If the U.S. school I want to attend does not have a foreign student advisor, who will help me with my student visa?
UPDATED: January 25, 2012
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International students who wish to study in the United States often look to the schools they are pursuing to find a foreign student advisor who can help them navigate the visa process. Most schools will have a foreign student advisor or counselor to assist with the processing of international students visas. But what if the school you wish to attend does not have such a counselor? If the school you wish to attend does not have a foreign student advisor, your next best option is to consult an immigration attorney for assistance. A qualified immigration attorney can help you determine whether that school participates in a U.S. government approved Exchange-Visitor Program. Most importantly, an immigration attorney can guide you through the procedures, options, forms and supporting documentation to complete your application.
Depending on your educational goals and background, you may qualify for more than one type of student visa. Immigration attorneys have experience working with international students and can help to explain which type of student visa is best for your situation and the procedures associated with each. After you have identified the type of student visa you want to apply for, you will need to complete the required forms and gather the appropriate documentation. Failing to file a complete application can result in a denial of your student visa.
Converting an Existing Visa
If you are already in the United States on another type of visa, there will be additional forms to complete in order to convert your visa to a student visa. The conversion process is somewhat different than applying for a visa outright. Even if your school does have a foreign student advisor, you may still want to seek the assistance of an immigration attorney regarding the legal challenges involved with conversion of your status.
Notaries and Paralegals
Do not gamble with your student visa by hiring a “notario” (notary) or a paralegal to draft your forms and give you advice. Neither are considered licensed and are therefore not authorized to provide international students with legal advice. For example, if they incorrectly tell you that a school is a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) program sponsor, you may waste funds and valuable time applying for a J-1 student visa which is not available through that school.
Applying for a student visa, much like other visas, can be time-consuming for international students. Government agencies tend to move at their own pace. As such, make sure you begin the process of applying for a student visa as soon as you know that you will need one. This will enable you to deal with situations, like the absence of a foreign student advisor, without delaying your application.