Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

American Dream – Student Visas

Student Visas

Every year thousands of foreign students enter the US to attend a University or college. These students are primarily looking to further their education. In addition to developing their education other opportunities may follow such as, gaining paid practical work training. Having studied in the US many students are able to find US employment.

Students who are interested in attending college in the US may wish to visit a number of colleges first. If the student intends to remain in the US after he or she has found a college place then they must first be careful how they plan to enter the US, either on a proper student visa or as a tourist and then convert to a student visa.

If the student wishes to check out a few colleges first but is fairly sure that if they find the right college then they would wish to apply and stay in the US to start their course, they must enter the US on a valid tourist visa. This is not the 90-day visa waiver that many people are familiar with. They must apply for an actual tourist visa (B-2). However, if the student already knows precisely which college and course they wish to enroll for then they must get a proper student visa (F-1) to begin with.

Before a student can be accepted onto any college course his or her educational qualifications must be independently evaluated and converted into US equivalents. This process is called credential evaluation. The evaluator will require copies of all academic qualifications earned to date, transcripts of the course elements and grades, an up to date detailed c.v, and copies of any job descriptions of all the jobs held if these would be relevant to establish a complete picture of your eligibility for the course. It’s quite an extensive process but vital for a successful college place application.

In the US there are two main groups of colleges; private and state funded colleges. There are many local private colleges that offer excellent courses. Local private colleges tend to specialize in vocational and other undergraduate courses. There are two fundamental differences between private and state funded colleges. Private colleges tend to be four times more expensive than state funded colleges, and more state colleges are accredited to take on foreign students than private colleges. So when choosing a college the student should find out whether the college is an accredited college to accept foreign students and whether the college is privately funded or funded by the state.

When a college has been accredited they will have a Designated School Official (DSO) to handle all your enquires. The DSO will be able to get you through the acceptance process. You will need to submit all of the information the college requires for them to officially determine your eligibility for their course.

Starting with your completed credential evaluation report the college will also want to see proof that not only can you afford the course tuition fees, but also that you have the financial means to support yourself during the course. In some cases you may have a parent or family member that will be financially supporting you. If this is the case the college will want to see proof of their financial ability to do so. Your immigration attorney will assist you in this. Once the process has been completed you will then be issued with an official acceptance certificate (I-20). It is this certificate that your attorney will use as part of your other immigration paperwork to prepare your student visa application.

If you are married or have children you will be able to bring them with you but your spouse will not be able to work unless he or she is authorized to work. In other words, if your spouse qualifies for a visa that would allow him or her to work in their own right then they can do so. If your spouse does not intend to work then, within the overall application process, evidence will need to be presented to show how the family will financially support itself for the duration of the course.

Although students are generally not allowed to work there are exceptions and provisions that will enable them to work part-time or full time after their first year. However, the DSO would need to feel this would be beneficial to the student’s overall college experience.

Starting your stay in the US as a student can lead to a number of opportunities that could eventually lead to being eligible for green card status. Your immigration attorney should be able to work with you in plotting a long-term plan towards that dream.