Every international student planning to study in the USA, will need to get a student immigrant visa, otherwise known as an F1 visa, before migrating to the country. After getting admission from a US university or college, the student thereafter goes for a visa interview with the required documents. When this visa is given, the student can go to the US for the purpose of studying.
This visa, however, does not give you- the international student- an automatic citizenship status since you will still be referred to as an immigrant.
Now what happens then when that student visa expires and you still wish to go back to the US for an extended study or thereabouts ? A visa renewal is imminent of course. Visa renewals sadly have been hugely associated with so many myths and falsies.
While first time visa interviews can be financially and emotionally stressful, Visa renewals are relatively easier. All the time and effort put in preparing for your visa application coupled with the uncertainty of the outcome will be almost non-existent because the chances of you getting a Visa the second time would have increased due to the following reasons:
a. A good travel history. If you have not left your home country prior to the visa approval, this is the first time you wish to travel out and for a good reason. Also, if you have left your home country to another country before and you came back, it shows you have integrity.
b. Being a student. The issue of funding is not much of a big deal since you are a student and you do not have a family to cater for their needs. Your living expenses wouldn’t be much.
Now that we know this. Let’s tackle some of these myths harboring us back, shall we?
Here are some myths about F1 student visa renewal
Myth 1: F1 visa can be renewed within the United States
This is so not true! A student visa to the United State cannot be renewed in the US, but outside the US, not necessarily in one’s home country where he/she initially got the visa.
The expiration date on the visa does not mean the date one must leave the US, one can still stay and study within the US regardless of the expiration as long as the student has a valid I-20.
However, if the student takes a trip outside the United States and won’t be returning after the expiration date of the visa, he/she will need to renew the visa in order to return. The visa cannot be renewed within the US.
Myth 2: Only academically outstanding students get visas
Visas are not solely reserved for outstanding students. A major prerequisite to getting a visa or visa renewal is admission into a college or university in the US. As long as you have gotten admission to a tertiary institution in the US, academic excellence does not matter when it comes to the F1 visa.
Students usually given admission must have met the academic requirements for such an institution and the university thereafter gives the student an I-20 to obtain the F1 visa.
Myth 3: You’ll be automatically denied
It is illogical to assume you will be automatically denied a renewed visa. The sole purpose of visa interviews is to evaluate the applicant fairly and accurately. If applications are automatically denied then there’s no need for interviews to begin with. If you are still in the US system as a student and it can be verified, then you won’t be denied.
Myth 4: If your student visa is expired, you’ll be denied
Your I-20 is your F1 status and not your F1 visa. Your I-20 form merely points to your admission status granted by the US government through your selected educational institution. This does not in any way guarantee a visa denial once your student visa has expired. If your I-20 is still valid, you can renew your student visa because you are still in the system.
Myth 5: If you changed your school, you can’t renew your visa
A valid I-20 is the document required for an F1 visa to be issued- it does not matter if the school that issued the first I-20 is different from your current institution. Your I-20 shows that you are enrolled full-time in a program in the US. The consulate needs to know that you are in student status and a valid I-20 shows that.
Myth 6:You have to renew your visa in the embassy or country it was issued
The US welcomes students from countries all over the world through an F1 visa. Many students are from distant countries and it is extremely difficult to go back to the initial visa-issuing embassy for renewal.
Working to pay for logistics and travel expenses back to the issuing embassy may be impossible as students on F1 visas do not earn much because of rules guiding their visa. The US gives international students the option to renew their visas in an embassy of their choice.
Steps to Take When Renewing Your Visa
Although the process of renewing the visa can be stressful, the process is not as rigorous as if you were applying for a new visa. Since you can do it in any country of your choice and not go through the exact process he/she went through the initial time. Here are the few steps required:
Fill out a visa application form: Just like when applying for a new visa, you will be required to fill in the DS-160 form online for your visa renewal.
Schedule an appointment at the embassy: Next is to book an appointment with the consulate at the US embassy for a Visa Interview. If you are eligible, you might get a waiver.
Gather all required documents: Prepare all the same documents originally used for your first visa application and get them stamped where needed.
Visa Application Fee: Pay and provide a receipt for visa application fee before your interview.
Go for your visa interview: The last step would be to attend your visa interview in person, fully prepared.
Documents Needed For Your Visa Renewal
Valid passport: You must have a valid passport for at least six months after you plan to leave the country.
Portrait picture: You have to upload your visa photo when you fill in your online application.
DS-160 Application Form: You will need to print the confirmation page of your filled-out Form DS- 160.
Form I-20: You should also go with the I-20 form issued by your school.
University records: You need to present important university records with clear information about your study program, coursework and research. Also documents like your transcript, CV, etc.
Being an international student in the US with an expired F1 visa can be risky both to your reputation and studies as it may affect your studies. In fact, once your student visa expires, you are automatically eligible for a visa renewal.
While someone can still stay in the US with an expired visa, it is advisable to renew it as soon as possible (preferably before it expires) to avoid legal problems.
Once you have renewed your F1 visa, you can continue your education in the U.S. While you can do it by yourself, do not shy away from seeking legal help from a qualified attorney in case you become perplexed anywhere in the application process.
Also, If you wish to know what might lead to a visa denial, stay glued for our next post. Meanwhile, you can leave a comment or question under this post.