Visa Series – 1: What is a visa?

The best place to start is often at the beginning…

few weeks ago I announced that I would be starting a series of posts focused on visas. I think for me it’s been really challenging to be able to understand exactly what it is I need to do, mainly because I’ve had to consult so many sources. There’s such a wealth of information out there, but it can sometimes be daunting to take it all in. In this series, I’ll attempt to make it a little easier.

A few things firstly. All the posts in the series, as on the rest of this blog, are my own personal opinions and experiences. As I live in the UK they are from a UK perspective, and are often specifically about the U.S. Embassy in London (as this is where I applied for my visa). They are not official guidelines or expert suggestions. Any costs indicated in the posts are subject to change and verification. Some or all of the content may not apply to you. As such, please do consult the appropriate official websites for accurate and up-to-date information.

Without further ado, let’s go started!

In order to get your head around the process of obtaining a visa, I think it’s important to understand exactly what one is. A visa is a document that allows you entry into a country, and often requires an application. I’ll be discussing visas in a US/UK context, with an emphasis on being a university exchange student.

As I’ve explained a bit before, the US has two types of visas; immigrant and non-immigrant. Immigrant visas are for people who wish to permanently reside in the US, and non-immigrant visas are for those who wish to stay for a shorter period of time. There are different kinds of non-immigrant visas. The one that concerns exchange students is the J1 visa. This allows you entry into the US to study at an institution for a limited period of time. In my case, this will be for one academic year.

So, how do you get hold of a J1 visa? For that, you’ll need a DS-2019 form, and a lot of patience. Check back next week for more on the DS-2019!

If you’ve got any questions, feel free to drop me a message or comment below!


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