American Visa Types and Its Importance

    Updated on: 16 Jan 2023

    Weeks spent studying the requirements, working out all the kinks, scouring the internet to solve your doubts and it all boils down to your interviewer telling you this - “Your visa has been approved!”

    Getting your visa is the final step of your dream of pursuing higher education from abroad. Once your visa is approved, nothing can stop you from studying in your dream college. Although time-taking, the process of getting a US visa is pretty straightforward. 

    The first thing that you need to do is fill the DS-160 Visa Application Form online. Keep the following documents handy with you before filling out the form:

    • Passport and Planned Itinerary
    • Employment History
    • Digital Photograph
    • Contact Information
    • Travel History

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    The DS-160 form can be accessed at the US Embassy Website. The form will require an hour or so to complete. Be vigilant while filling out the form and answer all the questions carefully. An alpha-numeric barcode confirmation page will be generated post the completion of the DS-160 form which will be required for the appointment at the Visa Application Center and for the interview at the Embassy/Consulate.

    The next step is making an appointment for an interview with a US embassy or consultancy. Make sure your paperwork is in order. Whether or not you would be getting a visa depends upon your performance in the visa interview so prepare well for the interview. Be confident and honest while answering the questions asked by the interviewer. Make sure that all your documents are clear so as to prevent any discrepancies. Your visa may be denied if the official believes that you are going to the US to live permanently, so make sure that you do not show any such intentions of settling in US.

    There has been a lot of speculation that it might become difficult to get a US visa. Though he has proposed a few changes like hiking the visa application fees, etc, limited changes have been enforced as of now. Thus the process of getting a US visa remains the same. For a detailed explanation on how this could impact student visas, please read the blog.

    US non-immigrant visa has been classified into various categories. Some of these are mentioned below:

    L-1A Visa

    This visa is available for an employee of a foreign country who has been working with a company, holding either a managerial or executive position, affiliated to the prospective US employer for more than a year. This visa type entitles the employee to enter the US for a limited duration pursuant to the terms of admission as defined by the given visa class. The L-1A category has a 7 year maximum period of stay. L-1A visas are granted initially for a 3 year period of time and can be extended furthermore. It is important to consider timing issues when applying for an L-1A visa. The process is the same as the general process but here the US employer is supposed to file an I-129 form (Petition for a nonimmigrant worker) on behalf of the employee. You should allow 30 to 90 days for the Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS) to process the case after the documents are filed. Once that is done, it takes several weeks for the embassy or consulate to issue the visa stamp that allows the foreign national to enter the United States in L-1A visa status. L-1A visa allows an individual to apply for the Green Card (permanent residency) in the US by filing a parallel EB-1 Multinational Manager or Executive Immigrant Visa case. EB-1 category would save you the trouble of going through the time-consuming ‘ Labor Certification Process’ and would allow you to directly file for I-140 form (Petition for an immigrant worker). This makes it possible to obtain Green Card in just 1 year as opposed to 8+ years that it takes for Indians in all other US visa categories. Also, L-1A is a ‘dual-intent’ visa which means that you can apply for the permanent residency without risking L-1A status.

    L-1B Visa

    This visa is available for an employee of a foreign country who has been working with a company, having ‘ specialized knowledge’ about company’s products and services, affiliated to the prospective US employer for more than a year. The L-1B category has a 5 year maximum period of stay. It is initially granted for 3 years and can be extended up to 5 years. The process is the same as of L-1A visa. This category may take 2-3 months as the processing time. Unlike the L-1A visa category, L-1B visa status holders do not have the privilege of directly filing for the I-140 form. They have to follow the regular process of applying for the Green Card which could take years.

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    H-1B Visa

    This visa is available to a temporary worker in a ‘speciality occupation’. This category has a 3 year period of stay which can be extended up to 6 years. This is the visa an Indian national typically gets once he/she starts working full-time in the US. H1B has a current annual cap of 65,000, along with an additional 20,000 spots reserved for holders of a US Masters degree. As the number of applicants usually exceeds the annual ceiling (it was ~200,000 in 2017), a lottery system is used to decide who gets in. The process of getting an H-1B visa involves the employer filing a Labor Application Form (LCA) and then the I-129 form, on behalf of the employee.   H-1B visa category is more flexible as compared to the L-1 visa category. You can change your company and location in the former, while the latter does not permit you to do so.  

    F-1 Visa

    This is the most common type of student visa. Any student who wishes to pursue higher education from a US accredited college or university can get an F1 visa. For applying for an F1 visa, in addition to the regular process, you would be asked to present an approved I-20 form issued by your college or university and an I-901 SEVIS fee receipt indicating that you have paid the SEVIS fee. It is recommended that you apply for your F-1 as soon as possible. You should apply at least 2 months before you actually intend to go to the US. Students holding an F-1 visa status can work after the completion of their degree under Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT allows you to work for a period of 12 months but STEM- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics- majors can extend their OPT for an additional period of 24 months - so, 36 months in total. This can give you 3 shots at H1B, making the odds of missing out on the lottery extremely low - only 12.5% even if we assume that the probability of getting it a single attempt is just 50%. Non-STEM majors do not have any such advantage of extending their OPT period.

    While OPT allows you to work after the completion of your degree, you can also work before as an intern under Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT is issued by your college for 364 days, only after you have completed two semesters of your course. It gives you temporary authorization to gain practical work experience in your own field of study.

    J1 Visa

    J1 visa category provides foreign nationals with an opportunity for professional development as an exchange visitor. The process involves filling out the DS-160 form, Form DS-2019, that is, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status, and Form I-797C, that is, Notice of Action indicating that you have paid the SEVIS fee. You must provide enough evidence that you have sufficient funds to cover your expenses in abroad and you are going to the US for a temporary period. The validity of J-1 visa for an intern is just 12 months while for a research scholar, it is 5 years.

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    How Can GyanDhan Help You With a Visa?

    GyanDhan provides 360-degree admission counselling services to students who wish to study in the US for their higher education, including visa counselling. If you require any help in getting a visa or have questions about the US visa, get in touch with us right now. Our counselling services ensure that all your doubts are cleared and requirements are met at the lowest possible cost. 

    Apart from visa, we also provide IELTS, TOEFL, and GRE test preparation packages, admission counselling services, accommodation counselling, forex, and travel card. Therefore, we are the one-stop destination for all your study abroad needs. To avail our admission counselling services, all you need to do is fill this easy form. We will quickly get in touch with you once you submit the form. 

    We also help you sort out the financing bit of higher education abroad by providing unsecured and secured education loans from leading banks and NBFCs at the lowest possible cost. When you apply for a loan via GyanDhan, you can be assured of 100 percent acceptance, speedy redressal and sanction,  and least amount of hassle and effort. 

    For low-cost education loans for studying abroad, check your loan eligibility or request a call back. Our education loan counsellor will give you a call in no time.


    When Should I Ideally Apply For a Student Visa?

    You should apply for a student visa right after you receive your I-20 form.  It is always better to start the application process at the earliest to avoid last-minute troubles and unforeseen delays. A student visa is issued 120 days prior the starting date  given on your I-20 form.

    Can I Change My University After Fixing a Date for a US Student Visa Appointment?

    Yes, you can. The steps to be taken to make that happen however depends on the stage of visa application you are in. Listing below three scenarios and the course of action to be taken accordingly: 

    Scenario A - If the visa payment is not made, but the SEVIS is paid and D-160 is submitted:
    You need to transfer the SEVIS fee from college A to College B, where you intend to take admission. Fill a new DS-160 with the details of the new college, submit the form for confirmation. Book the appointment and make sure that you are carrying the confirmation letter on the day of the interview. 

    Scenario B: The Interview Date is booked, and DS-160 and visa have been submitted and paid for respectively:
    Repeat the steps in scenario A and then login to your account on the CGI Federal website and update the SEVIS ID and DS-160 confirmation number.

    Scenario C: If you have already appeared for the VISA interview:
    Get the I-20 form from the new school. Repeat the steps in scenario A and pay the visa fees again. You will then have to schedule an interview with the visa authorities for the second time.

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