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Visas and Immigration in the US for International LLM students

If you’re coming into the US from abroad and intended to study for an LLM, you’ll need to obtain an F1 visa beforehand as part of your preparations. In order to be eligible you must be attending an academic institution, be enrolled full time and be able to demonstrate how you will support yourself financially. Furthermore, the law school you enrol in should be approved to take foreign students by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Finally, you’ll need to prove that you intend to return home after completing the course.

US Visa and Immigration

When should I apply for my US visa?

Due to the length and complexity of obtaining a US visa, it’s worth starting the application process as soon as possible. You can apply for the F1 visa as soon as you have been accepted onto an LLM program and have a Form I-20. The I-20 is produced by the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS. It is sent to you by your school once they have added your information to the SEVIS database. If you are planning to bring your children, husband or wife to the US whilst you study, each individual will be registered in SEVIS and will be given an I-20.

Where do I start?

For the exact application procedure in place at your country's US Embassy, please check their website, or that of your consulate. Generally speaking there are a number of steps involved in obtaining an F1 visa, starting with filling out the online application form. As a student you will be classed as a non-immigrant applicant and will have to use form DS-160 and upload a photo. Once it’s complete, be sure to print it off to bring to the consular interview and for your records. Interviews are conducted at the consular officer’s discretion, but in most cases every applicant aged between 14 and 79 is scheduled to attend at the US Embassy where they live. Each of these has a different timetable and set of responsibilities, so the waiting times can vary – another reason to get started well in advance.

What should I expect during the interview?

The interview should only last around 5-10 minutes, the consular official will ask questions relating to your application and decide whether you are entitled to travel to the US to study. It’s very important to be accurate and honest in your responses, as there are legal requirements that have to be met under US law before the visa is granted. In some locations you will also be fingerprinted. When the interview is over, the officer might approve your visa immediately or feel more administrative work is needed. For immediate approvals you may be presented with an issuing fee before being told how the consulate plans to return your documents.

Which documents will the US consulate require?

Along with a completed DS-160 form, you will be asked to produce a valid passport, application fee receipt, the Form I-20 from your school and a photo if the uploaded one failed. In some cases, proof of your academic achievements and other additional information will be requested.

What restrictions should I be aware of?

People who have an F1 visa can work on their university’s campus for up to 20 hours each week, they can also complete certain training program. However, it is strongly advised that you get expert guidance from a student advisor before commencing any employment or training.

Your time allowed in the US is shown on the I-94 card, which will be given to you on arrival; it generally extends to the length of your course. After this you can either attempt to renew your student visa, change your immigration status, or depart within 60 days.

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