US student visa update: Applications window to open 1 year before start of academic program

    Updated on: 01 Mar 2023

    The United States Department of State has announced a much-needed update for international students looking to study in the US. Starting from March 1st, 2023, prospective F-1 student visa applicants can now apply up to 365 days before their academic term begins. Previously, F1 visa applicants were required to schedule their visa interview within 120 days of receiving their I-20 form, which is a document issued by the university or college that the applicant intends to attend in the United States.

    This change means that universities can now accept and issue I-20 forms 12-14 months before term time, giving students more time to complete the visa application process. However, students will still only be allowed to travel to the US on the visa 30 days before the start of their program.

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    Why the change in rules?

    The measure is in wake of the backlog of visa files that accumulated in US consulates and embassies around the world post pandemic. The current US visa backlog around the world is:

    • Nepal: 378 Calendar Days
    • Bangladesh: 174 Calendar Days
    • Nigeria: 206 Calendar Days
    • UAE: 100 Calendar Days
    • India: 50 Calendar Days
    • Mexico: 70 Calendar Days

    Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs Julie Stufft said, "India is the number one priority that we are facing right now. We are absolutely committed to getting out of the backlog situation. Anyone in India seeking a visa appointment or visa has to wait, that's not certainly our ideal."

    Read: How Slow Visa Approvals Continue to Pose Difficulties for Student?

    Benefits of the new US visa update

    This new move aims to make the US visa application process more flexible and convenient for students who may have logistical challenges.

    • The extended US student visa application deadline will allow foreign students, especially Indians, a lot more time to apply and prepare for F1 visa interview.
    • Another advantage of the new US student visa application timeline is that US colleges and universities can now issue I-20 forms 12 to 14 months before their programs begin.

    It is important to note that while the interview scheduling period has been extended, applicants are still advised to schedule their interviews as early as possible to allow sufficient time for any necessary administrative procedures or processing delays. Additionally, applicants should still ensure that they have all the necessary documents for US visa and meet eligibility requirements before applying.

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    Other measures to reduce US student visa delays

    Over the past few months, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has taken multiple steps to ease the processing time, including special interview slots, interview waivers for some applicants.

    Here are some of the measures that have been implemented:

    1. Interview waiver process

    The Department of State has initiated a US interview waiver process for some temporary workers, students, and academic exchange visitors. This means that those who are eligible for the waiver will not have to go through an in-person interview, which will reduce wait times and make the process more convenient.

    1. Special Saturday interview days

    On January 21, 2023 the embassy launched the first in a series of special Saturday interview days to reduce wait times for first-time visa applicants.The US Embassy in New Delhi and Consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Hyderabad opened consular operations on Saturdays to accommodate applicants who require in-person visa interviews.

    These measures have helped to reduce wait times for visa processing, especially for H-1B and F-1 visa applicants. International students make a significant contribution to the US economy and cultural landscape, and these updates will help to make the visa application process smoother and more efficient.

    The US Department of State has urged students to stay informed about the latest developments in visa processing procedures and consult with their educational institution and relevant immigration authorities to ensure that they are following the correct procedures.

    First published date:

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