U.S. Consulate General, Chennai, in association with Chennai Central@The Hindu and The Hindu hosted the first-ever joint Facebook wall chat on student visas on March 7. U.S. Consular Chief Nick Manring answered questions from Indian students for about one-and-a-half hours. We publish the Q and A in two parts.

I have a U.S. F1 visa which was issued in April 2012, valid for five years. Due to a medical emergency in my family, I could not travel and join the course starting August 2012. I now have a new I-20 issued for the same course and university (with a new SEVIS ID) for the course starting August 2013. Can I use the same visa this year also?

A: Your visa issued in April 2012 would be valid for entering the U.S. and starting your course for 12 months from the April 2012 issuance date. For an August 2013 course, you will need to apply for and receive a new visa.

Is it easy to get a J1 visa for medical graduates aspiring to do the clinical skills exam of USMLE in the U.S.?

A: We issue the overwhelming majority of visas to J1 applicants. If you are only going to take an exam, you can apply for a B2 visa to do that. For information on the application process, please see our website www.ustraveldocs.com/in.

I have applied for a few Universities for 2013 fall admission. How should I now prepare myself with the funds? Should I provide financial documents supporting the entire cost of my education for two years upfront? If so, what would you suggest, if my sponsor has to show assets in addition to the bank balance (liquid cash) to support my education in the U.S.?

A: When you come in for your visa interview, you will need to supply proof on how you will pay for at least the first year. This may be a scholarship letter, family financial documents (if your family is going to pay for your education), or loan documents. In addition to the documents, you should be able to explain orally how you plan to pay for your education. We hope you are accepted and have a good experience while studying in the U.S..

What are the most important Don’ts for getting the visa?

A: Here is what you should do for getting a visa — tell the truth at the interview; tell your own story; and don’t buy or use falsified documents. For your interview, come relaxed. The average time inside the Consulate for your interview processing is less than one hour.

I would like to know the basis of your Section 214(b). Because people whom you are passing on as “non-immigrants” are not anyway coming back (I know at least a dozen of them personally). I was told three times that I am not going to come back. And the fourth time I was told that I won't complete the programme. But then there are people who extend their graduation date like anything after finishing their two-year MS programme. They take three-and-a-half to even four years to complete their MS (I know two of them personally). And regarding backlogs, you have passed on people with less than 60per cent and over 25 backlogs and they have made their way to the U.S. and never returned. At least my profile was better. Hence, the U.S. Consular Officer’s decisions are not reliable or correct. Anyway, if you would be kind enough to tell me the “exact reason” for my rejection, I would most appreciate that. I think according to the Principle of Natural Justice, it is essential to tell a person exactly as to why he is being punished before punishing him. Both my money and time was lost and I still don’t have a clue why? Thanks for your time.

A: I am sorry, but we cannot answer questions about individual cases on a public forum but let me explain Section 214(b) a little. It is the part of U.S. Immigration law that puts the burden on each applicant to show strong enough ties to their home country that the interviewing officer is confident that they will return after their stay in the U.S. In addition, for students, it needs to be clear to the officer that the student will be able to complete their course of study. We issue student visas to the vast majority of those who apply and there are currently over 100,000 Indian students studying at U.S. universities.

I have a query regarding the financial documents that needs to be shown when one comes for a visa application. Say, if the college tuition fee is $60k and the cost of living in U.S. is $40k, do I need to show financial documents to prove solvency of $100k? If I have been offered loan product of $30k from college and another scholarship of $30k, will a standalone letter of solvency for the remaining $40k suffice along-with the scholarship and loan documents?

A: Congratulations on your acceptance to a U.S. university. At the visa interview please bring in letters from the university for your loan and scholarship. For the remaining costs of the university, please bring in original documents showing family resources, income or loans that will cover the amount. The interviewing officer may not ask to view the documents but may instead ask you to summarise them orally. By the way, the U.S.-India Educational Foundation, which has an office here at the Consulate, can help students locate financial assistance for university studies in the U.S. Here is their website - http://www.usief.org.in/ and their email address - usiefchennai@usief.org.in

May I know what is the eligibility criteria to obtain student visa? Is there any age limit for obtaining the visa? May I know about opportunities to pursue air pilot course in the U.S.?

A: There is absolutely no age limit for obtaining a student visa. The criteria for the visa are: acceptance at U.S. university, having the form I-20 from the university, registration with the Department of Homeland Security’s SEVIS programme and proof of how the course of study will be paid for. In addition, at the visa interview, you should be able to explain your educational plans and experience to the interviewing officer. For pilot courses in the U.S., please check the website of the Federal Aviation Administration: www.faa.gov

The second part of the Q and A chat will appear in the Education Plus dated March 18.