Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services
June 20, 2011
Hi, my name is David Donahue, and I am Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services at the State Department. Congratulations on your acceptance to a community college, vocational school, college or university in the United States. Now that you have your acceptance letter from an accredited U.S. educational institution, you are hopefully preparing for the student visa application process.
Applying for a student visa is straightforward and the vast majority of applicants are successful. Last year we issued visas to more than 86 percent of those applying for student, exchange, and vocational visas. In number, we issued 715,000 student, exchange, and vocational visas worldwide. We are happy to welcome all international students to our country. You bring valuable skills and knowledge to our classrooms, and contribute to advancements in academic fields through your work and research. This summer our embassies and consulates abroad are seeing record numbers of students applying for visas to study in the United States.
Many of you have already successfully completed the visa application process. Congratulations. As the rest of you prepare for your student visa application, let me share with you three important tips.
Our goal is to help every qualified student visa applicant begin his or her program of study on time. It’s important to schedule your appointment as early as possible. While first-time students can enter the United States only 30 days before studies begin, a student visa can be issued up to 120 days before. Most visa applications are processed in a few days, but there are times when we may require additional information or additional processing time, and it helps to have the time to do this before your expected travel date.
Our website at travel.state.gov is your number one resource for U.S. student visa information. Then you should visit the website of the embassy or consulate where you will be applying. These websites provide valuable information about the interview process, such as how to schedule an appointment and what to expect during the interview. Our embassies and consulates have procedures to expedite appointments for student visa applicants, so be sure to look for this information if you are having difficulties getting a visa appointment on time.
In addition to the normal visa requirements, you must present certain information such as your I-20 form, your SEVIS fee receipt, and proof of ability to pay for your education. Our websites have detailed information on what you will need to bring with you to the interview, so be prepared.
Once you have your visa, we can also help you prepare for your arrival in the United States. You can find answers to Frequently Asked Questions on travel.state.gov or visit EducationUSA.state.gov for tips on planning your departure, traveling to the United States, and finding housing.
We continue to look for ways to improve the student visa process to ensure that everyone who qualifies and has a legitimate desire to study in the United States has that opportunity. We hope all of you who will be studying here have a rich and rewarding experience full of learning opportunities, friendships, and the chance to see more of the United States. Once again – congratulations – and welcome.