VISA - The Final Phase

VISA Experiences


After Admits

Once you are done sending your applications by the month of December or at the most January, the long anxious wait for the outcome begins. Admits (or rejects) start flowing in from mid February and can keep coming till the second week of May or sometimes even later.

After you receive the responses of all the universities you had applied to, choose the best possible admit from them (this can especially become tricky if you have to choose between two similarly ranked Universities)

 Tips on finalizing THE university from the admits:

  1. Try to get in touch with some seniors who are currently pursuing their graduation from that university and course. Ask your seniors about pros and cons of the universities you wish to select.
  2. Know about the Job prospects (which is the prime reason you're going there), ranking of the university, weather conditions and location of the city/town (read safety and happening life).
  3. And last but not the least, get in touch with your classmates/batchmates who are joining that university so that you can ‘enjoy’ the higher studies as well.

Along with an ‘admit’ the universities also sends you a form issued on your name called the “I-20 Form”. It is a document issued by the university to the students who have been granted admission and tells the US government that you are eligible for F-1 Student Status. You should receive this via post within 3-4 weeks of receiving the ‘admit’. Only after receiving this I-20 you are eligible to appear for VISA in student’s category (F-1 Visa). If you do not receive it within the stipulated period you must get in touch with the concerned authorities of the university to speed the process of getting it.

NOTE: Some universities require you to send a few documents like Affidavit, Bank Statement, Financial support, etc. for verification only after which the I-20 Form is processed.

 
VISA Procedure

Getting Your Student F1 Visa


Since August 2012, the VISA norms have changed. In the new procedure, students have to book an apointment for the Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC) a.k.a Biometrics (photo + fingerprints) followed by booking an appointment for the VISA interview.   

 Below are the steps one has to follow for applying a Student (F1) VISA. 

Step 1: DS-160 Form
The DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, is a fully integrated online application form that is used to collect the necessary application information from a person seeking a nonimmigrant visa for temporary travel to the United States.You can fill the DS-160 form here: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/

  • Complete DS-160 online application form.
  • Print the DS-160 barcode confirmation sheet at the end of the DS-160 application on a laser printer.
  • After you have printed it, email the confirmation page to yourself so you have a backup copy.

Step 2: Registration at the designated bank/s

  • Visa Application Fee is USD 160  + VFS service charge + Bank charges which makes it a total amount, approx. Rs. 9000/-
  • The amount is payable by cash or DD/Cheque at Axis Bank or Citi Bank.
  • The bank will issue you a visa fee receipt in duplicate which will have a 10 digit barcode number affixed on it. You require this barcode number to schedule your interview appointment. It takes two days for the barcode to get activated.
  • The above fees are not refundable.
  • You must appear for visa interview within 1 year (365 days) from the date you purchased your fee receipt from Axis Bank or Citi Bank.
  • If you do not appear for an interview within one year after the purchase of your fee receipt, it will no longer be valid.

Step 3: SEVIS FEE

  • Pay the SEVIS (Service and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee which is USD 200 on the following link: https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/
  • Please print the SEVIS receipt.

Step 4: VISA Appointment

1. Make your VISA appointment using your barcode and fee receipt.

2. Once you have scheduled your VISA interview date, you need to book an appointment for the OFC atleast a day before the interview. You can use the above link to book the OFC schedule.

Following are the things required while booking the OFC appoinement:

  • Your passport number
  • The date you paid your fee
  • The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page

3. On the OFC day, you need to get:

  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions)
  • Your DS-160 confirmation page
  • Your appointment confirmation page

4. On the VISA interivew day, you need to get

  • A printed copy of your appointment letter
  • Your DS-160 confirmation page, and one photograph taken within the last six months
  • Your current and all old passports, and
  • Original visa fee payment receipt

 
Locations

Consulates and Offsite Faciliation Center (OFC)


Listed below are the important locations that every VISA applicant has to consider during the process. It comprises locations for Banks affiliated to the VISA process, OFC, Consulates and Documents Drop-Off. 

1. Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC):

Monday to Friday – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ;  Sunday – 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

City Branch Address
Mumbai Bandra East, Mumbai - 400051 Trade Center, Gr. Floor, G Block, 
Bandrakurla Complex
Chennai Teynampet, Chennai, Tamil Nadu – 600018 No 3, Cenotaph Road
Hyderabad Begumpet, Secunderabad – 500003 1-8-384/385, Gowra Grand, S.P.Road
Kolkata Kolkata – 700017 Jasmine Tower, 31, Shakespeare Sarani (1st Floor)
New Delhi Nehru Place, New Delhi – 110019 S - 1 American Plaza, (Hotel Eros Managed by Hilton), 
International Trade Tower


2. VISA Consulates across India:

City Consulate Address
Chennai (Madras) 220 Anna Salai, Gemini Circle, 600006
Telephone +91-44-2857-4000
Fax: +91-44-2811-2027
Hyderabad Paigah Palace, 1-8-323, Chiran Fort Lane, Begumpet, Secunderabad 500 003
Telephone: +91-40-4033-8300
Kolkata (Calcutta) 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, 700071
Telephone +91-33-3984-2400
Fax +91-33-2282-2335
Mumbai (Bombay) C-49, G-Block, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra East, Mumbai 400051
Phone: (22) 2672-4000
New Delhi Shanti Path, Chanakya Puri 110021
Telephone +91-11-2419-8000
Fax +91-11-2419-8587

 

3. Documents Drop-Off Locations:

City Hours of Operation Address
Delhi Mon-Fri 10:00a.m.-4:00p.m. S - 1 American Plaza
International Trade Tower Nehru Place
NewDelhi - 110019
Mumbai Mon-Fri 10:00a.m.-4:00p.m. Trade Center Gr. Floor G Block 
Bandrakurla Complex Bandra East
Mumbai - 400051
Chennai Mon-Fri 10:00a.m.-4:00p.m. No 3 Cenotaph Road
Teynampet
Chennai - 600018
Hyderabad Mon-Fri 10:00a.m.-4:00p.m. 502 Gowra Grand S.P.Road
Begumpet Secunderabad
Hyderabad - 500003
Kolkata Mon-Fri 10:00a.m.-4:00p.m. Jasmine Tower 31 
Shakespeare Sarani (1st Floor)
Kolkata - 700017
Chandigarh Mon-Fri 10:00a.m.-4:00p.m. SCO-186-187 Sector 8C
Madhya Marg
Chandigarh
160009
Jalandhar Mon-Fri 10:00a.m.-4:00p.m. 3rd floor The Axis
Near BMC Chowk GT Road
Jalandhar
144001
Ahmedabad Mon-Fri 10:00a.m.-4:00p.m. Gujarat Chambers Building
Shri Ambika Mills Ashram Road
Ahmedabad - 380009
Pune Mon-Fri 10:00a.m.-4:00p.m. 106 Sohrab Hall 1st Floor 
Tadiwala Road Behind Pune Station Jn
Pune - 411001
Bengaluru Mon-Fri 10:00a.m.-4:00p.m. Prestige Atrium 2nd Floor Unit No. 304
No 1 Central Street
Bangalore - 560001
Kochi Mon-Fri 10:00a.m.-4:00p.m. 3C South Point Hinton Chittoor Rd
Nr Kasba Police Station Kacheripady
Ernakulam - 682018

 4. Bank Locations:

Citibank - Branch & Addresses:

City Branch Address
Mumbai Fort, Mumbai Citibank N.A., Bombay Mutual Building, 293, D.N. Road, Fort, Mumbai - 400 001,
Navi Mumbai Vashi, Navi Mumbai Citibank N.A., Mahatma Phule Bhavan, Palm Beach Road Junction, Sector 17, Vashi, Navi Mumbai - 400 705,
Ahmedabad CG Road, Ahmedabad Citibank N.A., Ground Floor, Kalapurnam, Near Municipal Market, CG Road, Ahmedabad - 380 009,
Vadodara Gotri, Vadodara Citibank N.A., Pelican Opp. Race Course Tower, Gotri Road, Vadodara - 390 007,
Surat Ghod Dod Road, Surat Citibank N.A., 14 Adarsh Society, Opp. Kakadia Complex, Ghod Dod Road, Surat - 395 007,
Delhi Connaught Circus, Delhi Citibank N.A., 124, Jeevan Bharati Building, 3rd Floor, Connaught Circus, New Delhi - 110 001,
Gurgaon DLF City, Gurgaon Citibank N.A., Ground Floor, DLF Square, M Block, Jacaranda Marg, DLF City, Phase II, Gurgaon - 122 002,
Bengaluru Jayanagar, Bengaluru Citibank N.A., No. 91, Prestige South End, South End Road, Opposite Surana College, Jayanagar, Bengaluru - 560 004,
Cochin Padma Jn, Cochin Citibank N.A., Ravis Arcade, Door No. 38/1581, M.G. Road, Padma Junction, Kochi - 682 035,
Pune Koregaon Park, Pune Citibank N.A., Ground Floor, Onyx Tower, 37/3 Ghorpadi, Nr. Westin Hotel, North Koregaon Park Main Road, Pune - 411 001,
Ludhiana Feroze Gandhi, Ludhiana Citibank N.A., Ground Floor, Ludhiana Stock Exchange Building, Feroze Gandhi Market, Ludhiana - 141 001,
Chandigarh Madhya Marg, Chandigarh Citibank N.A., Sco-132/133/134, Sector 9C, Madhya Marg, Chandigarh - 160 017
Chennai Anna Salai, Chennai Citibank N.A., 163, Anna Salai, Chennai - 600 002,

and AXIS Bank - Follow the link to figure out the AXIS Bank next to your doorstep Nearest AXIS Bank

 
Visa Interview

Preparing for the Visa Interview


The VISA interview is the final hurdle you'll have to clear before you are well, and truly, on your way. After all the documents you are required to show at the time of the interview, you have to be prepared for the normal drill that the Visa Officer will take you through.Every applicant should take care of the following three things:

The officer will ask about your educational background and plans in order to assess how likely you are to enroll and remain in University until graduation. Be prepared to discuss the reasons you chose a particular University, your anticipated major, and your career plans. Bring school mark sheets, college mark sheets, GRE & TOEFL scores and anything else that demonstrates your academic commitment.
Your chances are improved if your parents are sponsoring your education. If somebody is sponsoring you other than your parents, you should explain your special relationship with this person, who may be committing tens of thousand of dollars to your education.Provide solid evidence of your finances. This will assure the Visa Officer that your sponsor has enough funds till the time you complete Graduation. If your sponsor’s income is from several different source (such as salary, contracts or consulting fees, acres of land, rental property, investments) have the sponsor write a letter listing and documenting each source of income.
Economic Ties: These include your family’s economic position, property you may own and your own economic potential when you come home with a U.S education. The Visa Officer will be impressed to see evidence of your career planning and your knowledge of the local employment scene.

Family & Social Ties: How many close family members live in your home country, compared to those living in the States? What community activities have you participated in that demonstrate a sincere connection to your town or country?Very often, the interview doesn't even last long enough for the Officer to ask you these few questions. As long as you can maintain your composure and come up with straightforward answers to whatever he asks, you should be fine.
 
Mentioned below are some of the basic tips, tricks and myths about VISA Interview. 

Tips, Tricks and Myths Regarding VISA


  1. You can/should get all the I-20s of the admits that you've received and then decide which university you want to go. There is nothing wrong and the VISA Officer won't reject you on this basis.
  2. Book your VISA slot once you've received the I-20 and have confirmed on the final university.
  3. Do not lie to the VISA Officer as s/he has the basic information about you and your family. Be smart and tackle tricky questions.
  4. Prepare well if you've low academics, GRE and TOEFL score. Give reasons which sound sensible. Try to justify those reasons and at also show how you made up for the same.
  5. If you've a year gap post undergrad education and have done absolutely nothing in this period, make sure you've sufficient reasons to tackle their questions.
  6. Focus on the research work of the university that you're going to join.
  7. Always ask for reasons if the VISA Officer rejects you.
  8. A day (preferably 3 weeks) before the intreview, PLEASE check for all the documents required for VISA Interview.
  9. Some say university tag (which is absolutely true) matters a lot, some leverage on GRE, and some might have other reasons. But the best way to ace the VISA process is be CONFIDENT and SMILE (not giggle) constantly.

 
Documents

Documents Required for Visa Interview


VISA Interview is the last step in your long journey to reach the USA. Your documents will speak for you. There can be times during the interview where the Officer may not be too convinced by what you say. It’s the ideal time to show a particular document and win over his trust. Below is the list of documents you are expected to have at the time of the interview. The list is VERY long but it’s always advisable to have all of them.

  1. Copy of interview appointment letter
  2. DS-160 Confirmation Barcode printout
  3. Original, valid Axis or Citi Bank VISA fee receipt (Applicant’s Copy)
  4. Original I-20, approved and signed by you and the University authority
  5. SEVIS Fee Receipt
  6. Passport
  7. Birth Certificate

You must get Provisional Degree Certificates made from the college. If the college does not issue a Provisional Degree Certificate, then you must get a Bonafide certificate made which will indicate that you are a student of this college, you have given the final semester exams and the results for the same are expected in XYZ month/year.

  • Original degree certificates (Bachelors / Masters) / Provisional Degree Certificates
  • Original mark sheets (10th and 12th standard, first year bachelors to date)
  • Provisional marksheet for any pending results
  • Original mark sheets (diploma), original diploma transcripts (stamped and sealed), and original diploma certificate
  • Original Extra- curricular / curricular activity certificates
  • Original scholarship certificates / awards (if any)
  • Original Certificates showing professional courses / examinations done along with marksheets
  • Copies of your research work / project
  • Relevant test scores, e.g. TOEFL and SAT, GRE, GMAT or LSAT in Original.
  • Bonafide certificate from college (if degree is not received )
  • Resume

  • Original Affidavit of Support from Sponsor/s dated 4-5 days before visa interview date.
  • Authentic and Original C.A. statement showing summary of fixed and liquid assets dated 4-5 days before visa interview date.
  • Student should carry original and valuation documents for every item stated in the C.A. statement as proof.
  • Original Evidence of financial resources: Proof of liquid assets sufficient to pay for the entire first year of education and living expenses as well as proof of readily available funds to cover the remaining year(s) of studies, dated 3-4 days before visa interview date. 
    NOTE: The amount should be as per duration of study mentioned in I-20.
  • Original Bank statements of Sponsor(s) for the past six months (savings account) OR Original Passbook/s of sponsor/s (savings account) dated 4-5 days before visa interview date.
  • Original Income tax papers of Sponsor(s) for the last three years from visa interview date
  • Proof of income of sponsor(s) like appointment letter, payslips/salary certificates for past six months from visa interview date (All original)
  • Balance sheet of business of last three years from visa interview date (Original)
  • Original Proof of all liquid assets declared in C.A. Statement including fixed deposits, shares, PPF, investments and so on
  • Original Proof showing amount that can be withdrawn against various liquid assets like shares, LIC Policy, Provident fund etc. (redeemable value), dated 4-5 days before visa interview date.
  • Original Letters from respective authorities on their letterhead indicating that items such as mutual funds, shares, PPF, Provident fund, Fixed Deposits, etc are liquid and can be redeemed before maturity date, dated 4-5 days before visa interview date.
  • Original Proof of Ownership, agreement of sale, share certificate for all fixed assets declared in C.A. statement.
  • Valuation Certificate(s) from Chartered Engineer for every property declared in the C.A. statement in original

  • All acceptance and reject letters from universities applied to in original
  • All scholarship/financial aid grant documents received from universities that you have applied to in original
  • Complete application packet of university to which you are going (as was submitted to university) like Application Forms, SOP, Recommendation letters, Resume, Financial documents, technical documents and other documents which you had sent to the University.
  • Original Admit letter from the university to which you are going to.
  • Original Financial Aid Offer Letter from the university to which you are going to.
  • Receipt of any advance payment made to the university.
  • Copies of any correspondence mails from any professors of the university to which you are going to

  • For employed students: Original Documents like work experience letters, Recommendations from employers, Pay-slips/salary certificates for last six months , IT Returns for last 3 years, appointment letters.
  • Original documents showing body of work accomplished.
  • Resume showing professional accomplishments

 
Pre Departure

Pre-Departure


All your hard work has been paid off and it’s time to bid adieu to India and leave for the States. You’ve successfully managed to cross all the hurdles right from GRE to the Applications, never-ending wait for the Admits and the nerve wrecking VISA interview/s.

Now before you leave for a new country, there are obviously a lot of things you need to consider as you’re going there to study and NOT FOR A HOLIDAY. Moreover, you’re going to stay alone (okay, we know it’s fun) from your home. So, we’ve done all the homework for you. Get your shopping shoes on, get the credit cards ready because it’s time to spend on shopping.

Here is a general guideline to do everything before your departure:
 

HEALTH
  1. Full body check-up: Treatments are very expensive in the US, in particular Dental and Eye Care
  2. Immunisation: Each university has its own list of mandatory vaccinations, so check that out and start early
  3. Insurance: Travel insurances are offered by many Indian companies. However, a full health insurance from your university is highly recommended as Indian policies don’t cover everything and the claim process is much difficult.
  4. Medicines: Get as many basic tablets as possible. Some of them are expensive in the US
    • Cold, Fever - Crocin
    • Body Pain - Crocin, Combiflam
    • Indigestion, Gastric Problems - Gelucil, Zinetac
    • Throat Infection - Erythromycin
    • Allergies - Avil .25
    • Vomiting - Avomine
    • Tooth Ache - Combiflam
    • Cold, Head Ache – Amurtanjan, Crocin, Vicks
    • Stomach Pain - Cyclopam
    • Sprain - Esgypyrin
TICKETS
  1. Book your tickets immediately after you receive the I-20 and book your Visa interview (Generally in the month of May end/June first week)
  2. Try getting a single direct flight if possible
  3. If it is not working out/expensive, then make sure you leave at least 3-5 hours gap between the arrival of the first flight and the departure of the next.
  4. Some travel agents give discounts on group bookings
  5. If you’re amongst those who miss your mom a lot (certainly you’ll in the first few months), then it is recommended to book a return ticket (for December). If not, be prepared to shell a lot of money if you book in the last minute in December.
LUGGAGE
  1. Total linear dimensions of each check-in bag should not exceed 158 cm (62 inches).
  2. Total weight must not exceed 23 kgs (50 pounds). Again, this varies from flight to flight but anything around 23 kgs should do good for you.
  3. You are allowed to carry one hand baggage plus a briefcase, laptop, purse.
  4. Maximum weight of hand baggage should not exceed 8 kg (variable).
  5. Students with I-20 are allowed to carry 3 bags each of 23 kgs on some airlines.
  6. It’s generally a good practice to split luggage amongst your frien
  7. The most preferred brands are: American Tourister (AT), Samsonite, VIP.
  8. VIP is the cheapest but quality is OK. American Tourister is mid-range but the quality is very good. Samsonite is very expensive. Choose the ones which is the best for you.
  9. There is hardly any difference between hard and soft cases. Stick to soft ones as hard ones get easily scratched too.
  10. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) locks are a must.
CLOTHES & APPAREL
  1. Take a few pairs of clothes with you as finding a laundry or washing them will be difficult till you settle down in the apartment
  2. Pack a few casual t-shirts, jeans, few formal shirts and trousers, one suit and tie and some shorts and a traditional dress
  3. Other than this, pack some towels, napkins, belts, handkerchiefs, formal and casual shoes, sneakers, socks.
  4. Warm clothes are a must. Take clothes that you can wear in layers. Sweaters will also do.
  5. Blankets (only if you don’t get sleep without it), bed sheets and covers. You may completely skip this point if your luggage is exceeding.
  6. Avoid packing oily stuff in the baggage
  7. Take one nail-cutter, scissor, comb, your shaving kit, toothbrush and toothpaste.
COOKING

Start learning to cook as soon as possible. Basic items like dal, rice, chappati and vegetables comes first. Other things to include:

  1. Pressure cooker of 3 to 7 litres
  2. Masala and spices. Take as much as possible.
  3. Carry some instant food packets in case of emergency
  4. Rest of the items like Rice, Dal, Vegetables, Spoons, Knives, Plates, Cups, and Bowls are easily available in the USA. DO NOT pack them. They are a waste of space.
  5. Applicants should also pack a lot of theplas for the first few weeks as it becomes really handy in the early days. So, drop in to your Gujju friend’s place right now.
ELECTRONICS

Electronics are mostly cheaper in the US but you may take these from India, if you want:

  1. External Hard Drive Disk
  2. Laptop: If you have your own laptop, bring it. You may sell it later. Many Universities have specific requirements with respect to laptops. Make sure to check with them.
  3. Indian pin to US pin converters – 2-3 (very important)
  4. Your current sim card. Basically, this is needed just for the travel.
BOOKS

Talk to the seniors in your university and carry only the important books from India. Get some fundamental books for revision.

DOCUMENTS
  1. Passport Xerox (5 copies)
  2. VISA Xerox (5 copies)
  3. IDP Xerox (5 copies) (Optional)
  4. I-20 (5 copies)
  5. Air Ticket (2 copies)
  6. Original mark sheets
  7. Attested mark sheets
  8. Original transcripts
  9. Degree Certificate (3 copies)
  10. Immunization form (specific to university)
  11. University specific letters like admit, aid, forms.
  12. SEVIS fee receipt (3 copies)
  13. GRE Original + Xerox copies (5 copies)
  14. TOEFL Original + Xerox copies (5 copies)
  15. Final Year Project Report
  16. Syllabus Copies
  17. Recommendation Letters
CURRENCY
  1. Carry about $500 in cash and rest about $1000 in Travellers’ Checks.
  2. Get a lot of quarters from a local money exchanger in India.
  3. Carry some loose change for calling and eating/drinking during travelling
  4. For tuition fee, it is best to wire the money directly to the university
CALLING CARDS
  1. Take these only if necessary. Most USA operators now offer lucrative International calling plans.
  2. Skype and Viber are always at your rescue.