are not for students coming for a long-term university study program. Visas with the letter M are for vocational training, and visas with the letter J are for short-term academic exchange programs.
Mankerian-Stem said she recently spoke with a student from South Korea who wanted to come to Creighton. The student, however, had not yet program a visa interview in Seoul.
The wait time right now for an interview there, she said, is over four weeks. Creighton’s school year starts in less than a month.
“So I had to say there was no way to get you here in time to pass your classes.”
Do not be too long
Mankerian-Stem said students need to start the visa process early. “You cannot afford to delay or postpone in any way,” she said. She also advised students to work with the Education USA office in their home country and attend events where they can learn about the visa and college application process.
Most students planning to come to school in the United States today are unlikely to be able to start school until 2023.
Mankerian-Stem also said there are times when a student who has been accepted to study in the US and gets a visa interview is rejected by the US State Department.
Here are some of the most common reasons why students are rejected:
They have not taken an English test such as TOEFL, IELTS or the Duolingo English test; they come from a country with a high number of fraudulent apps; they say they have family members living in the United States; they say they want to work in the United States once they finish their studies.
Students from countries such as Bangladesh, Ghana, Nepal and Nigeria, she said, may be at risk of rejection. This is because others before them used false information in their applications.
Mankerian-Stem said visas are in place so students can come to the United States for an academic program and then return home immediately. If a visa officer thinks a student may be trying to stay longer than permitted, the student may be rejected.
This can be a problem for students who want to get involved in the US government program called Optional Practical Training, or OPT. The OPT allows students to stay in the United States and work in their field of study for at least one year and possibly three after graduation.
Practice, practice, practice
Mankerian-Stem said she wants her students to have good answers ready in their interviews. It offers students the opportunity to practice and talk with other international students who can advise them.
“That way they’re not surprised by these types of questions and they can be honest, but also be very clear about what their intentions are.”
Still work to do
Mankerian-Stem said officers like her work hard to tell the US State Department why students shouldn’t be turned away. For example, she noted that some schools may waive the student’s English test requirement if the student has taken most of their classes in English or taken other tests that show their English skills.
“There are so many other ways a student can prove their English language to us,” she said.
She also noted that international student advisers tell student visa reviewers that programs, such as the OPT, are important. Students must be able to speak openly about their interest in the OPT during visa interviews without fear of rejection.
She said she and others were speaking with Education USA to make that point to other members of the State Department.
It should be noted that countries with large numbers of students accepted into US study programs will often have special F-1 days. For example, the Financial Express Bangladeshi newspaper recently reported that the US Embassy sometimes holds a “Super Friday”. On these days, embassy employees try to help hundreds of students who need a visa to start their studies. The latest is July 29.
I am Dan Friedell.
Dan Friedell wrote this story for VOA Learning English.
words in this story
to register – v. officially join a group or organization like a school or university
interview -not. a meeting in which some give information about themselves
to apply -v. formally request in writing to be admitted to a school, or to obtain a job or a loan
program -v. plan an activity or event for a certain time
postpone – v. being slow or late in doing something you should be doing
fraudulent – adj. made to deceive someone in order to obtain something valuable
practice – v. do something over and over again to improve
intention – nm a purpose or purpose for doing something
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