Another late post… Hey better late than never right? 🙂
Yes! The hurdle is finally surmounted! Actually, getting a student visa shouldn’t really be a hurdle, except at the US consulate, where things could always go either way. I should know: I’ve gone through the visa process three times, and actually got rejected once! Anyway, that’s another story.
As someone who was already in the US on a work visa, one of the issues I struggled with for a while was if I should do a change of visa status right here in the US or go out of the country and get my visa stamped at a US consulate. As usual, US immigration issues don’t make a lot of sense at first glance so I’ll try to put some context around it.
Students who are already in the US on some sort of visa can apply to change their status to that of ‘Student’ while remaining in the US. This process takes about 2 months on average, and gives the advantage of not having to leave the country and go face a consular officer at any US consulate around the world. For a while I was tempted to use this option, but the downside is that even though your status is changed, there is no visa stamp on your passport. Therefore, whenever you have to leave the US, you will still have to go to a US consulate to get that visa stamp before you can re-enter the US. Since I knew I would be leaving the US during my MBA program, I decided to go home and get the visa stamp right away; one less thing to worry about. If you are a future international student and none of this makes any sense, that’s fine. It will in the future. 🙂
Unlike my first time, the visa interview for my MBA student visa was pretty straightforward and uneventful. It went something like this:
Me: Good Morning.
Visa Officer: Good Morning. Can I have you passport and application please?
Me: Sure (passes passport and documents over).
Visa Officer: Why do you want to go to the United States?
Me: I want to go to the US to study for my masters degree at Northwestern University.
Visa Officer: Wow Northwestern. Okay… (starts typing). What are you going to do your masters in?
Me: In business. I’m going to do my MBA.
Visa Officer: Why do you want to do an MBA?
Me: (Said some stuff about having a graduate technical degree and wanting to focus on the business side of technology).
Visa Officer: And this technical masters degree you have is from where?
Me: Texas A&M University.
Visa Officer: Okay (types some more). Are there any other schools you considered?
Me: Yes I applied to UC Berkeley, MIT Sloan, Carnegie Mellon University, and UT Austin.
Visa Officer: So why did you choose Northwestern University?
Me: (Said some stuff about collaboration, my interest in marketing and the strength of the Kellogg brand in Nigeria).
Visa Officer: Okay (continues typing. Picks up passport and starts flipping through). Oh and you’ve been to the US before right?
Visa Officer: Okay… have you ever been refused a visa to the US?
Me: Yes. I went to Ghana to apply for a student visa and I was refused because I didn’t have strong ties to Ghana.
Visa Officer: Okay that makes sense. How are you paying for your degree?
Me: I have some personal savings. I’m also getting some funds from my sister and these funds are already in my account. I also have a student loan guaranteed by the Kellogg School of Management.
Visa Officer: Can I see some form of evidence? Of the loan at least?
Me: Sure (passes over student loan letter).
Visa Officer: Okay this looks good. What do you intend to do after your MBA?
Me: I intend to come back to Nigeria and focus on the marketing of technology products.
Visa Officer: Okay. Your visa has been approved. You can go to our pickup location on Monday.
Me: Thank you.
Overall, pretty easy. Considering that a lot of people were getting rejects all around me, I think what made me successful was the fact that:
1. I was going to a reputable school.
2. I had a coherent story about my future plans.
3. My financial plan was simple and understandable.
4. I had been to the US before.
Personally I think every visa application has strengths and weaknesses. The rule of the game is to play up your strengths and mitigate your weaknesses as much as possible. If you have any student visa questions you’d like me to take a stab at, please post them below or send me an email at [eorigbo] [at] [gmail] [dot] [com].