Kaushik Sen's dreams of making it to the US as a student came crashing down when his application was rejected by the American consulate last month. Having got through to the University of Chicago, he had already started packing his bags when the visa rejection came like a bolt from the blue.
Kaushik is not alone. About 40 to 50 per cent of student visa applications to the US are turned down every year. For the UK, the figure is around 25 per cent while the rejection rate for Canada is about 10 per cent. But the good news is that a majority of these rejected cases get passed the next time. Keep the following tips in mind and you can rest assured that you'll breeze through the interview and walk out with your student visa.
Know where you went wrong
If you are refused the first time, try and ask the reason before you leave the room. That will give you a clue as to where you fell short and help you to start working on it.
Have the right documents
There are two basic grounds, according to education counsellor Shekhar Niyogi, on which visas are rejected by the US. And this holds true for most other countries as well. One is when the visa officer believes you have immigrant aspirations that come under section 214B of the Visa Rejection rules. The other is inadequate supporting documents or fake certificates, discussed in section 221G.
For instance, if you submit a bank statement to prove that you can pay for your course, but don't provide IT returns, the visa officer might turn you away. But it's easy to get past a 221G rejection if you are called again. 'You only need to supply the missing documents in this case. But once they become suspicious of your intentions, it's difficult to get through, though not impossible,' adds Niyogi.
Make sure you have the funds
Before applying for a second time, you have to ensure that you have the funds to finance the first year of study so that the visa officer is convinced that you'll return after completing the course.
This is important if one is headed for the US. Others are more lenient and don't make an interview mandatory. New Zealand, for instance, sends a 'concern letter' and gives one an opportunity to explain things in the application that they found unsatisfactory. 'You should also be able to explain how you plan to use your degree. The course should be in consonance with your academic background,' says Ravi Singh, managing director of education agents Global Reach.
Honesty is the best policy
Do not try to conceal the fact that you are applying for a second time. The visa officer has several ways to find out if you had applied before. Your name is registered and your passport stamped during the first interview. In case of the US, your Student Exchange and Visitor Information Service (SEVIS) number and fingerprints will also be recorded. 'If they find out you are lying, the interview will end there,' says Niyogi.
Be prepared for incisive questions
The second interview is never like the first one. The questions are always more incisive and will revolve around the areas where you fell short on the previous occasion. For instance, you could be asked why you think the application was rejected the first time. This is a tricky one which makes it imperative for the student to know the reason. 'It is essential to know what went wrong, and there should have been a change in circumstances. For instance, if you had inadequate documents or funds, make sure you have them in place. You cannot expect things to fall into place just like that,' says Victor Rao, education counsellor at the British Council.