Sunday, August 20, 2006

FAQs about Admissions, US Visa Applications & Visa Renewal

Q: What are alternate Health Insurance options for F-1 International students?
A: Graduate students are encouraged to buy student health insurance offered through UCF Student Health Services (Chickering Group). As of Summer 2008, UCF accepts the following alternate insurance plans for F-1 students:
  • www.isoa.org (Plans: ISO Med1, ISO Med Prestige and Compass Gold)
  • www.psiservice.com (Plans: Student Plan II and III)
  • www.icsweb.org (Plans: Plan A, Plan Vantage)
  • www.buyamericaninsurance.com (Plans: Study USA - Plan A and Plan B)
Q: What do I need to do when I arrive at UCF?
A: First of all you need to get rid of all of your holds (which you can find through my.ucf.edu). One of the holds will be related to your immigration status which can be removed after you report to ISC office (or orientation) and provide them with copies of your i94, visa, passport and i20. Another hold will be related to your health immunizations. If you haven't already provided proof of immunization, you will have to do it now. Forms are available on SHS website. Another hold will be related to health insurance. You must purchase an acceptable insurance plan. List of accepted insurances can be obtained from SHS. Some options include PSI, HTH, studyUSA or as SHS. Once holds are removed, you will need to register for classes. If you will be working as GTA or GRA, you must report to your department (Department Assistant or coordinator) or advisor who will assign you duties or guide you about your responsibilities. Note that to get full tuition waiver, you must be a full time student, i.e., 9 units. Also don't forget to check your fee invoice to make sure that the tuition waiver is posted on your account. You may have to pay some 10% of your tuition fee is department/advisor isn't paying it. If you will be working (on campus, not more than 20 hours) you will need to apply for SSN. Get the letter from ISC and go to downtown office to apply.

Q: What housing options do I have at UCF?
A: UCF doesn't have any on-campus graduate housing at this time so your best bet is off-campus housing. Contact other Pakistanis who are already here to help you find something. Few options include university apartments, Khayyam Avenue apartments, Arbor apartments or Knights Landing. If you want to live in university affiliated housing, then you can check housing unit's website too.

Q: I have been offered admission in MS. Is there a chance of getting some scholarship or fellowship. What are the chances of getting into PhD? How should I contact the instructors for funding?
A:
If you got an admission in phD, it most probably will be with a scholarship or fellowship. If MS then may be not.
Funding: If you applied for MS then most probably you will not receive any funding. And the chances of getting that when you arrive here would not be very high. Most MS students join ucf and pay their own money. Some apply for phd and then get funding through that. I would suggest that if you get admission in MS without funding you should make a decision, reapply or join. If you were admitted into MS there is a chance that you will also be admitted to phd (But that may not happen). Other way is ofcourse to come here as MS student and apply for PHD while here (showing your performance during one semester and getting support from some faculty here). For this you should be prepared to spend some money from your own pocket. Another way is that you can try to find some on-campus work which pays your tuition as well. But that will be based on your luck and the effort you put while looking for them. But certainly there are few such jobs.
Finally, contacting professors definately helps in admission. During the application period, the department provides them (i.e., faculty) list of applicant and they have a chance to review the application packages or files. If a professor likes the guy, he can make a recommendation. Usually on their recommendations, students are chosen for assistantships or fellowships. While contacting them you should tell them the related work you have done and the area you want to work in or do phd in.

Q: Can I check the status of my security clearance request for visa?
A: Yes, You may call embassy to ask for status of your clearance request or write them an email. The phone number for NIV Visa section in Islamabad embassy is 051-2082121. If you are in US you can call 202-663-1225 (and select options 1 - 4 - 1 - 3 - 0 instead for waiting long time). You only need your passport number (or see these Link1, Link2, Link3)
.

Q: When does my security clearance expire?
A: It depends which type of clearance it is. Some clearances expire with Duration of Study (date on i20), others in one year (technical) and then some others in 3 months (general). This means you will have three months to have your visa stamped AFTER you receive security clearance.

Q: Do I have to leave my passport with embassy while my security clearance is being processed??
A: No. You can request to keep the passport if you need it while your security clearance is pending. Check US embassy's FAQ here for more details.

Q: How do I pay for Additional SEVIS Administrative Processing Fee (I-901 Fee)?
A: This fee, in addition to the normal F-1 visa application fee, has to be paid online or by check directly to DHS. Click here for more information or pay online. You are not required to pay the fee if you are a continuing student. See this for exemptions.

Q: Should I renew my F-1 visa?
A: Yes. There are two options: You can either wait until your old visa expires OR you can apply for renewal before the old one expires. I would suggest you go with the 2nd option because it allows you to come back if renewal is rejected or delayed. Also remember that embassies cannot cancel your visa unless they stamp another one in your passport (or you have some violation).

Q: Can I renew my F-1 visa from a country other than home country?
A: Yes. You may go back to home country or apply from some other country like Canada. Make sure you contact the respective embassy and know their procedures. See this http://www.ice.gov/graphics/sevis/travel/faq_f3.htm

Q: What documents should I take with me for visa renewal?
A: Usually they don't check anything when you apply for visa renewal. But I would suggest that you take copy of grades (or transcript) and enrollment certification. You may also carry a letter from your International Student Services (or center) about your status in university. ISC people are able to check SEVIS system and tell you if your status is all ok.

Q: What is the process for visa renewal in Pakistan?
A: You need to submit application forms for initial assessment. It may take 5-10 days. Once your passport is back from embassy (usually with interview required stamp), you may go for interview. Walk-in interviews are available for F-1 visa applicants from Monday-Friday 8am-11am in Islamabad. You would know your fate on the interview day. The officer may return your passport and i20 with a letter and ask you to wait until you receive security clearance.

Q: What can visa officer ask for interview?
A: Anything to everything. So keep yourself prepared. There is a chance that he might not ask anything. But I would suggest that you let him know about your old F-1 visa, this may avoid an extensive visa interview.

Q: How long does it take for security clearance?
A: Depends on case to case. Some may take days, some months. According to last report to congress it takes about three weeks to get security clearance for people applying in Islamabad (but it may take longer). Be prepared to wait (anywhere from 4-8 weeks to forever).

Q: Is there any Pakistani or Muslim society in UCF?
A: Yes we have an active MSA (Muslim Student Association) and PSA (Pakistan Student Association). We also have a yahoogroup for Pakistani Student. In order to subscribe to that list, send an email to ucf-pak-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Q: Does UCF transfer credits only or grades too?
A: Unfortunately UCF also transfers your grades too ... so whatever 'mess' u made in another school before transferring here, will be reflected on ur UCF transcript.

Q: I entered into US with i20 from School 'A'. Can I transfer to another school?
A: The only immigration requirement is that you should at-least spend one semester in the schools whose i20 u used to enter (or get visa). After one semester, you are free to move to any school.

Q: Can I transfer from another school?
A: Yes, you can transfer from other US schools to UCF. You can apply for admission as a transfer student and get your course work transferred in UCF, upon admission. Or you can apply as fresh graduate student. Upon admission you can enter as new student but your courses from other schools will be transferable.

Q: Do I have to get the signatures for ISSS/ISC before I travel outside US?
A: There is a date on Page3 of your i20. If u r coming back from Pakistan WITHIN 6 months of that date then you don't "need" the signatures. If your entry date is NOT within 6 months then you "should" get this i20 signed though u don't "have to" before one year.

Q: What documents are needed for my spouse's visa?
A : The best idea is to send as much stuff as possible along with your initial application. Here are most important of them:
1. Visa application and Passport
2. SEVIS i20 (Dependent's copy)
3. Copy of your Passport, Visa, and i20
4. Nikah Nama (with English Translation)
5. Your Bank Statement (at-least $5-6k)
6. Financial Aid Award Letter and/or GTA Appointment Letter
7. Father's Bank statement and Affidavit of Support (optional)
8. Letter of Enrollment and Transcript for Last Semester
9. Letter of acceptance for Admission (optional)
10. Pictures of nikah (optional)

Q: What is the Most important thing in the Visa Interview?
A: Your story and Financial Statement. Second most important thing may be to answer the question, 'will u come back?'

Q: What should one know before visa Interview?
A: You should know what your case/story is and should be able to convince the visa officer. One good idea may be is to know which document is what and what's the significance.

Q: If I have funding for one year from UCF, will I get it for the next year?
A: It is strictly based on your performance. It may be the case that you did not get full funding in the next semester.

Q: Can I get funding in UCF?
A: U can get funding anywhere in the graduate school IF u try. Of course u have to be very good or very lucky to get funding from the start but u can always go and talk to professors. Some people say that in UCF, it used to be easy to get funding ... but now it has become more and more competitive. With many applicants, tough competition and bad economy, the chances are decreasing day by day. BUT if u have done some good work and can convince some professor, then u have good chance of getting some funding. By the way, CEng department don't offer TAship on admission, you might get one after spending some time here.

Q: With 3+ GPA and 1800+ GPA, Do I stand any chance of getting admission in UCF?
A: Ask your department coordinator. He would say 'Yes and No' .... Yes Because u meet the minimum requirements, No because no everyone can be given admission. It depends on your luck too.

6 comments:

Unknown said...

I have got a letter from my Visa Interview which says that "Your Visa is conditionally approved. We need to take some administrative information about you.We will let you know once the process is complete." What does it mean? Is it A Security check? What informations they will look for my case?

abhutta said...

yes. Administrative processing is another name of security check. They will let you know what information they need (if any).

Anonymous said...

Does additional administrative processing for US F-1 includes checking of Toefl and GRE Scores trough ETS?

abhutta said...

I am not aware that they do that. But I wouldn't be surprised if they do.

Unknown said...

documents should be completed before you leave for abroad.

Off Campus Housing in US

Christopher taroroc said...

Visa Renewal Requirements

You may need to meet certain qualifications prior to renewing your visa. Those qualifications include:

- You must renew the visa that you previously had; you cannot have a B-1 visa and “renew” an H-1B visa, for example, and you cannot change visa types when renewing
- You must not have been previously denied for a U.S. visa; if your visa was issued, and you applied for a different visa and the U.S. embassy denied it, then you cannot apply to renew your expired visa
- The visa you wish to renew must be valid for multiple entries into the United States (look for an “M” on your visa that indicates multiple entries)
- The visa you wish to renew must be valid for longer than one year; you cannot renew a visa that has an expiry date sooner than one year
- You must fulfill all requirements for the visa you wish to renew; individual requirements vary for each visa, but you need to meet all requirements in order to qualify for a visa renewal; failure to meet any of these requirements will prevent your visa from being denied
- Most visa renewal applications must be filed from within your home country; once your visa expires, you must return to your country of residence and apply for a renewal from there, and you cannot typically have your visa renewed from within the United States

Read more details regarding US Visa Renewal