On February 21, the US State Department announced an expansion of the time period during which international students may apply for an F or M-class visa to study in the United States. Until then, students were able to apply only 120 days before their planned programme starts. Under the revised rule, the US will accept student visa applications up to 365 days in advance.
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The new I-20 visa rules for both F (traditional academic) and M (vocational) programmes by the US government brings relief to thousands of students from Gujarat who enrol in US universities each year. They will now be able to apply for their student visa a year in advance.
Usually, during the rush ahead of the academic season, several candidates miss the joining deadline since they either get the date for the visa interview very close to the deadline or after it.
“F and M student visas can now be issued up to 365 days in advance of the I-20 programme’s start date, allowing students more time to apply for a visa. Students are still not allowed to enter the US on a student visa more than 30 days before their programme start date,” mentioned the tweet by the Department of State of the US government on February 21.
Bhavin Thakar, a city-based overseas education consultant, said that even if a candidate gets the visa close to the departure date, he has to shell out a fortune to book the ticket.
“The ticket rates often skyrocket by 2-2.5 times than the usual fare in peak seasons. With the process now taking place 365 days in advance, the students will be able to book tickets well in time after completing the due procedure,” he said. Over and above the enormously priced tickets, parents spend sleepless nights to secure appointments for visa interviews in time for their wards.
According to estimates, about 10,000 students from the state enrol in educational institutions in the US annually. While the fall season intake begins in September, those who miss the deadline join the January cycle. The third cycle starts in May-June for some programmes, they added.