By Mohammad Nasim
Mohammad Nasim of Bangladesh is studying for a master’s degree in finance at the University of Texas at Dallas. This article appears in the May 2010 issue of eJournal USA, See You in the USA.
Traveling to the United States has always been one of my dreams, whether for higher studies, vacation, or work. However, it is not like moving from one city to another in your home country. Traveling to the United States requires one to follow several steps. The traveler must meticulously plan and prepare with adequate documents before making the final decision to travel to the United States.
The first step involves applying for the visa at a U.S. consulate in the traveler’s home country. There are different visa classifications including student (F1), visitor (B1/B2) and work visa (H1B), and the traveler must apply for the correct visa depending on the purpose of the trip to the United States. This process is very rigorous and involves completing and submitting several forms in the U.S. consulate and facing the consular officer for an interview justifying the reason for traveling by providing valid documents.
Some of the documents that are required and usually requested by the consular officer include a valid passport, bank statement, admission letter (for students), and work authorization letter (for workers). Travelers must apply for the visa well ahead of time as certain visa applications require further administrative processing and security clearances. Obtaining these can be lengthy.
I was accepted at the University of Texas at Dallas for study beginning January 11, 2010. Once I received the admissions letter and I-20 form from my university, I arranged my other supporting documents and applied for a student visa in the last week of December 2009. I had only two weeks before my classes would start. After my visa interview, my application was sent for further administrative processing. I thought this process would take no more than two weeks. I did not realize that this process can be time consuming. It took two and a half months to complete, and only then was I issued a student visa. The embassy could not waive or expedite this process in any way.
Fortunately, I had permission from my professors to start late as I kept them informed about my situation.
The second step was to purchase an airline ticket. This can be difficult during peak travel seasons. Once the traveler arrives in America at the airport or other port of entry, he or she has to meet an immigration and customs officer. This officer has the final say in admitting the traveler to the United States. Secondary inspections are often performed, and it may take several hours before the traveler comes out of the airport.
In my case, I was very worried as I was entering the United States two months after my classes started. However, I carried the authorization letters from my professors and presented them to the officer at the border. At the end, I had no troubles going through immigration and customs because I carried all valid documents.
My personal recommendations to travelers who plan to go the United States in the near future include applying for the visa way ahead of time, carrying all necessary and valid documents, and being confident and honest during the consular interview and at the port of entry. If you do all these things, your travel experience to the United States should be a pleasant and smooth one.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. government.