New Delhi: “Take a deep breath and think: ‘Why do I want to go to this school?'” According to Don Heflin, the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the US Embassy in New Delhi, the answer to this question is key to getting that stamp of approval on your student visa application.
“Think ‘why do I want to study this discipline’, ‘why this area of the country’, and ‘what do I plan to do with this degree’. And be ready to spit the answer out in a minute,” he added.
Speaking to ThePrint Tuesday, Heflin said that students preparing for their visa interviews should keep an elevator pitch — or a quick summary about themselves — ready before heading for their appointment, and be prepared to talk about why they want to study at their chosen university, quickly and succinctly.
“Maybe one evening there was a conversation around the kitchen table where you and your parents decided where you want to go and why. Tell us that,” said Heflin. “Just repeat that to us. That’s what we want to hear.”
A record 62,000 US student visas were issued to Indians in 2021 — this year, the country plans on opening up at least 20-25 per cent more slots for aspiring students.
Most visa slots in June and July are reserved for student visa applications, and students who might have their visas rejected will get a second chance in the second half of August. However, Heflin said the rejection rate is low for first-time applicants.
‘No 100% right or wrong answers’
Speaking of some of the common reasons why students choose a particular university — perhaps they have a relative who lives nearby and can support them, or they know someone who studied something similar and had a good experience — Heflin said there are no 100 per cent right or wrong answers, and that the more insight they get into the decision-making process, the better.
In 2021, because of the Covid pandemic, the US Embassy and consulates had opened up slots for student visa appointments relatively later in the year on 14 June.
Adding that the embassy has learnt some lessons from how they processed student visas in 2021, Heflin said that appointment slots have been opened earlier this year in two big groups.
“Tens of thousands” of slots for student visa applicants have been opened for the period between 1 June and 15 July. And just as many slots will likely be opened from 15 July to 15 August. Additionally, the embassy will be opening up a few slots each week.
“My advice to people is to check for appointments twice a day. Don’t check obsessively and don’t refresh your screen because that might get you locked out,” said Heflin on how to go about booking a student visa appointment online.
The embassy and all four consulates — in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata — are also celebrating Student Visa Day on 7 June. The consulates will be processing only student visas on the day, and top-ranking officials will be available to speak to students about the visa application process at the consulates.
(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)