F1 visa renewal process for continuing to PhD

Updated on: 2019-11-17 - 3 mins read
F1 Visa Renewal Experience for Continuing to PhD

F1 visa renewal process for continuing to PhD

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

  • The F1 visa is offered to students who want to pursue a degree at any US institution.
  • Students who have received admission letters from US universities should start applying for the F1 student visa at least two months prior to the semester start date at the desired university.
  • The visa procedure includes an interview, which is given by the student at a US VISA consular office in their home country.
  • For the visa interview, a few documents should be shown to the visa officer as proof that the student is capable of studying abroad and has enough funding sources to complete the degree.
  • 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 manage. 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. Since I was also visiting my home country, it was necessary to renew my visa.

Here is my visa experience:

  • I am pursuing my PhD at the same university where I did my master's, so there was no change in my SEVIS number on my I-20 document initially generated for my master's degree.
  • Since I had no change in my SEVIS number and maintained continuous F-1 visa status throughout, applying to the same university, my visa extension was through a drop box process.
  • I had to fill out a new DS-160 and a new visa application form online on the US consulate website. Once I filled out my information, I was told that I was eligible for the drop box process.
  • The drop box process involves dropping off our documents through a teller at the consular office and being informed about our visa status online when we log into our account on the 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 all ten fingers) and then submit the documents.
  • After submission, I frequently checked my visa status, which showed only the submitted status for the first fifteen days.
  • On the sixteenth day, I received a notification via email that the status of my visa application had changed. When I logged into my US consulate account, I observed that my visa status had changed from submitted to Administrative Processing.
  • A few minutes later, I received another email stating that I received a 221G and was required to appear for an interview at the consulate office.

Visa Renewal Process

  • To my surprise, when I logged into my account online, the dates for the interview were available starting the next day.
  • I booked the earliest interview slot and attended the interview.
  • The interview process included some basic questions like the topic of my PhD degree, the intended graduation date, and my progress in the degree to date.
  • I answered all the questions confidently, and my visa was approved on the spot. My passport was taken by the consulate officer for visa printing.
  • My F1 visa was renewed for five more years, and I traveled to the USA on the intended date.

Additional tips:

  • Do not procrastinate the visa renewal process. Start the process as soon as possible, as the processing time greatly differs for individual cases, making it difficult to estimate the time required.
  • Check your visa status regularly online, as the status change notification email might get delayed.
  • Do not stress about the approval of your visa. Instead, concentrate on submitting the correct documentation.
  • For F-1 visa renewal, if you have multiple copies of your I-20, submit the latest generated I-20 as it might impact the visa process.
  • A 221G for an F1 visa is different from a 221G for any other visa status. Refer to online groups specific to your visa status to determine the next steps.
  • Lastly, take an approval letter from your manager or supervisor for your travel, as it might help validate your trip.