US embassy warns aspirants over bogus visa rules

New Delhi: The United States Embassy has cautioned Indian aspirants to be fully aware of bogus visa rules while applying for a student visa to the country.

At a session titled, “Open House at the Consular Section – The right way to apply for a US Visa”, Elizabeth Lawrence, Fraud Prevention Manager at the US Embassy, said,” A lot of students approach bogus visa agents in order to help them to obtain visas.

We caution the students to use the right sources with EducationUSA, where they can conduct research with all programmes and courses they want to apply in the US universities and make sure that they make the best of their future goals.”

She also warned aspirants to be wary of agents who provide false information to guarantee them a student visa.

Lawrence further said, “We also request individuals to not to lie during a visa interview. We do not have a set of rules of what documents to bring during the interview.

However, if an individual wishes to bring their own documents such as educational certificates, bank accounts, it should be made sure that it should be 100 percent real and not counterfeit. However, fraud cases are very negligible.”

She asserted that if an applicant had brought forged documents, then they would be permanently ineligible for applying for a visa to the US.

George Hogeman, Consul General at the US Embassy, said that student visas act as a bedrock of US-India relations, which helps to facilitate people-to-people relationship.

Revealing the facts, he said, “One out of six international students in the US are from India. According to an open door report, at least 186,000 people have applied for student visas in the US, which is the highest ever.”

Hogeman added that on June 6, all US missions in India would observe Student Visa Day, wherein aspirants would apply for student visas only on that day.

He also requested aspirants not to prepare for the interview, as only relevant questions would be asked.

“A lot of applicants, including some students, come with a prepared speech. The best advice for anyone applying for a visa is to listen carefully to what the officer asks during the interview and answer that question. We then base our visa decisions on the interview.

We also know that students are nervous during the interview, which is okay. If they are able to answer the questions correctly, then the visa is issued to them.”

On being asked about the status of H-1B visas, which has been in the news lately, over the Trump administration’s decision to further toughen its rules, Hogeman said ‘no changes’ had been made as of now.

The US on March 31 decided to block the filing of multiple applications of H-1B visas by ‘related entities’ for the same visa-seeker, for the same job.

According to media reports, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will file petitions to H-1B visa applications for the 2018- 2019 season.

Successful applicants who are allotted the visa will be able to work in the US from October 1, 2018 during the tenure of the visa, which may be for an initial maximum period of three years.

H-1B is considered as the most sought-after work visa among highly-skilled Indian professionals. It is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

Earlier in March, the USCIS had announced that it will temporarily suspended the premium processing for the H-1B visa till September 10.

Aastha Virk Singh, an advisor at EducationUSA, said that students need to be aware of the rules of applying for visas.

“We provide free information to the students. We also conduct student visa sessions which are chaired by the US consuls.

Our objective is to make the students aware on how to find the right sources for applying for a visa and our advisers also counsel them on what websites they can refer to,” said Singh.

Education USA is a US Department of State network of over 400 international student advising centers in more than 170 countries.

It promotes US higher education to millions of students around the world by offering accurate, comprehensive and current information about opportunities to study at accredited post-secondary institutions in the United States.

The organisation also provides services to the US higher education community to help students meet their recruitment and campus internationalisation goals.

She added that visa sessions were free of cost and students were welcome to visit their educational centres spread across India to clarify their doubts about applying for a US visa.

Singh further said that students could apply for visas from this month till June or July, when they would apply for seats at the US universities, at least 120 days before the programme or the session begins.