Q: My classmate had to return to the Embassy twice after her first appointment with more information before her student visa was approved. What should I know to bring with me for my student visa interview?
A: Student visa applications require more advanced planning than simple visitor's visas applications, and applicants are frequently asked to return with more information when they do not come fully prepared. There are a few steps you can take to ensure that you only have to appear on your interview date.
First and most importantly, you must have a signed I-20 form issued by your school. This must be an original document (not a fax or printout of an e-mail attachment). This form shows the interviewing officer that you have been accepted by the school. More importantly, it documents for the officer what funds you will need in order to cover your expenses.
Lack of evidence of sufficient funding is the single most common reason applicants are forced to return a second (or third) time for a student visa interview. You should therefore be sure to bring along independent verification of the funding that is described on your I-20 form. If you are being offered a scholarship, bring along your award letter from the school. If a family member or other sponsor will be providing support, bring along bank statements that show that they are able to meet their obligations.
The consular officer has to be certain that you can finance your full course of education in the US. While the Embassy recognises that few students have the resources to finance an entire two- or four-year degree in advance, the officer must establish that you have at hand the resources to fund at least the first year.
A good guide to use in organising the evidence you prepare in advance of your interview is the school's estimate for the total cost of the first year of study. This is listed on the I-20 form. Be sure that that the scholarship documents and/or bank statements you bring in from your sponsor show at least that much in readily available funds. Savings or checking account statements are best. Business account statements or a sponsor's retirement account statement might raise additional questions from the officer to establish that such funds are readily available.
It is possible that the consular officer won't ask you for all of these documents. It is important to have them available in case they are needed, however. A bit of advanced preparation can save you the time and expense of returning for a second interview.
For more information about American Citizen Services, please visit our website, http://kingston.usembassy.gov/service.html.
Reminder for US citizens
The 2012 election season is underway in the United States. To register to vote from abroad or to sign up to receive state-specific election alerts, visit http://fvap.gov. You may drop off your voting materials with postage affixed at the US Embassy in Kingston or at the US Consular Agencies in Montego Bay and the Cayman Islands for delivery to the United States.
The US Embassy staff in Kingston will answer questions you may have regarding the US Mission, including consular law, regulations and/or practice. In order to respect privacy, staff will not answer questions about specific visa applications. The embassy employs a visa appointment system, so it is only necessary for visa applicants to arrive 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment.
Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send them to the embassy.