Special Correspondent

`We are set to outpace last year's number of student visas'

New Delhi accommodating all requests interviews within three weeks Last year, over five lakh foreign students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions Majority of student visa applications from India are approved

NEW DELHI: If you are a student hoping to study in the U.S. in the autumn of 2006, it is not too late to apply for a visa, says Sally Ironfield, the State Department's non-immigrant visa chief at the U.S. Embassy here, during a webchat.

The official period prior to studies in the U.S. in which a student may apply for a visa is 120 days, Ms. Ironfield said, adding that her office in New Delhi is currently accommodating all requests for student visa interviews within three weeks.

Increase in applications

Although there was a drop in student visa applications following the 9/11 attack, the number of Indian students going to the U.S. has increased over the last 10 years, with over 80,000 Indian students currently studying there, she said.

"We are now on an upswing, and are on track to outpace last year's number of 18,000 student visas issued."

Last year, over five lakh foreign students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions and U.S. officials say they would like to see that number increase. India has been the leading country of origin for international students in the U.S. for the fourth consecutive year.

There is no Congressionally mandated limit for issuing student visas and the majority of student visa applications from India are approved.

Key steps

Ms. Ironfield outlined key steps for students interested in studying in the U.S. Pay application currently is Rs. 4,600 and appointment and courier delivery system fees cost another Rs. 276 at a designated HDFC Bank.

Students would need the HDFC Bank receipt in order to schedule the appointment.

Students must have an I-20 document from the school they wish to attend in the U.S.

This document also requires a payment for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

The school may have made this payment for the student, and will send the student confirmation information, which will be necessary to present at the interview.

Other opportunities

Students generally are not eligible for employment the first year they are studying in the U.S.

However, there are opportunities to pursue on-campus employment and other types of employment upon approval by the school's administration.