New Initiative to Improve US Student Visa Process
Study in the States, a new initiative launched by the Department of Homeland Security, will streamline the student visa application process and attract bright international students to the US to study, its proponents say
More than 1.1 million international students and exchange visitors and their dependents come to the US every year.
“Foreign students and exchange visitors bring invaluable contributions to our nation,” and the new initiative is “an important step in empowering the next generation of international entrepreneurs, right here in America,” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a press release.
Improving the Current System
The new initiative will examine the existing student visa and exchange visitor and related programs to identify problem areas, evaluate possible regulatory changes and expand public engagement between government and academia. It will also enhance collaboration between the many foreign agencies involved in facilitating study and exchange programs by providing a centralized online hub, accessible by agencies and current and prospective students, in a user-friendly format.
One of the targeted areas is enhancing science and technology study abroad programs, which fuel innovation and entrepreneurship. As part of the new initiative, DHS has extended stay times for students earning science, technology, engineering and math degrees, allowing graduates to stay in the US through Optional Practical Training for more than two years after graduation.
Study in the States Resources
The Study in the States website employs new tools to enable prospective and current students to interact and learn about the student visa process. The site provides links to social media websites (such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube) to communicate visa information to international students, exchange visitors and the academic community. It also features a blog with videos, news and public service announcements.
The website provides resources for current students, such as forms, as well as information on obtaining a driver’s license and Social Security number, how to apply for dependents, and working in the US. Prospective students can find information about getting a visa, paying their SEVIS fees and inspections at US ports of entry.
Student and Exchange Visas
Exchange visitors must apply for J nonimmigrant visas. Exchange visitor occupation categories include au pairs, camp counselors, government visitors, interns, international visitors, physicians, professors or research scholars, specialists, students in college or university, summer work travel, teachers, and trainees.
All students and exchange visitors must complete Form I-20 and an interview at a US embassy or consulate abroad. Although most student visas expire upon completion of the program, some programs allow for the student to remain in the US to pursue additional on-the-job training.