For many international students, the hardest part of pursuing a graduate education in business in the United States is not just gaining admission to an MBA program, but also ensuring, from a legal perspective, they have the right to study in the U.S. Keep in mind, the following information is focused primarily on the U.S. academic visa process – if you are pursuing your MBA in a different country, such as France or the United Kingdom, please review those country-specific rules and regulations.
Now that we have those particulars out of the way, following your admission to business school, you should immediately begin the visa process to ensure a smooth transition once it is time to begin your MBA studies.
The United States student visa is called the F-1. Once you have secured, and formally accepted, an admissions offer from the business school you will be matriculating to, your MBA program should send you an I-20 form that is required for your academic visa (F-1) submission. After completing this form, you will need to submit it along with the necessary supplementary documents (including a valid passport and photograph), pay a monetary fee, and complete an in-person interview at a U.S. Embassy.
If you have a spouse, your student visa will provide clearance for them to stay in the U.S. while you are a student as well, however, they will still need to go through the F-2 visa process, which establishes kinship of the spouse to the matriculating student. Keep in mind, the accompanying spouse will not be allowed to work or become a full-time student with this visa, but can still pursue part-time coursework (as long as it does not exceed 12 hours per week).
One of the more challenging aspects of the F-1 are its work restrictions – the student visa does allow students to work up to 20 hours per week and up to 40 hours per week during vacations (like during summer internships) but approvals or sponsorships from an employer will be needed in order to work outside of that.
This knowledge is especially relevant for an applicant’s post-MBA work goals – after completing an MBA under the student visa, students must leave the country within 60 days. At this point, a recently-graduated student who is interested in remaining in the United States must secure sponsorship from an employer via the H-1B Visa.
Don’t misstep as you transition to attending business school in the U.S. – get your student visa process started early and make the most of your time before matriculation.
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Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more articles by him here.