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The American student visa is fairly elusive. The visa for which  a trip to your astrologer is probably as important as your trip to the student counsellor. So lets join the carnival at the American Consulate in Mumbai and see how we can make you reach the land of milk and honey!

What is a I-20 form and a F 1 visa stamp? If you wish to study in the US then after you are admitted into a course, the American University will send you an I-20 form.  The I-20 form is a legal document that entitles you to stand in the serpentine queue at the US Consulate and apply for a US student visa. If your student visa application is successful then the Consulate will stamp your passport with a F-1 student visa stamp. This visa stamp allows you legal permission to make travel plans to see the celebrated Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge.

What are the timings at the American Consulate? You can go stand in the long queue whenever you want but the Consulate staff will start letting you in from 7  to 11 in the morning. And if you have been refused a visa once then you will be let in from 9.30 to 11 in the morning. Do remember to leave your mobile  phone and personal belongings at home as you cant take anything inside the Consulate. Except the relevant documents ofcourse!

From where can I get the visa application form? The visa application form is available, free of charge, from the security guards outside the American Consulate. The address of the Consulate General of America is 78 Bhulabhai Desai Road, Mumbai - 400026.

How much application fee and visa fee do we need to pay? There is non-refundable application fee of Rs 1935 or $45 that everybody who is applying for a visa needs to pay. Then there is a visa fee for those who are granted the visa. The visa fee is varies according to the duration of your course in the US.

What documents will I need if my relatives in the US want to pay for my education?  An affidavit of support will be needed from your relative or friend who is offering to pay for your education in the US. The affidavit would need to clarify the relationship with you and their commitment to pay for your education expenses.

If my parents or somebody in India is going to be paying for my education in the US. Then what documents will I need to show to prove their financial ability to support my  American education? A notarised  affidavit of support will be needed from your financial sponsor indicating their willingness to pay for your education in the US.

What documents will I need to present to establish that I have permanent ties in India?  There are various documents that can prove that you have permanent ties in India - namely property papers, job offer letters, awareness of the job market in India etc. But what will really convince a visa officer is your personal conviction. If you are not personally convinced that you need to be coming back  to India, then it will be  very difficult to prove it to somebody as shrewd as a visa officer that you will be coming back.

If I am granted the visa then by when will I get my passport back  stamped with the F 1 visa? If you are amongst the lucky few who are granted the visa then you will be immediately asked to submit your passport and collect it at four in the evening on the same day.

If I am refused the visa once what do I need to do next to apply for a visa again?  For getting the American student visa you  are entitled to two personal interviews and one last chance for applying via mail. Thus if you are refused the visa on your first visit you can apply again in person, after 3 working days, at the American Consulate in Mumbai. On the second visit you will be allowed to enter only after 9.30 AM. If due to any reason you are refused the visa on your second visit as well then after ten working days you can apply through mail.

After the second time visa refusal in person do I really stand a chance if I apply through mail? The visa by mail will work only if your circumstances have changed substantially and you think you have additional supporting documents to reapply for a student visa. It is a very rare chance that the visa will be granted  by mail for a person who has been refused twice in personal interviews.

If my visa is refused from Consulate in one city/region. Can I reapply for a visa from another city/region? If wishes were horses you could possibly do that. If you apply for your visa from Mumbai and are refused the first time. Then your second personal interview will have to be in Mumbai.

There are some agents who are guaranteeing me the American student visa. How true might be their claim?  The American student visa officials have placed themselves above the influence of political interference (both from India and America) so there is no person who can guarantee an American student visa. A counsellor can assist or guide you in terms of putting your papers together but no person is in a position to guarantee you a visa.

How have the sanctions against India had an impact on the student visas issued? The sanctions have had a particular impact on those students who are applying to study anything remotely connected with defense related technology. And the emphasis is on the word remotely connected. For example if you are going to be  studying Biotechnology (genetic) which at some levels also deals with immunology and in turn can be used in biological warfare, then you could be under suspicion.

Should I wear lucky clothes and carry my good luck charm? Yes. You will need all the luck that you can muster for this one. Tightly close your eyes and wish on a falling star for good measure. And heres a horseshoe, and four leaf clover from me. &all the luck!

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