Students urged to apply for US visas early
High school students wishing to attend college and universities in the United States are being urged to apply for their U.S. student visa early to avoid the last-minute rush, and the disappointment of not being able to make their visa appointment.
Consular Officer Brooke Moppert said while the U.S. is firmly and absolutely committed to doing everything possible to facilitate the travel of Bahamian students, it is really important that they apply as early as they possibly can.
“We have lots and lots of students who tend to apply at the last minute and sometimes they are not able to get into the appointment on the day of their choice because the slots have already been filled up. We don’t want to have you put yourself in a situation where you are not arriving at your classes on time,”said Moppert at a press conference held at the U.S Embassy yesterday.
The U.S. processes anywhere between 22,000 to 24,000 non-immigrant visa applications for The Bahamas each year. And out of that, between 4,000 and 5,000 are in regard to student visas.
The student visa season is between March and the end of September, with the peak season around June, July, and August.
“We do have statistics to indicate that there were more student visa applications in general last year than there was in 2009, which means that we are seeing an increase, and hopefully again this year in 2011 of people applying to study in the US,” Moppert said.
“During the months March to the end of September, because we want to ensure that students are able to get to their class on time, we make requests for appointments for students the highest priority, far superceding requests for tourist visas. Because of that other travelers should be aware that they should apply now for any visas that they may need to travel this summer, so that they can make sure their cruise deposit is not lost,”she added.
Moppert stressed that those persons seeking student visas must have all their documents on hand, including those relating to financial matters.
She explained that students are required to demonstrate that they have immediate access to the entire amount of required funds listed on the I-20 form(tuition, room and board and other expenses)for the first year of education, and demonstrate access to funding to cover expenses for all subsequent years of education.
“Students need to be able to focus on what they are coming to the U.S. to do, which is study. It is against U.S regulations and law for foreign students to work for the first year in the U.S. off campus. There are certain exceptions, some of them can work on campus for a limited number of hours if they have work-study, but for the most part students for the first year cannot work at all. We need to make sure that they are fully covered for room and board and tuition,”Moppert said.
The U.S. consular officer informed that bank letters that do not specify a balance, certificates of deposit, stock certificates, pension funds and land holdings do not qualify as immediate access to funds and would not be accepted. She said the Embassy would be officially enforcing this policy this summer.
“We like to see bank statements that show that the funds are readily available,”she said.
Moppert explained that it is no guarantee an applicant will receive a student visa. She said a visa could be denied for anynumber of reasons.