F1 visa renewal process for continuing to PhD

Updated on: 2019-11-17 - 3 mins read

Here I am sharing a F-1 visa renewal experience of a master’s graduate student continuing to PhD where a student was eligible for the dropbox method and later given a 221G with follow-up interview:

  1. The F1 visa is offered to students who want to pursue a degree in any US institutions.
  2. Students who acquired admission letters from US university should start on applying for F1 student visa at least two months prior to the semester start date at the desired university.
  3. The visa procedure includes an interview which is given by the student at a US VISA consular office in their home country.
  4. For the Visa interview, a few documents should be shown to the visa officer as a proof that the student is capable to study abroad, and he/she has enough funding sources to complete the degree.
  5. The visa interview includes document verification and fingerprint scanning which is mandatory for all visa types

Although the visa procedure is well-informed, it comes with a lot of unknown circumstances which are difficult to be managed. After five years of my first visa experience, I was required to renew my visa as it was about to expire in under six months. I also was visiting my home country, so it was a compulsion to renew my visa.

Here is my visa experience:

  • I am pursuing my PhD in the same university where I did my masters so there was no change on my SEVIS number on my I20 document initially generated for my master’s degree.
  • Since I had no change on my SEVIS number, maintained a continuous F-1 visa status throughout, applying for the same university, visa extension for me was through a dropbox process.
  • I had to fill out a new DS-160 and a new visa application form online on US consulate website. Once I filled out my information, I was told that I am eligible for dropbox process.
  • Dropbox process is where we drop off our documents through a teller at the consular office and we will be informed about our visa status online when we log into our account in US consulate website.
  • When I arrived at the US consulate office in my home country, I was required to do the ten-print (fingerprint of ten fingers of both the hands) and then submit the documents.
  • After submission, I was checking my visa status frequently which showed only submitted status for first fifteen days.
  • On sixteenth day, I received a notification on my email that the status of my visa application has been changed. When I logged into my US consulate account I observed that my visa status has been changed from submitted to Administrative processing stage.
  • I received another email in few minutes stating that I received 221G and I am required to appear for an interview at the consulate office.
  • At this point of time, I had only five days before my scheduled departure from my home country back to USA.
  • I was asked to book a 221G follow-up appointment through my online account. Typically, the dates for visa interview will be filled for up to two months so it was hard for me to believe that I would get my visa approved by the intended date of travel.
  • I received another email in few minutes stating that I received 221G and I am required to appear for an interview at the consulate office.
  • But to my surprise, when I logged into my account online, the dates for the interview were available from next day onwards.
  • So, I booked the earliest interview slot and attended the interview.
  • The interview process included some basic questions like the topic of my PhD degree and the intended graduation date and my progress in the degree till date.
  • I answered all the questions confidently and my visa was approved on spot and my passport was taken by the consulate officer for visa printing.
  • My F1 visa was renewed for five years more and I travelled to USA on the intended date.

Here I am sharing a F-1 visa renewal experience of a master’s graduate student continuing to PhD where a student was eligible for the dropbox method and later given a 221G with follow-up interview:

  1. Do not procrastinate the visa renewal process. I would suggest you start the process as soon as possible as the processing time greatly differs for individual cases so the estimation of the time is very difficult.
  2. Check your visa status regularly online as the status change notification email might get delayed.
  3. Do not take stress about the approval of visa, in turn, concentrate on submitting the correct documentation.
  4. For F-1 visa renewal, if you have multiple copies of your I20, submit the latest generated I20 as it might impact the visa process.
  5. 221G for F1 visa is different from 221G for any other visa status. I would suggest you refer to online groups of your specific visa status to determine the next steps.
  6. Lastly, I would suggest that you take approval letter from your manager or your supervisor for your travel as it might help validate your trip.