DC Student Visa Application Process

For someone seeking a student visa, it would be important to have an attorney if you have any questions about the limitations and rules of your student status. There are a lot of strict limits placed on student visas, especially involving employment. It is easy to violate your status. Another big issue is when an individual is in student status and is arrested or charged with committing a crime. For many offenses, you may end up in removal proceedings, which means you definitely need an attorney. To learn more about visas or for help overcoming any obstacles associated with obtaining a visa schedule a consultation with a DC student visa lawyer today.

Length of a Student Visa’s Validity

It varies depending on the length of your program, but one very important thing is to consult with an immigration attorney if you have any questions about employment. Generally, students are not allowed to work while they are in the United States.

There are some exceptions, for example, if class is in session, there is a certain hour limit that you can work and it has to be an on-campus position, but, for the most part, you’re not allowed to obtain employment. Obtaining employment while you’re here on a student visa can violate your status and you could end up having your status terminated. You are here to study and that’s it. It’s not a free pass to come to the United States and work. You have to be in school, be enrolled full-time, and make sure you’re not working more than you’re allowed.

Process for Obtaining a Student Visa

The first step is to decide where you want to attend school in the United States. Obviously you need to choose a school that has been approved by the Dept. of Homeland Security and confirm it by looking for the school in the online database, or SEVIS. SEVIS stands for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System Program.

Students interested in applying for a visa in DC will have to document their ability to financially support themselves. They will need to prove their ability to be accepted to the school, usually with an acceptance letter. Generally, most of this documentation is collected and administered through the school. Most schools have an international student departments to deal with these.

Contacting Your School

The next thing to do is contact the school’s admission or enrollment department. Generally, accredited universities have an individual who is in charge of processing student visas through the school. A lot of times people don’t hire immigration attorneys for basic student visas because the school has someone on staff who handles that. However, we have had cases in the past in which the administrator at the school didn’t inform the individual of when the status was going to expire or when their course-load dropped below the required amount. Even though it was no fault of the student, the status could be terminated because of an error made by the school. Unfortunately, USCIS doesn’t care who made the mistake. It’s very important to be educated on what the parameters of your visa are and not to depend on the school to do that. That’s another reason why it’s a good idea to contact an immigration attorney to confirm your status and its parameters, if you have any questions or doubts.

Securing Funding

Another thing you want to make sure of is that you have adequate funds to support yourself while you’re here in the United States. Because F-1 students generally cannot work while they’re in the U.S., they need to prove to the government that they’re going to have adequate financial support while they’re pursuing their studies. There is a caveat to the prohibition against working while in F1 status, and that is that students are allowed to work in on-campus positions, and not for more than twenty hours a week.

Working While on a Student Visa

First of all, if they have any questions about the limits or rules of employment, they should contact a DC student visa attorney. Generally, at the beginning of a student visa status, they are not allowed to work at all. In some cases, they can accept part-time employment for no more than twenty hours a week, and it has to be on campus employment. In some cases, they can be approved for off-campus employment if it is directly related to their studies, such as an externship. Violating the employment rules while in student status can have serious consequences. It can lead to the termination of status, so they need to be very careful not exceed the allowed time.

Role of a Student Visa Attorney

Immigration attorneys usually come into play for student visa holders when people are trying to change their status from a student to something else. For instance, sometimes students will get a job after they’ve graduated and want to change their visa status from a student to an H-1B employment-based visa. Or, maybe the student was a victim of a crime and wants to apply for a U visa that will lead to permanent residence. Also common is for students to meet and marry a U.S. citizen while they’re here in student status, and then want to apply for a green card through marriage.

It’s important to have an immigration attorney at this stage in the game, because the situation will quickly go beyond the knowledge base of the school counselor or the in-house counsel that the school has. Knowledge is power in immigration law. It’s such a vast and complex area of law, and it is easy to violate your status without even knowing it. It can have really serious ramifications and long-lasting consequences in some cases. That’s what we’re here to help people avoid.

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