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BRANCH CHIEF ALFRED BOLL: Hello and welcome My name is Alfred Boll, and I represent EducationUSA and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC Today’s Facebook Live is about navigating the student visa process If you’re an international student and need help with the application process for a student visa, this program is for you Joining us today are Jennifer Sudweeks and Emily Almas Jennifer is a Foreign Service officer with the U.S Department of State She has worked in many different aspects of Consular Affairs, including both immigrant and immigrant visas Jennifer is joining us virtually from New Delhi, India, where she serves as the U.S Embassy’s non-immigrant visa chief Welcome, Jennifer Joining me in our studio is Emily Almas Emily is the Associate Dean of Admissions and Director of Recruitment at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, where she coordinates international student recruitment Thank you for joining us, Emily ASSOCIATE DEAN EMILY ALMAS: Thank you BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: To our viewers, this conversation is meant to be engaging, so if you have questions on student visas, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section on your screens We will do our best to answer your questions live during the program I want to take the time to welcome a viewing group joining us virtually from the EducationUSA Advising Center in Lahore, Pakistan Mariam Zarahan is the EducationUSA advisor there Hello, Mariam Can you tell us a little bit about your group and their questions? MS. MARIAM ZARAHAN: I’m Mariam Zarahan I’m an education advisor with EducationUSA in Lahore, Pakistan And I’m accompanied by a group of 15 students They’re from all across Pakistan A few of them have already gotten acceptances in different schools all across the U.S., some with full funding, a few are paying out of their pocket And they have questions related to our financials, generally visa enquiries So we’re all excited for this session BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you, Mariam We will come back to your group throughout the program So to begin, Jennifer, can you start our discussion by sharing some insights on the student visa process? MRS. JENNIFER SUDWEEKS: Yes, I can First let me say that international students are really important to the Department of State They are one of our top priorities We recognize the important contributions that students make to the college communities and university communities across the United States, and the academic cooperation and opportunities that come from having international students mixed in with regular classes We’re committed to supporting the U.S. academic community, and we also try and strive very hard to have efficient visa processing, while at the same time meeting our national security and border security requirements National security is our top priority when we’re adjudicating these applications Every visa decision is a national security decision, and so that’s why we have an extensive screening process for each applicant However, worldwide, most students– in fact, the vast majority of students– receive their visa when they apply to study in the United States We have over a million students at higher education institutions in the U.S. right now And there’s no cap There’s no quota So if we could make that two million in the next few years, we’d be happy to do that as well BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Jennifer, thank you very much Could you tell us a little bit about what students should do first before applying for a student visa? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Well, before applying for a student visa,

you first have to be accepted at a university, and you have to have received your Form I-20 from the school that you want to attend So once you have your Form I-20, you pay the SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System fee at FMJFee.com Then you can go to travel.stage.gov and complete your visa application form that’s on that website And you can also find out what the wait times are at each embassy and consulate That’s really important because some consulates and embassies have very long wait times in the summer We do our best to get students in first, but you want to include that in your plans So apply for your visa as early as you can, but no more than 120 days before your program begins After you have set your appointment, then you will– I mean, after you’ve filled out your application, you’ll go to the embassy website and look for information on how that application process works in that country You pay the non-refundable visa application fee, which is $160, and we ask you please do not book your airline tickets until you actually have your visa in your hands BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Jennifer, thank you Any tips specifically on scheduling the visa interview? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Well, one of the things that I want to make sure to address is some sort of tips on what to say in your interview The first thing is that nobody can tell your story better than you can You should approach this interview as an interview and not an exam There’s not memorized answers to questions that you should be giving So the Consular Officer will focus on four things during your interview The first is who are you and what are your ties What is your story about your academic journey? The next is what do you want to do? Where do you want to study? Why do you want to study that particular major or subject? The next question will be about how you’re going to pay for your university We have to be confident as consular offices that you control for the entire length of your study program, so make sure to have all that information with you when you apply And we’re going to ask you, also, about what you want to do when you finish your studies So schedule an appointment at the consulate or embassy that’s closest to you, and then on the day of your visa interview, make sure to bring this list of things with you Your Form I-20, which the school has already sent to you, your DS-160 visa application that you need to print out the confirmation page after you fill that out on travel.state.gov You need to bring your passport It’s important that your passport has at least six months left on it by the time you get in the United States, so make sure that it’s not going to expire in the next little while You’ll need to bring a photo that meets our photo requirements, which you can also find on travel.state.gov Your visa application fee receipt, also your SEVIS fee receipt, and any other additional documents that the specific embassy or consulate you’re applying at requires BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much, Jennifer During the visa interview, do they collect fingerprints? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes At the visa interview we will collect your fingerprints electronically It’s a very easy and simple process BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much, Jennifer, for this very valuable information I’m sure that our viewers are going to come back during the program with questions about specific aspects of what you just went through Let me turn to you, Emily, and ask– can you tell us what role a university or college might play during this whole process ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: That’s a great question, and first, to everyone who’s watching, congratulations Welcome We’re very excited to welcome you to colleges and universities in the United States There are some things that a U.S. university or college can do and some that we can’t, and certainly one of the things we can do and will do for you is issue that I-20 Form So it’s really important for students to understand the process to getting an I-20 issued from your institution I’d like to start there I think a lot of students have questions about how that happens So the first thing you want to do is follow the instructions at the institution where you’re enrolling They might have steps on a website, for example They might have a portal or an email address You’ll need to provide documents to the institution where you’re enrolling so they can issue the Form I-20 to you That includes things like information from your passport, certification of your financial situation– how are you going to pay, as Jennifer mentioned, for your time studying in the United States? It might include an additional form And a helpful hint I have for viewers is to understand the addresses that are involved in this process, because eventually

the college or university will mail you that Form I-20, and so you want to make sure they understand where they’re supposed to be mailing it Sometimes colleges and universities will give you a chance to choose how you want that mailed, and so I would encourage students to elect to have that mailed Express Mail or tracked mail Otherwise it could take weeks for your I-20 to get to you, and that just delays the process even further So be sure to follow the steps that the college or university where you’re enrolling provide on how to get your I-20 issued to you, and be sure, once you receive that form, to check it Does everything match? Is your name correct? Is the program and the start date correct to your understanding? Because you want all of your documentation to match and you want it to be correct and accurate What if it’s not accurate? That’s OK If anything changes or there is a mistake or an issue, be sure to reach out to the college or university Every school will have a person that you can contact, an international student advisor It might be someone in admissions or an international student services office You want to go and contact that person, and also just generally keep them informed if and as there are changes in the process So that’s the first thing that I would be sure to mention Coming to the United States to study is really exciting, and so you probably have a lot of questions as a new student Where might you get answers to those questions? Many schools have websites that have information about this process– the steps you need to follow, what forms they require, again, to issue the I-20, when you might need to come on campus, for example So as a prospective student, you want to follow the information available on the website or in other information that’s been distributed to you from the school So schools can and will issue you the I-20 What schools can’t do and won’t do is issue the F1 Visa And so sometimes students have questions about the roles that institutions play in this process for a student going through the application We can certainly provide information to students We can help ensure that a student has all the forms and documentation and paperwork they might need For example, you’ll want to bring your SEVIS fee receipt with you to the F1 student visa interview, things like that Unfortunately, ultimately it’s up to the student to go and do the interview themselves But if a student is not successful in that interview, you want to be sure to come back and tell the school that you’re going to enroll in as well that that happened, and we can talk to you, counsel you, about the next steps that may include, for example, reapplying, delaying your start date, and trying to reapply for the visa BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: That’s all very valuable advice Thank you very much, Emily, for that great perspective, and I know that we’ll be coming back to you throughout the program with questions from our viewers Now let’s go to our viewing group at the EducationUSA Advising Center in Lahore, Pakistan for some questions Hello, Lahore Can you give us your first question for our experts? AUDIENCE: Yes, sir My name is [INAUDIBLE],, and I’m applying for a student visa And my father is [INAUDIBLE],, but he has put all his data required in my personal account And I have been working for the last 20 years as well I have saved a bit amongst myself So I still be showing him as my sponsor? Will that– any chance of getting started with that? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: OK, can I ask– Jennifer, did you hear the question? Are you able to answer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: I think I can answer that As consular officers, we don’t really consider parents a sponsor We would consider that family funds And so what you want to do is bring your financial history of where those funds came from, be able to talk about how your father’s been saving over several years, maybe bring bank records, and your, also, income You might want to bring some pay stubs and things like that to show, if the Consular Officer asks you to provide some financial information and documents AUDIENCE: Thank you very much BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thanks, Jennifer Lahore, do you have another question for us? AUDIENCE: Yes I have a fully funded scholarship, so is it required to show a financial statement to support my visa application? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So I think that’s for me again If your scholarship covers everything that’s listed on your I-20, including room and board and books and miscellaneous expenses, all you need to do is bring the evidence from the university that you have the scholarship If it’s only a partial scholarship, though– which many of them are, they’ll cover just tuition– then you’ll need to make sure that you have enough to pay for your personal finances MS. ZARAHAN: Thank you BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you Excellent questions, Lahore Thank you very much And let me turn to Emily to follow up on that I assume schools, if they are providing scholarships,

should– I mean, a best practice is to lay out exactly what is being provided so that students can inform the Consular Officer of that Is that correct? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Absolutely So part of submitting the documentation to the institutions so that we can issue a student a Form I-20 is the cost of attendance, and so that includes room, board, books, and personal expenses, any necessary or required fees as part of coming to the college And as an institution, if you are awarded a scholarship or financial aid, for example, the school should outline what precisely you’re being given, and then your I-20 should illustrate the remainder how it’s being paid for, for example, personal funds or a family member or something like that So you’ll want to make sure to bring with you and have on hand any documentation related to what’s being offered to you from your school It might be a scholarship letter Certainly that should be reflected already in your Form I-20, but always good to bring all of your documentation and paperwork with you BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So be thorough and be prepared, and make sure and– if the school has provided you with something, make sure that they have documentation that shows that, right? Because everything helps during an interview ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: It does BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much So thank you very much, Lahore Excellent questions Let us go to our friends on Facebook to see what questions Tongo from France would like to know, what type of visa is needed for an internship after completing a semester of study at a university? Jennifer, could I turn to you for that? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes, and I can actually only guess because I don’t have the specifics in front of me But in general, internships are usually on a J1 exchange visa But you can do an unpaid internship as part of academic credit on your F1 If you’re already in the United States, you really want to your university about those regulations and which visa they think you should apply for BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: That’s very good advice So if you’re in the United States, make sure you speak to your own university, your own institution, to get information Emily, I assume that’s common ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Absolutely So there are variety of ways that a student could do an internship while they’re a student, but it’s important to talk to your international student services advisor at the university or college where you’re attending before engaging in that You want to maintain your status on an F1 visa Something you might have heard of before called Curricular Practical Training, or CPT, for example That could be what this student is referring to But most importantly, check in with the international student advisor at your college or university first, and they can help figure out what kind of paperwork or arrangements need to be made in advance of doing anything like engaging in an internship BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you both Excellent advice The following question is from an international student who would like to know, can I apply for a visa before I have been admitted to a college or university? Jennifer MRS. SUDWEEKS: So yes, you can Actually there’s something called a Prospective Student Visa It’s a B2, sort of like a tourist visa And we can put the name of the school that you’re interested in on that visa, or you can travel on your tourist visa or the visa waiver program to go look at universities in the United States if you want to see them in person before making your decision But once you are studying full time, you need to be in status on an F1 visa, and it’s much harder and it takes a lot longer to switch that status in the United States So we would suggest, probably, if you’re not on a prospective student visa, that you return to your home country and apply there before studying in the U.S BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much That’s very interesting to know, and great for students who want to check out different colleges and universities As you know, we have 4,700 accredited colleges and universities throughout the United States, one for everybody Our next question is from Martin who would like to know, what happens if you get the visa but can’t travel to the United States to start the university program due to family problems? Jennifer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So it’s going to depend on how long your student visa is valid for and your form I-20 So this is a case where you’ll want to be talking to both your university and the consulate If your visa has already expired, then you’re going to need to apply for a new visa If your visa is still valid and you’re still attending the same university, you might contact your university and get them to send you a new form I-20 with a new start date and you might be able to travel on that same visa But definitely ask the consulate or embassy and your school first before doing that BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: And Emily, I assume that’s common Schools issue I-20s all the time because student status changes?

ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Absolutely So if there is a change, it’s important to be in touch with the international student services advisor or designated school official, whomever you’ve been instructed to check in with at your university or college, and tell them what has happened or what is changing Maybe ask for their advice in some cases And they can either reissue a Form I-20 or work with you to figure out your future plans BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you So Osama asks, can I work in the United States after I finish my program or my course of study? Jennifer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So there are some circumstances in which you can We mentioned Curricular Practical Training before Emily talked about that That’s during your course of study You can also work afterwards in an Optional Practical Training if you didn’t do the Curricular Practical Training And there are limitations on that and limitations on the kinds of jobs and how long you’re allowed to do that, so again, please talk to your school’s international advising office before moving on with that program It has to be authorized on your I-20 BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you Thank you very much, Jennifer Our next question is from an international student from Pakistan who is already in the United States on an F1 visa that is going to expire in 2020 And she says, I’m going to graduate from a master’s program in July this year, 2019 I got accepted to do a PhD from another university that’s going to start this year It’s very expensive to go back to Pakistan Can I get my visa renewed in Canada, or can I get a new visa in Canada for the course of study I’m going to start? Jennifer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So if your visa has already expired but you’re in the United States and you’re in student status, you probably do not need to renew your visa until you’re actually going to go home to Pakistan, or unless you want to go to Canada on vacation If you’re just going to Canada on vacation, then you can try to apply there Just make sure to bring everything that you would bring to a normal student visa interview It’s the same whether you’re applying in Toronto or Mexico City or in Lahore So you can do it, but if you are in the United States and CBP has given you the duration of status– if they wrote [INAUDIBLE]– they let you stay in the United States as long as you are current in the SEVIS system So again, make sure your school transfers your SEVIS properly and you don’t even need a new visa to start your program if you don’t leave the U.S BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Jennifer, just to come back to this, this raises a very interesting topic of the difference between being in status and having a visa If I understand correctly, the visa is for travel It’s to be able to come and go in and out of the United States, whereas the status part is what’s especially important for students who want to be in proper status while they’re in the United States, and they’re not really the same thing Is that right? MRS. SUDWEEKS: That is absolutely true They are not the same thing The visa, we explain, is your ability to knock on the door of the U.S. Your status is your ability to stay there And when you arrive at the border, the officers will tell you how long you are allowed to stay on that status Normally for students, as long as the school keeps your SEVIS information updated, you can stay in the United States But again, you need to report to the school You need to talk to your international student advisors and ask them to help you figure out what’s best for you BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So as long as, as a student in the United States, I keep my school informed, I’m in status, they keep me updated, even if my visa has expired, that’s OK because I’m properly in status in the United States But then if I needed to travel, as soon as I leave the United States, I need to get another visa to come back Is that correct? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes, that’s absolutely correct BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much That’s great And Emily, is that typical? Is that something you see often in international students that they, for example, may not have a valid visa but they’re in status and they have simply said, I’m not planning on traveling I’m not going to leave, so I’m just going to be in status properly and study, and then I’ll get a visa whenever I need it, if I leave? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Absolutely As long as you are still in your duration of study, which is the terms of most status, you are fine to remain in school as long as you’re keeping up with any requirements about checking in or updating the international student services office on your campus And so the only issue is if you, as you mentioned, leave the country Then you will need a valid F1 visa to re-enter the country if it has expired, and all documentation related to that, so for example, an unexpired passport, things like that

BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So even if the status is fine, if your visa has expired, you need a visa to travel ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: That’s correct BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: And you get that outside the country ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: That’s correct And I just want to mention we’re talking about international travel So one of the real joys and benefits of studying in the United States is that you have the opportunity to travel freely throughout the United States without any concern So I really encourage students who are studying in the U.S to take advantage of that, to go and see a different part of the country The United States has a really broad array of histories and geographies and cultures and food– such great food– in many different parts of the country So once you’re in the U.S., you should feel free to take advantage of those opportunities to travel BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: That’s fantastic And we keep saying, not only are there 4,700 schools, but all the way from Alaska to Puerto Rico, it’s all the United States and we have a huge country to see and take advantage of Travel and explore So thank you Thank you both That’s great advice and perspective Our next question is from a viewer who asks, if I already have a visitor’s visa, or, for example, I’m from a visa waiver country, do I also need to get a student visa if I come study? Jennifer, could you take that? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes If you’re from a visa waiver country, when you entered the United States you enter on visa waiver status and you cannot switch to an F1 status in the United States So if you’re from a visa waiver country, you must absolutely apply for the F1 visa before arriving in the United States As we mentioned before, we really suggest that you apply for your F1 visa and not travel to the United States on your tourist visa You can keep your tourist visa You can use that later once you graduate if it’s still valid You can have both kinds of visas in your passport But when you’re studying you really need to be on the proper visa BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much That’s a great perspective We have a few questions that have come in on the visa interview itself What happens at the interview, our questioner asks Whom do I meet with and what are they going to ask me? Jennifer, could you take a stab at that? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes, I’d be happy to, because that’s what we do here every day in New Delhi You are going to meet with a consular officer, somebody who knows visa law and knows the circumstances of the country that you’re applying in, and they’re going to ask you questions like I mentioned before about your process of all the universities or schools that you’ve applied to, your financial information, how you’re going to pay for it, your [INAUDIBLE] journey And you should think of this as an interview, that you’re going to participate in a conversation with a consular officer The last thing that we want is to hear a bunch of memorized speeches that don’t really have anything to do with the questions that we’ve asked So it’s not a test that you can prepare for It’s a conversation that you’re going to have BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So Jennifer, am I right that, in our system in the United States, as you say, it really is a conversation, an interview? In other countries, sometimes they just look at documents, but our consular officers really want to speak to students Is that right? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Absolutely And in fact we, a lot of times, can issue a student visa without actually looking at the documents just by hearing the answers to the questions that we give the student and looking at the information that they’ve already provided in their application and on their I-20 form So the Consular Officer might not look at anything at all except your passport and your I-20 form, and that’s still just fine You can still get a visa The papers are not important BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So students should be prepared, and they should be proactive, and they’re their own best representatives MRS. SUDWEEKS: Absolutely Nobody can tell your story better than you can yourself, don’t listen to people who tell you, oh, I said this and I got a visa just fine Please do not bring fake documents If somebody has told you that you should buy this package of documents and that will guarantee you a visa, that is simply not true BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Yeah, terrible MRS. SUDWEEKS: Just be yourself and enjoy the interview, because we’re going to ask you a lot of questions about your school and it’s a good time to talk about how much you want to study in the U.S BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: That’s great advice Our next question is also about the interview Are students required to show funding for the duration of the program or just for the first year of the program? Jennifer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So you actually are required to show that you have funds in hand for the first year of the program, and then show a plan that indicates that you will be able to pay for the rest of the program as well So like we said before, for students who are on scholarship, that’s a really easy conversation

if it’s a full ride scholarship But for students who are planning on studying in the United States, they should bring all the financial documents they can to show, one, that they have enough money to give right away for the first year, and two, that they can afford the rest of the program So for master’s students, you’re going to need to bring evidence of two years of funding For PhDs, four For undergraduates, if you want to go all through your PhD, you’re going to have to have a lot of funding in place for that BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much, Jennifer So let’s go back to EducationUSA in Lahore, Pakistan for a few more questions Lahore, do you have another question for us? AUDIENCE: Yeah, hi My name is [INAUDIBLE] My question is, what are the factors that can help us convince the visa interviewers that, after completing our education in the U.S., we will be coming back to Pakistan? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: OK, that’s an excellent question Jennifer, let me turn to you in terms of the dynamic in the interview Are there things that students can talk about in terms of their ties to their country? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So we realize, actually, that ties for students are going to be different than ties for a businessman or a grandparent wanting to go visit their grandchild in the United States We know that students don’t usually own property, so we’re going to ask you questions about your family We’re going to ask you questions about your plan, the reasons that you want to study in the United States, and what you intend to do with that degree afterwards I think the thing that you’re getting at is that students are very often refused because they do not overcome the presumption of immigrant intent The way that our law is written is that we assume you are an immigrant first until you show us that you’re not So be [INAUDIBLE] Have goals Have aspirations, and tell us what those are Just be honest in your interview about what you want to do in the future BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much Excellent question, Lahore Thank you Do you have another question for EducationUSA? AUDIENCE: Yeah, I have a question So my family applied for an I-30 immigration several years back, but it hasn’t been processed yet and we haven’t even gotten a call back And should that affect my F1 visa? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Jennifer, did you– MRS. SUDWEEKS: [INAUDIBLE] your F1 visa, if you have already applied for an immigrant visa, we know that people’s families apply for those sometimes years and years in advance Just make sure that when you go to the interview you’re honest about that We ask you that question on your application form and you need to give us the honest answer As long as it’s very clear that you intend to study and that you’ll come back to Pakistan before your immigrant visa is ready, then it shouldn’t be an issue BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much Excellent question and important answer So one has to be transparent in a visa interview, and ready to talk about all aspects of wanting to go to the United States, including when you have issues like that where there might be an immigrant application as well as a student application So let’s go back to some more questions from Facebook They’re pouring in Our next question is, if I am denied a visa, can I appeal? Jennifer, do you want to take that first and then I’ll turn to you, Emily? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So there is actually no appeals process in the U.S non-immigrant visa process If you are denied your visa, the only thing that you can do is reapply, but there is no reason, unless the Consular Officer tells you that you’re ineligible for another reason, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t just go ahead and reapply The thing that you’ll run into, though, are the long wait times, and we prioritize students who haven’t had their interview first So make sure and apply early just in case BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much Emily, does this happen occasionally? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: It does happen on occasion This is really a situation where we would encourage a student to reach out to the college or university where they’re going to enroll and to express what has happened Oftentimes, institutions can provide information, maybe have a conversation, help a student walk through the process of what has happened and what would be different when they’re reapplying for a visa the second time around BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Are there times when you as an institution might say, hey, it might be better to wait a year? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Depending on the time line, it’s entirely possible that a student may need to defer enrollment to a U.S. institution based on how quickly they need to be on campus So we know, as Jennifer mentioned, there can be wait times It might not be possible, if a student has been denied, for them to go through the process again and get the visa to start during that start time

It could be a financial situation Perhaps something has changed in a student’s financial picture and they need to wait to have the necessary funds to make them eligible for this process as well And so that’s really where talking to the college or university where you plan to enroll is important, and letting them know what has happened, what your plans are, and see the ways that they can help We aren’t able to contact consular officers and ask them to give you a visa, for example, but certainly, through the experience that international student service offices have, they have information, and I think information is really important BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: OK Thank you very much I think we’ve got another question for you from our viewer What if I want to transfer schools? Can I change my program or course of studies? So two questions, in a way Transferring schools once you have a visa and changing my program or course of study at the same school ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Absolutely You can do both things, whether at the same school or another It’s, again, important to reach out to the international student services officer for your institution and explain what you plan to do So if you’re transferring schools, you’re going to need to transfer your SEVIS account, basically, and you’ll need to have your new institution issue you an I-20 form And there’s a process for doing that Every institution has a slightly different array of steps you’ll need to follow But functionally, you’ll need to get that new I-20 from your new institution You do not need to leave Typically, depending on your circumstances, you can do that process while in the United States as long as you are still a full time student and in status In terms of changing your course of study or major, of course Many students choose to do that, and that’s not a problem You’ll just need to update the institution where you’re enrolled Some schools may require you to come into the office and have a conversation with a person Other institutions, especially large universities, may have an online system where you could input the data and they can revise your documentation and revise your information in the system, which is what’s important BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much Jennifer, from the perspective of a consular officer, does it matter what a student intends to study when he or she is going to the U.S.? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So we don’t really consider the school as a factor when we are looking at student visas As long as the student has an I-20 from the school where they want to study, that’s what we look at, the information on the I-20 So for our office, it doesn’t really matter if they start at one university and transfer to another There are so many American students who do that It’s a natural thing It’s hard to know if a school is a good fit for you before you arrive there, so to us, it doesn’t really make a big difference BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: And thank you so much, Jennifer, for pointing out one of the big things we try to convey at EducationUSA Of course, our services worldwide– our basic services– are free to students, and our whole aim is to help students find the right fit in an institution, to find institutions where you will succeed academically, professionally, personally, and that there are so many institutions that offer different things Our advisors are trying to help you find the tools to find the right place So thank you for pointing that out that That is one of the benefits of studying in the United States is that certainly our whole education sector is geared towards student success That’s always something we try to point out from EducationUSA’s perspective So our following question, I think, is also for you, Jennifer Will my visa interview be in English or my own language? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So if you are not studying English as a second language, your visa interview will be in English What we’re looking for is a student who can contribute to an academic conversation and have a back and forth with a professor or with another group of students and contribute to that So if your I-20 form says that you still need to study English, then some of your interview might be in your native language, but we’d still expect you to be able to have everyday phrases and vocabulary at the ready so that you can tell us about your life at the school BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: That’s great So again, be transparent about what you’re doing, and this is a chance to show that you can actually do what you intend MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much A related question Can I work on a student visa? Can I stay with you, Jennifer? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So you need to really talk to your international student advisor about that If you are an undergraduate, and I believe after your first year, there are certain cases where you can work on campus There are some cases where you can work off campus But you can’t just go out and get a job and then come and tell your university that you want to work

You really need to have that all prepared in advance and have the proper authorization before you do that BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So I’m going to turn to Emily in a second but, does that mean that a student who came and said, yeah, my school has proposed, has said that I’m allowed to work a certain amount of time or in a certain way, that that is something that’s an acceptable thing to say to a consular officer as part of the big picture of studies? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Oh yeah, absolutely Especially for graduate students, we expect PhD students will be teaching classes or being research assistants, things like that So yeah, of course Please tell the Consular Officer that that’s what your plans are because some of that might be included in your funding package But if you just want to work for work experience and not attend classes, that you can’t do on a student visa and you should not apply for a student visa BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you, Jennifer Emily, let me turn to you from the institution’s perspective Can you go through– because it sounds like the rules are different for different kinds of students ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: They are, and I just want to echo what Jennifer said If you’re coming to study in the U.S. on an F1 visa, your primary time in the U.S should be spent studying, so coming to the U.S. and working is not the goal or the aim of coming in that circumstance There are opportunities– limited opportunities– typically part time, generally 20 hours or less, on campus, so maybe in a dining hall or a bookstore, depending on the student and depending on what degree program you may be in as a student on an F1 visa It’s really important to talk to the international student advisor at the institution that you are attending to ask questions about what’s allowed and what isn’t You should not plan to fund your education in the United States through working while you’re a student on an F1 visa That’s generally not feasible and you wouldn’t be certified for the financial component to be issued an I-20 So definitely check in in advance, but generally there are part time opportunities Depending on your circumstances, in the summer there could be more work opportunity or opportunity off campus Also, again, depending– some of the programs that we’ve mentioned, things like CPT, things like that But typically it’s limited in hours and scope and location, so on campus The most important thing is just to check in with the international student advisor and make sure that this is aligned with the regulations that you’re trying to maintain BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So bottom line, students come to study Work is a limited side thing ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Exactly BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: That is possible But a student has to be showing, the whole time, that she or he is focused on studies ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Absolutely And that’s really how you can take the most advantage of coming to study in the United States We want students to explore the areas that the schools are located in We want them to enjoy American culture, get to know people from across the United States and maybe other international students as well So the focus of your energy while you’re on a campus in the U.S. really should be studying and exploring and learning American culture and your education, and not working BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much Thanks to you both So Jennifer, a question for you Our viewer asks, is a visa issued for the entire duration of my education or my time of study in the United States, or just on a yearly basis? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So that actually depends on the country that you are from, the country that issued your passport Visa duration is based on reciprocity, so whatever your home country gives American students who want to study in your country, we give the same length of visa So in some cases, that may be five years In some cases, that may be a full 10 years In some cases, it may be three months So it really just depends on where you are from BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much, Jennifer We have a second question, I think, that goes to you as well from Angel, who says, I received a student visa last year but I didn’t actually travel to the United States I now have a new I-20 to attend a different school Can I use the same visa that I already have from last year to attend this new institution? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So I would not advise that, actually, because when you arrive in the United States, the officers are going to ask you questions about why this school that has printed on your visa is not the same as the I-20 form So when you get to the United States, you may have trouble They may not even admit you So if you’re planning on attending a different school, I would definitely get a new visa with the right school name on it, and then you should have no issues BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much then That was echoing what Emily said earlier as well Make sure that you are really dealing with the school regularly, getting everything updated, making sure that they do the paperwork, so that everything is correct as possible,

and that it’s not a problem for schools to do that ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Right, no, not at all You want to make sure that your student visa matches the Form I-20 that you’ve been issued And then it’s also important– Jennifer mentioned this earlier, just to touch on something about the actual entry process You want to make sure you’re entering on your student visa If you had another visa in your passport, you want to make sure that you are being issued a particular form, Form I-94, excuse me We won’t get into those details, but it’s just important that you enter on your student visa, because when you check in with your international student advisor at the beginning of your course of study, they are actually going to check to make sure you have all the right paperwork, that everything has been documented properly in the system, and say that you’ve arrived on campus On that note, while you’re traveling, make sure you keep your documents with you Don’t put your papers and documentation in your checked luggage You want to make sure you have them in your hand bag or hand luggage because you’ll need to present them and you never know You probably won’t have access to your checked luggage till after you go through the port of entry BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Absolutely So keep the documents with you on your person as you travel ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Absolutely Absolutely BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Excellent advice Excellent advice for everybody So we actually had this question, but it’s come back so I think it’s important Can I have two different types of visas at the same time, say, a student visa and a visitor’s or a tourist visa? Jennifer, is that OK? MRS. SUDWEEKS: Yes, that’s OK You can have more than one type of visa in your passport at the same time Let’s say you’re applying for a new student visa and you have an old student visa in your passport We’ll go ahead and physically cancel that old one because we can’t issue you the same one twice Does that make sense? But if you have a tourist visa, we’ll just leave that on your passport and, when you finish your program, you can travel in and out of the United States on that if it’s still valid BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much Our next question is from Louise, who would like to know, what is the specific definition of full time student status? What does that mean? Emily, can you take us to that? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Absolutely So that’s a great question So every institution has guidelines for each of its programs that are authorized to issue I-20s for and what meets the criteria for full time status So this might depend on the specific degree program or course of study, but you’ll want to make sure that you are applying for full time status because you need to be a full time student, except some specific situations in which you can talk to an international student advisor about, to continue on as an F1 student visa holder So you’ll definitely want to check in with the international student advisor If, for any reason, you want to take a reduced course load, for example, if you want to go part time, as you might hear the terminology used sometimes in the United States Don’t do that until you have a conversation with the international student advisor because they’ll know There’s a minimum number of credits or credit hours, depending on the program that you’re enrolled in, for your student status BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: So, good advice So lots of things are possible, but again, you have to be in touch with your international student advisor to make sure that you are always in status and maintaining that status appropriately through the way you’re taking your courses ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: That’s correct Typically you need to be a full time student So if there’s anything other than that, you’re going to need to talk to the international student advisor in advance of making that decision BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much Let’s go back to our viewing group at EducationUSA in Lahore, Pakistan for a few more questions Lahore, do you have another question for us? MS. ZARAHAN: Yes, we do Go ahead AUDIENCE: My name is [INAUDIBLE] [INAUDIBLE] financing my education So how is it viewed [INAUDIBLE]? What sort of questions can I [INAUDIBLE] regarding this? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Jennifer, can we turn to you first for that? MRS. SUDWEEKS: So, I’m not sure I heard the whole question It was cutting in and out It’s about what financial documents they need to bring or– AUDIENCE: No If an extended family member is supporting my education, so how is it viewed in my visa application? Is it considered a negative impact on my application, and how can I defend that, if someone is supporting my education or financing my education MRS. SUDWEEKS: So you’re saying someone outside of your immediate family is supporting your education? AUDIENCE: Yes MRS. SUDWEEKS: OK So you need to be very clear with the Consular Officer on where that money is coming from, that that person is not a member of your immediate family, and you need to be clear about why they are willing to support you It really is going to depend on your personal circumstances It could be just fine Or if it seems like it’s a long, convoluted way to get money and you don’t actually have the funding, [INAUDIBLE]

There’s no one specific formula that I can tell you that will help you pass your interview Just bring all of your financial documents and make sure that you tell the officer upfront where the money is coming from BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you very much Lahore, do you have one more question? MS. ZARAHAN: Yes AUDIENCE: So I’m fully funded [INAUDIBLE],, and my [INAUDIBLE] So is [INAUDIBLE]? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: I’m sorry You cut in there Could you repeat the question again? AUDIENCE: I got a fully funded package My financial package is in the form of TAship Is J visa the most appropriate visa for me? BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Emily, are you able to answer that? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: I heard a little bit of your question I think you’re asking about which kind of visa you should be applying for And if that was the question, I think different programs are going to be tied to different kinds of visas And so typically, if you’re enrolling as a full time student at an approved institution– and as mentioned, there are over 4,000 different fantastic colleges and universities in the United States to choose from– then you’re going to need to be on an F1 visa There are other circumstances, depending on the situation It might be an M or a J. But generally speaking, if you’re coming to the United States to study as a full time student and if you’re in a degree program, it’s going to be an F1 visa that you need to apply for The ED USA website actually has really helpful information on this topic If you’re not sure what kind of visa is right for you or where to get more information, I always send students to the ED USA website They can find lots of great information there that can be really helpful BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: That’s a great point And likewise, the school would be in a position to guide students, right? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Absolutely Absolutely If you’re talking about a specific academic program, the school would tell you which visa you need and which visa they’re able to issue documentation for That is going to be program specific But if you’re wondering generally what kind of visa you might want, I would encourage students to check out the ED USA website BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Absolutely The EducationUSA website has a lot of information, and we also refer to the website of our Bureau of Consular Affairs, where Jennifer works, currently, at Embassy New Delhi, with a lot of very specific information about visa categories Thank you Thank you, Lahore We appreciate your questions and your engagement on the program Let’s go to one more question from Facebook before we close So this is for Emily Emily, where can a student get more information about what to expect upon arrival at their institution? That’s a great question ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: That is a great question, and one of the great programs that many universities and colleges offer is what’s called an orientation So you may be expected to come to campus a few days before classes begin and learn about everything from where’s the dining hall or how does it work to get your mail and your residence hall, as well as sort of bigger questions like what is American culture like in the classroom? How do you participate in class? Can you go and talk to your faculty members? What do students do for fun? All of these great topics But generally speaking, you’ll want to take advantage of any opportunities you have to participate in things like orientation Most colleges and universities have, on their websites, information step by step what to expect and how to enter and what to do once you’re on campus So, pretty universal You’ll need to check in with the international student advisor or designated school official on your college campus once you get there That might be part of the orientation program It might not officially be part of that But either way, you’ll want to say, I’m here We’ll say welcome Congratulations Welcome to the United States And make sure that all of that documentation we’ve been talking about is accurate and reflects correctly in the system that we have access to to double check First, I encourage students to be in touch with colleges and universities where you’re going to enroll if you have any questions, any problems any issues I had a colleague tell me a big tip that I never thought to mention to students before, but oftentimes, if you’re landing in the United States and connecting to a domestic flight, a student, for example, might not know you need to, after you go through immigration, get your bags from customs, go through customs, and then recheck them So that’s some little tip for you there But lots of great information on college and university websites about the actual process of entering, and also what to do once you’re on campus We want to help you, so ask us questions Let us know how we can be helpful BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: That’s fantastic advice

And one thing from EducationUSA’s perspective is that our advising centers around the world provide pre-departure orientations for students, which are free of charge, which we encourage you to attend Oftentimes we’ll do so in partnership with U.S. colleges and universities who may be visiting, who may be looking to do their own pre-departure orientations So we want to provide you with the tools that you need to successfully start your studies in the United States Unfortunately, we are almost out of time, but before we conclude our conversation, Jennifer and Emily, could you each share a final thought on the student visa process or anything that you would like to for our viewers? Jennifer MRS. SUDWEEKS: Sure I would say my biggest tip is just to relax Consular officers love interviewing students It’s our favorite kinds of interviews Students are so excited and full of life and energy, and we love that interaction with them So just be yourself, be enthusiastic, and tell us your story BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: That’s fantastic advice An interview is a great chance to have a nice conversation with someone who is excited about what you intend to do in the United States Emily, any last words of advice? ASSOCIATE DEAN ALMAS: Yes, I would just say we’re really excited, at colleges and universities, to welcome international students to our campuses every year So if and as you have questions, you want to know more, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the officials on the school campus where you’re going to be enrolling because we want to be helpful And the earlier you get in touch with us with any questions, the better My number one tip would probably be to make sure that, as you do different steps of the process, you save your documentation So for example, if you have access to a printer, you print things out if you have access to print things Or you save them You email them to yourself You want to make sure to have backup copies of things where feasible Just a little helpful hint But know that we’re all really excited to welcome you to American colleges and universities, and congratulations on starting this journey BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thank you so much Thank you for joining us today, Jennifer and Emily, and thank you to our viewers joining us from around the world A very special thanks to our live viewing group gathered at the EducationUSA Advising Center in Lahore, Pakistan MS. ZARAHAN: Thank you MRS. SUDWEEKS: Thank you BRANCH CHIEF BOLL: Thanks again We also had viewing groups gathered around the world, including EducationUSA Advising Centers in San Salvador, El Salvador, Yaounde, Cameroon, Baku, Azerbaijan, and Bamako, Mali; at American Corners in Pristina, Kosovo, Buea, Cameroon, and Gitega, Burundi; the American Corner in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; and the U.S embassies in Conakry, Guinea, Abuja, Nigeria, and Windhoek, Namibia You can find more information about studying in the United States by visiting the EducationUSA website at www.educationusa.state.gov There you can find information on the five steps to U.S study, locate an EducationUSA center in your country, one of over 436 around the world, connect with us via social media, learn about both in-person and virtual upcoming events, research financial aid opportunities, and much more Thank you, and please join us for future EducationUSA interactive web chats Goodbye from Washington

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