After you have successfully cleared all the required examinations for pursuing your education in the US and have received the I-20 form (“Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”) from the institute, the next important step is to select the relevant visa for your course. There are three types of student visas that are permitted by the United States Department of Homeland Security namely, F Visa, M Visa, and the J Visa. Read more in the image below.
COVID impact on US student visa applications
With lots of uncertainty prevailing across nations about the immigration of workforce and residents, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement department has permitted American Universities to electronically share the I-20 form with students.
If you are a minor student (age less than 18 years) then your Form I-20 will be shared on the email address of your parents or a legal guardian. The emailed Form I-20 will now be considered official for the purpose of applying for the visa by the US embassy. It also means, currently, you need not pay shipping fees until further notice.
An electronically received I-20 can be
- A scanned version of a physically signed form I-20, or
- A digitally signed form I-20 that includes a digitally reproduced copy having a physical signature
- A digitally signed form I-20 using electronic signature software
You can also pay your I-901 fees so that when the embassies reopen, you will get the visa appointment at the earliest.
“The Department of Homeland Security has announced its plan for temporary modifications to F-1 and M-1 non-immigrant visa requirements for the fall 2020 semester. This will allow a mixture of both in-person and some online coursework to meet the requirements for nonimmigrant student status. This temporary accommodation provides greater flexibility for nonimmigrant students to continue their education in the United States, while also allowing for proper social distancing on open and operating campuses across America.”
-Statement by the US State Department
“Fixed time period” conundrum
You might be aware of the difficulties in getting the visa extension after completing your graduation. The new rule will make it even difficult for you to prolong your stay. To understand this let us discuss the changes in more detail.
Under current visa rules, international students are admitted into the US for the period of time that they are complying with the terms and conditions of their nonimmigrant category.
New proposed policy – The Department of Homeland Security is proposing changes to visas which would see academic students (F) and exchange visitors (J) admitted into the US for a “fixed time period”.
This fixed time period for your student visa can be two years or four years depending on the origin country of the student. Students from countries on the State Sponsor of Terrorism List or from those with a student visa overstay rate of more than 10% could be limited to studying in the US for just two years.
Not a welcoming policy change
This new policy proposal has actively been criticized by many laureates of the education industry across countries.
How does this change impact your US student visa?
India and China comprise a lion’s share of foreign students in the US. While the US is home to some 202,000 Indian students, there are almost 369,000 Chinese students pursuing education in US institutions, according to US government data.
Detailed implementation guidelines on the visa rule changes are yet to be publicly notified but it has triggered widespread concern among parents and their wards studying in the US.
According to the US government, this step is towards strengthening the system to make sure only legitimate students friendly to the USA come to the country’s universities. For you, it means that your candidature for the US visa will be evaluated more critically before offering admission to the universities.
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If you are aspiring to pursue higher education in the US or Canada, or if you are looking for scholarship opportunities then you can refer US/Canada grants to make the most out of the opportunities offered to you for bagging a scholarship.