Great news for US-bound international students: you can now apply for your US student visa up to a year in advance.
To speed up the visa application process, the US government has added a clause on its state department’s website that could see prospective students receive their I-20 form up to 365 days before the programme start date.
An I-20 form is a Certificate of Eligibility issued by accredited colleges or universities in the US for students on an F-1 or M-1 student visa.
These students receive this form from a designated school official at a college or university certified by the US Student and Exchange Visitor Programme and pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
The Department of State announced the news on Twitter with immediate effect. The Department of Homeland Security, however, has yet to update its website to reflect this change.
Students will still only be permitted to enter the country up to 30 days before the programme start date stated in their I-20 form.
US student visa processing times delays explained
International students applying for an F-1 or M-1 student would be familiar with the long processing times for their US student visa.
In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic severely affected the plans of many students who wished to study abroad.
Data from a QS coronavirus student survey showed that 63% of respondents said the pandemic affected their plans to study abroad, with 55% choosing to defer or delay their studies until next year.
A third of students have shared that they are unable to study abroad due to delays in visa processing.
Visa application centres reportedly faced issues like closure and not offering fast-tracked appointments.
Some Indian students are still seeing visa delays which could see them miss the January intake or delay their studies, PIE News reports.
Speaking with PIE News, Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, shares how moved she was by this change.
“The Presidents’ Alliance has been working with US government officials to improve the experience of international students with our immigration system at every stage — from visa application process to USCIS processing — to ensure greater flexibilities for students needing special student relief as well as experiential learning opportunities and pathways to green cards,” she says.
“The consular change is a positive one and goes alongside other improvements.”