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International Student Immigration Issues #3: Frequently Asked Questions About the Student Visa


Laurie Woog, our guest-blogging immigration attorney from the Woog Law Office, LLC, answers the most common questions asked about the international student visa:
Even if you have reviewed the U.S. Embassy’s website 50 times, and you have assembled all your documents, paid your fees, put all your old passports in chronological order, and made travel arrangements, you may still have some worries or questions about obtaining your student visa.  Here are some of the questions we encounter most often from international students.
Q. What is the “presumption of immigrant intent” that I keep hearing about?
A. This means that the United States government, and therefore the embassy or consular staff, assumes that every visa applicant wants to stay in the U.S. permanently.  Even if you are applying for a temporary visa, you must prove that you intend to return home after your authorized period of stay concludes.  See our previous blog about the type of proof you will need to show this intent.
Q. How long will it take for me to obtain my visa?
A. There are various factors that affect the waiting process, such as an applicant’s country of origin, age, name, marital status or field of study.  For example, applicants who study or have worked in sensitive areas may be subject to extended security checks. Some of these fields include munitions; nuclear technology; rocket systems; chemical, biotechnology and biomedical engineering; advanced computer/ microelectronic technology; information security; sensor technology; etc.  To allow time to overcome any unforeseen problems that might arise, students are encouraged to apply for their visas several weeks before they plan to travel, or more, depending on the country.
Q.  Can I bring my wife and child with me to the U.S. while I am on a student visa?
A.  Yes, you may bring dependents.  They will need visa interviews as well and should receive F-2 visas.   You should make sure you have proof of your relationship to your spouse and/or children such as marriage and birth certificates, family registers, etc.  It is best for families to apply for their visas at the same time.  However, if your spouse and children must apply later, they should bring a copy of your passport and visa, along with all other required documents.  F-2 visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S.
Q. What if my application for a visa is denied? What can I do?
A. Consular officials have a great deal of discretion to approve or deny a visa.  Their decisions are not normally subject to review or appeal.  However, it may be possible to ask the chief of the consulate to reconsider the decision, or to ask for an advisory opinion at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. on a legal issue.  If your visa application is denied, you may want to consult an attorney for assistance in describing all the facts of the case, any additional evidence, and to try to obtain a different decision.
Q.  Do I have to have an interview if I apply to change my status in the U.S. from visitor (B-2) to student (F-1)?
A.  No, you do not.  If you request a “change of status” from one category to another while remaining in the U.S., you send your request to USCIS, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, on Form I-539.  There is no interview for this process.   However, you will need to maintain valid nonimmigrant (temporary) status in order to effect this change.  This means that you cannot apply to change status after your authorized stay expires.  Also, in some cases, USCIS will not approve a change to student status unless you informed the consulate at your B-2 interview that you were thinking about eventually studying in the U.S.
Let us know if you have any more questions that we haven’t addressed here!
Andrea Aronson
College Admissions Specialist
Westfield, NJ


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