“I have a temporary work visa (H-1B) through my job. My sister in Ireland would like to come to the U.S. next year to study and is thinking about finance. She is 20 years old and very smart. What is the process for doing so? I know there are different types of student visas she can get, but we’re confused as to where we would start.”
You don’t say if your sister has already started her studies in Ireland, so we’ll assume she hasn’t. If she is already involved in a course, perhaps her college has an international student office that could provide her with some assistance.
First and foremost, before the visa application process can begin, your sister will need to be accepted into the U.S. school of her choice. As you live here, you are likely aware that the cost of higher education in the U.S. is far more expensive than it would be in Ireland, so that’s another major consideration that must factor into her thinking.
Once your sister has met the academic requirements of her intended school, she will have to apply for a student visa. The one she’ll be needing, if she takes up full-time study here, is the F-1 visa for academic students. The F-1 visa is for students who have been accepted into a program to study or conduct research at an accredited U.S. college or university. (Other student visas are M-1s, reserved for those accepted into a program to study at a non-academic or vocational institution, and J-1s, for cultural/educational exchange visitors.)
Your sister’s school will have to provide assistance with the visa application. Since the school would have to have been approved by the U.S. government, this won’t pose a problem, and she’ll have to consult with the admissions department for advice.
Basically, she’ll need to provide a host of information, including her academic transcripts, various non-immigrant visa application forms, and most importantly, a form known as I-20A-B, a certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant student status.
This form will be provided by the school. It comes from a U.S. government student exchange system known as SEVIS, which was implemented in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
SEVIS is a program your sister will have to become well acquainted with should she choose to study here. Its initials stand for the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. It’s an Internet-based system that tracks information on student visa holders, and enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications via the Internet, to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State (DOS) throughout a student or exchange visitor's stay in the United States,” according to the student information provided on www.travel.state.gov.
Once your sister has her SEVIS-generated I-20, she’ll be able to complete the application process. After submitting the paperwork and attendant fees, she should expect to be called to the American Embassy for an interview, and all going well she’ll be on her way.
There are two other U.S. government sites dealing with student visas that contain lots of useful information. They are www.educationusa.gov, and www.unitedstatesvisas.gov.
Obviously, the process is going to take several months from start to finish, so your sister should get going now if she plans on starting her studies here next year.