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US student visas: What's an I-20?
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March 22, 2006

You want to study in the US. 

And you need to know all about the visa application process.

US visa expert Dr Arun Vakil, in a live chat with Get Ahead readers on March 16, said: "You cannot apply for a student visa interview until you have the I-20 (a form issued by a school/ university which has granted admission to you), online or offline."

Dr Arun has an MBA from the University of California, USA, and a PhD from the University of Wyoming, USA. He is an expert on US visa regulations. He was associated with the US consulate in Mumbai as an economist from 1974 to 1977.

Dr Vakil conducts orientation courses for students going to the US; these courses are organised by the United States Education Foundation in India and the Indo-American Society. He also lectures on US visas and immigration laws.

Dr Vakil wrote the book Gateway To America, in 1984.

For those of you who missed the chat, here is the transcript:

Part IWant visa? Learn to speak well

pritamArun, is showing proof of finance for one year enough to get an F1-visa?

Dr Arun Vakil: You should also show accessibility of funds for future years while you are in the US. This could be family funds, sponsors in the US, scholarships or combination of all.

MSinFallhello Dr vakil. My Dad is working in the gulf (U.A.E) and i will be showing his salary certificate for the interview. is this a plus or a minus.

Dr Arun Vakil: This is okay but you have to show family property in India and evidence that you have legal right on it.

Poornima: Hello sir, I have I20s from Arizona State University and North Caroina State university(no funding offered).I already have H1B , though I never used that.Now, I wish to cancel that and go for F1.How do I go abt cancelling H1 and apply for F1?

Dr Arun Vakil: Once you decide on a university of study and apply for an F-1 visa, during your interview you can explain that you have changed your mind about working to study. They are most likely to cancel your H-1 without any prejudice.

ali:  Dr Vakil i am a FYJC. Com student i would like to know career options available there

Dr Arun Vakil: You need to study further towards your graduation and then look for MBA programme or Master's programme in computers if that interests you. There are a multitude of possibilities. Visit the office of the United States Education Foundation of India. They will guide you.

andysekhon1: Hello Arun I am Indian Student study here in Montreux switzerland, I am doing Post Graduate hotel management Diploma, I want to know about USA J1 Visa, I have 2 yrs Experiance in Hotel Field.

Dr Arun Vakil: You need to find a hotel employer who will invite you by filing for your J-1. Only then you can apply.  

Revathi: Hi I am Revathi i would like to do MS in Environmental Studies in US Universities. Kindly advice me which university is best and what are the employment opportunities i will get after MS

Dr Arun Vakil: Environmental studies is a good subject both in India and America. Visit the United States Education Foundation of India office in your city or website for guidance on university selection.

Meegada: Hello Mr Vakil, My hubby is in US on F1 visa, i would like to join him either on F2 or i would like to enrol in any univ. however i have only 15 years of education because of which it is quite difficult to get an admission. Kindly suggest if i can join him on F2 and if so, should he show that he is financially sound to take care of me. he is sponsored by my mom-in-law. Kindly advise.

Dr Arun Vakil: If he can show enough funds to support you through his bank account, you can go on an F-2 visa. Alternatively, you could enroll for your sixteenth year of study, complete it and then apply in your own right for higher studies.

aravind: Hello Dr.Arun I am an indian presently in Portugal doing a Post-Doctoral program. I have an offer in US to do a Post-doctoral program Is it possible for me to apply for a J1 visa from Portugal

Dr Arun Vakil: You can, provided an institution files for you and indicates a stipend that will be offered to you for your living.

Rahul: Hello Dr Vakil, I am keen on pursuing an mba from the united states & have already shortlisted the universities. I am a graduate from delhi university and ahve been to London [Images] thrice, will this benefit me in anyway in getting my US visa(i have never been to the US) How long will it take before i get a studenys visa, and whta all should i be ready with before applying for it sir??

Dr Arun Vakil: Just because you have been to London thrice, this does not qualify you for a US student visa. It depends on how you satisfy the conditions for the student visa. Visit for details and also read my book Gateway To America (write to which will give you all the details. The waiting time for student applicants to get an interview call at the US embassy, Delhi, today is 16 days.

nalini: Before the I-20 is received can i take appointment for visa interview?

Dr Arun Vakil: No. I-20 is a pre-requisite for visa appointment

roh_sal: Dear Dr Vakil, I have been admitted to the Univ of Illinois for an MSF without aid, as there isnt any for the program. I am awaiting the decision for Boston College which is due on 15th April. My Visa Date is 24th April. I have stated the name of univ of illinois in the Visa form. if I get through to Boston College with Aid, will I be able to go for the interview taking the i 20 of Boston College instead of that of the univ of illinois?? Kindly advise!

Dr Arun Vakil: Take both I-20s and explain to the visa officer your case just as you have stated in your question today. If he is convinced, he will allow you to change

pritam: What are the ways by which one can prove to embassy that one is coming back after education?

Dr Arun Vakil: Show financial ties of the family where you have a stake, your future plan in India such as family business or job along with information on prospects in your specialisation.

pritam: Hi Arun, do you provide independent counseling?

Dr Arun Vakil: Contact on

Hitesh: Hi,This is Hitesh Patel,I want the information about H1B. Can u give me details about that

Dr Arun Vakil: Today's chat is for student visas only.

abhi: Hi Arun, i applied for the B1 VISA last week and got rejection under rule 174(a) the interviewer gave me the reason they don't think i'm going to come back. Now i'm applying again and my date is in the next week. what do u think my chances to get teh visa this time?

Dr Arun Vakil: You have to prove that you are coming back. Show new evidence. Contact

klakshmikutty: Sir, my k1 petitio is inder 221(g) stating that ,y petition requries further adm process and will be contaced once that is over, i was like this for the last one year,but some two weekd before,for one of my email enquiry they say that " it has already been purged and it is no more with us? what does it mena and what i have to do now sie? theu did not given any other onformation so far,pl help

Dr Arun Vakil: Anything going in for an administration process takes a lot of time -- four to eight months. You cannot do anything but wait or try for another visa.

ashishdhawan: Hello sir i have applied for admission in us for fall 2006 and i am currently awaiting for their replies i would like ask when is the best time for taking an appointment for visa and how am i suppose to go about it?

Dr Arun Vakil: You can take an appointment only after you get a I-20 form. Visit for details.

Bindu [Images]: Hello I am a research Scholar and my husband works in the United States as a Post Doc. I got my H-4 visa stamped from Germany [Images] (I work here)my questions are 1) Is it possible for me to take an internship in a company with this visa? 2. How long does it take to change from H-4 to H-1, in case somebody offers me an H-1? Thanks in advance bindu

Dr Arun Vakil: You cannot work on H-4. If an employer files for your H-1, then you qualify to work. April 1 is the first date available to apply for the H-1. Visas will be issued effective October 1, 2006.

AvinashG: Hello Dr. Vakil, I am Avinash and am currently based in Brussels for the past one year and my passport was issued in Bangalore. I have received an admit from an American University. I want to know can I attend the visa interview in Brussels instead of Chennai and if not, do we need an I-20 to book a date for the visa interview?

Dr Arun Vakil: You have to approach US consulate, Brussels, and ask if they can isssue you a visa for studies. The officer has discretionary powers to decide. If he does, you will or else he may direct you to India.

Dr Arun Vakil: Well, friends, I wish you all the best. As today's chat was only for students, I could not answer queries on non-student visas. You can reach me on Cheers.

Part IWant visa? Learn to speak well


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