Studying in America and Canada  
6.1 Basics of Obtaining the International Student Visa

Most countries, if not all, require that a "foreign" student - a student who is not a citizen or legal permanent resident of the country - obtain an international student visa for studies in the country. Note: the terms international student visa, foreign student visa, and student visa mean the same and are used interchangeably.

Aside from several bureaucratic requirements, two items are fundamental to obtaining an international student visa.

  1. An offer of admission into a full-time program of studies from a "recognized" or "authorized" college or university. You would know these colleges and universities from their specific information for international students on their websites, catalogs, or promotional materials. If such information is offered, the chances are that the college or university deals with international students and, thus, is recognized for visa purposes.
  2. Proof of adequate financing to support oneself through the entire stay in the country. This proof of financing may include an offer of financial assistance from the prospective college, out-of-pocket financing, commitment of financial support from a sponsor (a close relative in the host country), and so on.

The requirement of financing is perhaps the most challenging for international students and, thus, deserves additional comments. Do not consider this as just a bureaucratic hassle to get the international student visa, for which you can devise creative solutions to "fool" the immigration officials and get past the bureaucratic hurdle. It is truly a requirement for your survival in the new, host country; you need this money to pay for your education and for survival.

The general thinking in India is that all you have to do is to "get there," and the money issue will resolve itself. This thinking is fundamentally flawed. The money issue will not resolve itself. You must ensure that you have adequate financing before leaving India, for your own survival and not just for satisfying the immigration officials. Do not engage in creative financial engineering, by temporarily collecting money in a bank to obtain a financial statement, to demonstrate adequate financing to the immigration officials. What will you do when you arrive in America or Canada, with the visa so obtained, if you donít actually have the money? Who will pay your tuition and fees? Who will feed you? Who will house you? Who will clothe you? And so on. It really is true that money does not grow on trees in America or Canada. Being optimistic is good, but being unrealistic is foolish. Risks are too high and potential disappointment too great. It is your valuable life, worthy of nurturing and not for playing high-stakes games.

In addition to the two critical items mentioned above, you would be required to submit a "standard" set of documents. Each application for a visa, including the student visa, is handled on a case-by-case basis. You may be required to produce additional documents, in addition to the standard set. You will also be interviewed by the consulate or embassy officials to assess your intentions and evaluate the integrity of the information you provided.

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