Anticipate that the visa interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular official will want to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf.
Know the academic program to which you have been admitted and how it fits into your career plans. If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the U.S. consular official that you are indeed planning to study rather than immigrate. You should be able to explain how studying in the U.S. will relate to your future professional career when you return home.
Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute or two of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point.
It should be clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time at best.
Not All Countries Are the Same
Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the U.S. as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be intending immigrants. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the United States.
If you are receiving funding from your employer or from the government, be prepared to present the appropriate letters or documents which verify this funding. If your financial support is coming from personal or family funds, official bank statements are needed to demonstrate sufficient finances. Highly credible documentation should accompany official bank statements (such as job contracts, letters from an employer, tax documents, pay stubs or deposit slips). Bank statements are most credible if they are a series of reliable computer-generated ordinary monthly bank account statements.
Your main purpose for coming to the United States is to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students may work part-time during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program.
Dependents Remaining at Home
If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to explain how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially problematic situation if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer believes that your family members will need you to send money from the U.S. in order to support them, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Do not argue with the consular official. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and obtain in writing, an explanation of the reason you were denied.
Special Note for Canadian Citizens
Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain a U.S. visa to enter the United States. However, an officer of the U.S. Immigration Service will inspect your papers either at a pre-inspection site in Canada or upon entry to the U.S. You must have with you proof of Canadian citizenship, proof of admission to SUNY Cobleskill, your SUNY Cobleskill Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20), and proof of financial support that corresponds to the information on your I-20. It is essential that you enter the U.S. in the appropriate status, so be sure to have complete documentation with you.
To maintain your F-1 status, you need to:
Attend the College full-time each fall and spring semester. Full-time means 12 credit hours or more. Do not withdraw from a class if it leaves you with less than 12 credit hours at the end of the semester. Remember a grade of "F" does not count towards your credit hours. Only successfully completed courses will count towards your minimum credit hours. Also, correspondence courses, audited courses (courses taken without receiving a grade), CLEP tests and distance learning do not count towards this requirement. The College notifies the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Service of your registration status at the beginning of each semester. Students who are not registered will have their F-1 visa revoked. There are limited exceptions to the full-time study requirement, all of which require approval by the Director of International Education. NOTE: You are not required to attend during the summer session.
Maintain a valid passport at all times. It is highly recommended that you apply for a new passport or extension at least six months before the expiration date.
Notify the Director of International Education of your intention to transfer to another college or university in the United States so that the USCIS can be notified. You will need to identify the name of the new institution as well as the date you plan to transfer. To transfer, you will need to be in status. Should you change your mind about transferring before the transfer release date (normally the end of your final semester), please inform the Director of International Education so that your transfer can be cancelled. NOTE: The start date at the new institution must be within 5 months of your transfer release date.
Do not remain in the United States beyond the date authorized under D/S (duration of status) without applying for an extension. As an F-1 holder, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. until completion of your degree. If this takes more time than noted on #5 of your I-20, you must apply for an extension of your I-20 no later than 30 days before the expiration date. If you allow your I-20 to expire, you will lose your student status. You may remain in the country no longer than 60 days after completing your program of study, unless you have applied for practical training prior to graduating. To extend your I-20 see the Director of International Education no later than 30 days before the expiration date.
Do not work off campus without first obtaining permission from Department of Homeland Security. In addition, you must limit employment to a total of 20 hours per week while school is in session, both on and off campus.
Inform the College of any change of address off-campus. The College is required to keep the USCIS current on the address of all international students.
Limit on-campus employment to 20 hours per week when school is in session.
Refain from off-campus employment without authorization. To obtain authorization, see the Director of International Education at least three (3) months prior to seeking employment.
Possess proof of health and accident insurance which includes a medical evacuation and repatriation benefit (either the SUNY mandatory policy or an approved comparable policy). The University has arranged for good health insurance for international students and families at a current yearly cost of approximately $800. Students with health insurance may be exempt from this requirement. At a minimum, your existing insurance must cover pre-existing conditions, maternity, repatriation and medical evacuation, as well as carry a $0 deductible per illness and a $100,000 maximum reimbursement rate per illness. If you think you are eligible for a waiver, present a copy of your policy in English and proof of current coverage with dates to the Student Accounts Office upon arrival. Note: any student who requests a waiver MUST purchase the Class 8: MEDEX Medical Evacuation/Repatriation Policy.
Failure to comply with these rules will result in the loss of your status and jeopardize your stay in the U.S. If you lose your F-1 status, you will not be eligible to receive F-1 student benefits unless you apply for reinstatement and receive approval from USCIS.
Loss of status is not limited to these items. They are the most common.