Myth #1 – Getting a student visa is difficultReality: The overwhelming majority of Japanese applicants receive student visas – usually within a week.

Myth #2 – You have to speak English to get a visa

Reality: No prior proficiency is required for many academic programs in the U.S. You may choose English or Japanese for your visa interview

Myth #3 – Too many Japanese students have a visa already

Reality: There is NO limit to the number of student visas that consular officers can issue. At the same time, the U.S. enjoys the world’s most diverse student population in its classrooms.

Myth #4 – You can’t work or do an internship on a student visa

Reality: Both are OK, as long as you follow the rules. It is possible to work up to 20 hours per week during the semester and up to 40 hours per week when school is not in session. During your program and/or after graduation, you may spend up to 12 months on Optional Practical Training internships in your field of study. This can be extended to 24 months for students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields.

Myth #5 – Visa interviews are tough

Reality: In most cases the interview lasts only a few minutes. You just need to convince the officer that you are a serious student who plans to return to Japan. You do not have to prepare a detailed presentation of what you plan to do after you graduate. You only need to talk about a general plan that is plausible and realistic.

Myth #6 – The best way to get a visa is to apply through a travel agent

Reality: Although it might save you some time, paying a travel agent to fill out your application form will not increase the likelihood your visa will be approved.

Myth #7 – Japanese don’t need a visa for a short course of study

Reality: Even if you’ll be in the U.S. for less than three months, you do need a student visa (F-1) if you’ll be studying for at least 18 hours a week

Myth#8 – You need to choose a well known school

Reality: Although the U.S. has some of the most selective universities in the world, it has over 4,000 accredited institutions offering over 10,000 quality academic programs. Visa Officers are well aware of the wide range of academic programs available to foreign students. You may even apply to multiple institutions while applying for a visa.

Myth#9 – Incomplete documents = visa refused

Reality: Just because you forget a document doesn’t mean your application will be refused. You can mail in whatever’s missing later.

Myth#10 – You must be Japanese to get a visa in Japan

Reality: If you have lived in Japan for all or most of your life, you have the same opportunity to get a visa here as does an applicant with a Japanese passport

Other Questions from “American View” Readers

1. A student in Chiba: After the interview, about how many days will it be before I receive my visa?

Most applicants receive their visas in about one week from their interviews. However, we do not guarantee that every case will be processed in the seven days time frame. Do not make final travel plans until you have your passport in your possession. Also, some cases may require further administrative processing, which could result in a delay of up to six weeks or more. More information on administrative processing and visa status can be found online here.

2. A student in the U.S.: What is the average cost of being an exchange student?

Costs for studying abroad in either Japan or the U.S. vary widely depending on the program, financial aid, living arrangements, and location of the school. For example, some high schools and colleges have arranged direct student exchanges with sister schools in the other country and may not require extra payment outside of normal tuition, if they take any. Receiving scholarships, fellowships, or grants also makes the costs for each student different even if they study on the same program with the same living arrangements because many schools offer more financial aid to students already identified as aid recipients. Of course, studying abroad at schools outside of large cities such as Tokyo or New York will likely make living expenses significantly lower. It is best to research the programs you are interested in before you decide where you would like to study abroad. Your school may have a study abroad or international studies office, which can provide this information, or you may wish to ask your teachers in the subject you wish to study. Another good resource is to talk to recent returnees who will have an accurate and up-to-date estimate of the costs of study abroad in the location and program you desire as well as practical advice for admission, special grants or scholarships, and life over there.

3. A reader in Tokyo: I have already decided on the major I want to study, but I do not know which university is a good place to study it.

The Japan-United States Educational Commission (JUSEC) is a good source of information on finding schools in the U.S. Please

4. A reader in Saitama: Is it possible to make the arrangements for my school and visa after arriving in the U.S.?

If you have traveled to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (i.e. without a visa), then you cannot change your status to student status. You must leave the U.S. and apply for a student visa outside the U.S. Applicants for visas to the United States should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate. It does not need to be one in a specific location; an applicant living in Naha, for example, can come to Tokyo to apply for a visa. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, student visa holders may enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the start date listed on their I-20. This 30-day limit does not apply to returning students with a valid I-20; they may travel to the U.S. at any time.

As for applying to a school, academic institutions in the U.S. accept applications both domestically and abroad. As long as you can mail the application or fill it out online if they have that option, then it does not matter where you physically are when you are making your academic arrangements.

5. A reader in Toyama: If my wife goes with me on a family visa, can she take a part-time job?

Family members may not work on derivative F-2 and M-2 visas; they may, however, participate in certain fields of programs such as a vocational or recreational only as a part-time student. Family members are not permitted to work on derivative J-2 visas unless permission has been obtained in advance from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Study at academic institutions is possible.

6. A reader in Kyoto: Could you please introduce to me agencies or organizations in the U.S. that are interested in the health benefits of lactobacillus?

If you are interested in study abroad and conducting science or health related research, you may want to look into research and development programs offered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Science Foundation. Many U.S. colleges and universities also independently offer programs and scholarships in this field at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels. For more information:


7. A reader in Tokyo: I wish to study medicine in the U.S. What methods are there for doing this? Also, what are the costs and is there an age limit?

The Japan-United States Educational Commission (JUSEC) is a good source of information on finding schools in the U.S. Please Costs will vary widely depending on your school, financial aid, living arrangements, and the location of the school. You can inquire directly with the schools you wish to apply to regarding costs. They will normally provide international students with an estimate for average costs of living per year while studying at their school. In addition, people and institutions in the United States generally prescribe to the idea that there is no age limit in the desire for higher education. Elderly men and women well into their eighties receive their degrees from colleges and universities in the U.S. each year as continuing education students.

8. A student in Aichi: If I already have an F1 visa, what procedure do I need to go through to transfer to a state college in another state?

If you change schools before you make your first trip to the U.S. as a student, you will need to get a new visa. However, if you are changing schools after you have started your studies in the U.S., you do not need to get a new visa as long as you have an I-20 from your new school, unless you have been outside of the U.S. for more than five months. Before traveling to the U.S. to start a new school, please contact your student advisor to ensure that your SEVIS status has been activated.

As for transferring schools, you can speak with your student advisor as well as admission officials at the school you wish to transfer to. They will be able to provide you with information on the transfer process such as admissions, transfer of credit, and withdrawal from your current school.

9. A student in Aichi: I use a LAN cable connection [for the Internet]. Are LAN cable standards the same in Japan and the U.S.?

LAN cables are generally the same in both countries, but you can check with your school’s information technology services office before you arrive.

10. A reader in Osaka: Although it has been 10 years, one of the previous students at my daughter’s school received a scholarship at the age of 16 from New York’s School of American Ballet (SAB) and Joffrey Ballet School and went to New York to study ballet, graduating from a U.S. public high school without having to pay anything. Is this still possible today?

The U.S. has many schools that specialize in the performing and creative arts, including ballet. A good way to find the right school is to consult with teachers in that subject or students who have done such a program. While many of these schools accept international students, foreign students who want to attend public secondary school (high school – grades 9 through 12, approximately ages 14 to 18) can do so for a maximum of 12 months on an F-1 visa, but proof must be shown that payment has been made for the full, unsubsidized cost of the education before a visa can be processed. However, nothing in the law prevents an organization or an individual from paying the full tuition costs for the student as long as the payment does not come from public funds. The student must still show that he or she has sufficient funds to cover education and living expenses while in the United States. In other words, if you receive a scholarship from the performing art school you will be attending that covers tuition to a public academic high school, then yes, it is possible. You may wish to ask the admissions officials at the schools you are interested in applying to as they will be able to provide more information including on specific scholarships for international students.

11. A reader in Osaka: Since I am originally from China, could I still go to your embassy in Osaka for a visa interview?

Applicants for visas to the United States should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Non-immigrant visa applicants who are resident in Japan must demonstrate compelling social, economic, and professional ties to Japan in order to qualify for most visas to the U.S. Temporary visitors to Japan may apply for a visa, but it is more difficult to qualify for a visa outside the country of permanent residence.

For More Information Regarding Visas, Please Consult the Embassy Website

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