Students trying to get an F-1 visa interview at a U.S. Embassy can sometimes find themselves unable to get an appointment until the very last minute.
If this is you, this might mean that your departure to the U.S. will be delayed past the start date on your I-20.
So you then contact your school in the U.S. to find out if they will accept your late arrival. Often times, the answer is “no,” which brings you even more disappointment and frustration.
The school is actually trying to make a decision with your best interest in mind. So let’s take a look at the reasons that a school might not accept your late arrival.
- All schools have a policy of when new class schedules can be created or added – usually no later than the first week of class. If you arrive later, you would not be able to register for classes. That might force you to have to return home.
- Schools have specialized orientation for international students, and these sessions are required. If you don’t attend these sessions you will miss out on information that is critical to your success in college.
- Many schools have placement tests that are required for all new students and these tests are typically given the week before classes begin.
- International students who have not been to the U.S. and are not familiar with the education system, not to mention learning in a foreign language, face many difficulties in their adjustment to the new environment. If you arrive even just one or two days late, you will miss out on a lot of class lecture material and assignments. It is difficult for even U.S. students who arrive late to catch up with all the homework. A student in this situation often ends up failing a number of their classes. The result? Thousands of wasted dollars for you and your family.
- There may be a number of other reasons, such as no available housing, or other reasons you might not know about.
So if you face the situation where you cannot get a visa interview in a timely manner, you should go ahead and contact the U.S. school and ask about their policy for late arrivals. If you are a graduate student, the school’s policies might be more flexible.
If you have already met the school’s English proficiency requirements, and have some familiarity with the U.S. education system, then you might be able to convince them to allow you to arrive a few days late.
If the school agrees to this, ask them to write a brief letter for your embassy interview.
The letter should indicate the latest date that the school will accept your arrival. And the school should preferably send the letter directly to you which you will take to the visa interview. If the Embassy decides to grant you a student visa but questions your start date, you will be able to show them the school letter.
If the situation looks like it won’t work out, then it is better for you to delay until the beginning of the next available start date (usually the beginning of the next semester or quarter). Contact the school and ask for a “deferred” I-20 for the next start date.
This will give you adequate time to make an appointment at a later date for a visa interview.
Even if they don’t express it, school officials know that this is a difficult situation for you. Many of us were students in a foreign country ourselves and have had similar frustrating experiences. Don’t give up! Just be sure to respect the school’s rules and you will have a better chance at achieving your goals.
Daniel Whitmer is the Director of International and Multicultural Student Affairs at Vincennes University. VU is a two-year residential state college in Southwest Indiana that specializes in associate/transfer degrees. It is a great school to start your college degree at while saving money on tuition. More info on the web at http://www.vinu.edu/international or by email: [email protected]