Get Started with the I-20 process
Depending on your arrival date (if you attend a summer school before the LLM starts there’s less time for the visa process) you might have to hurry to get those documents in order.
Follow instructions and get your bank statements showing you are financially covered. The files sent to you by the school will include the minimum amount you have to prove so the I-20 can be processed.
I highly recommend to scan/print out all the forms and documents after double checking the filled out information.
The University prepares the I-20 document. You might be contacted to verify your current address. The I-20 document is four pages long and provides for the SEVIS number.
In addition to this material you’ll get a checklist laying out the next steps in the visa process.
- Receive the I-20 package. Sign the document and keep it.
- Pay the $200 SEVIS fee
The payment should be done right away, because it takes about 2 business days for the transfer to be recorded. This is crucial, because a payment confirmation will be emailed to the given address. This will include a bar code and must be handed in during the visa interview later.
- Fill out the DS160 form
Have the visa-photo ready. Before starting the application you can separately upload it and test whether it fulfills the criteria and will be accepted. If the photo isn’t accepted right away, use the crop tool provided, adjust the photo and save it when it’s green.
Next, fill out the entire application and submit it.
Make sure to save every single step, because there is a time limit for every step and if it takes you too long to gather the requested information, the system will kick you out and you will have to retrieve the application.
Be sure to have your passport ready. You will be required to type in the dates of your last five visits to the US as well as employment information of the last 5 years.
- After completing the DS-160
Print the confirmation as well as the form and have the confirmation sent to your email address. Then, schedule an interview session at the American consulate in your home country.
- Pay the visa application fee
Yes, besides the SEVIS fee, there is one more fee to pay!
Only after paying the very fee the applicant is able to make an appointment online. Regarding the visa interview appointment at the consulate, it should be noted that the SEVIS fee might take about two (2) days to be recorded and listed as paid. Thus, I’d advise to schedule the interview about five days after payment.
As highlighted at the beginning of this post, print outs are incremental and the papers should be carefully kept in a plastic cover.
Interview at the Consulate
- Schedule the appointment at the consulate
Mark your calendar and be punctual. There is no need to arrive earlier than 10 minutes before as they won’t let you in.
Everyone will line up and the security guard will inform all applicants to have the passport ready and that only one electronic device per person is allowed. You’re allowed to take your phone in.
Simply follow instructions and continue to the next line up. A consular officer will ask for the required documents (see points 1 to 5).
That person will check whether everything is in order and make a ten print. If so, the applicant is asked to take a seat and wait for the visa interview.
Now, the interview itself can be conducted either in English or in the native language of the country you are applying from.
Questions do vary, sometimes they’ll as more and it takes longer, sometimes it all goes very quickly. It can be expected that the purpose of the visa must be stated, also the period the applicant intends to stay in the US. Also, the consular officer may ask about the financial situation and expects the applicant to explain how he/she will finance the stay.
The key is to appear honest and have no hidden agenda. For instance, it should be made clear that there are no intentions not to return to your country of origin. A clear depiction of facts and personal situation/goals should suffice to have the visa approved. The passport along with the approved visa page will be send to the indicated home address within two to three business days.
Congratulations, the battle for the visa is won…for now!