Applying successfully to a US university is not enough. Students also have to get a visa.
Cambodians thinking about studying in the US should remember that being accepted at a university also means getting a US visa, which is not always easy.
US visa consultant Wayne Weightman says Cambodians wanting to go to the United States are facing an 80 per cent visa denial rate.
“All the front end expenses will be wasted if you don’t get the visa,” he said.
Weightman, who has been helping Cambodians get US visas for the last 11 years, says students have to show the same things that tourists and businessmen do in order to qualify for US visas.
“You need to show you’re going to come back and that you’re not going to live and work illegally. You need to show that you have strong ties to a residence outside the US, and that you have family, economic, financial, community and social ties in Cambodia.”
Weightman says that’s tough for students because they’re so young and most of the time they don’t have children yet.
“In addition to showing you’re going to return when the studies are done, you also have to show you are serious. You need a passport; you need to register with the SEVIS, a US government student registration program which costs $200 to register, and is non refundable.”
It costs $160 to apply for a US visa and it is also non-refundable.
Weightman advises his clients to tell the truth, put their best foot forward and be prepared.
“Many Cambodians have never been to the US and this is going to be their first venture away from Cambodia,” he said.
Weightman says many of the visas that are denied are probably denied because the people have not presented their US plan well.
“Their situation might look like they really want to go to work and live in the US as opposed to being a serious student.”
Weightman also advises students to transfer as many Cambodia university and schooling credits as they can to the US universities they apply to.
“Cambodians might go to university for three years and feel like they need to repeat that because they might feel the quality of their school was not good enough,” he said.
“If a student might want to get credit for what they did and see if that work can transfer, and they might get credit for two years here, and they can get credit and complete their US schooling for half the time and for half as much money, and move on and get a master’s degree as well,” he said.
Weightman’s company, Phnom Penh-based American Visa Advisory, US licensed immigration and naturalisation experts, will be present at Diamond Island on Saturday and Sunday running seminars and helping people prepare for applying for universities and visas in the US.
“We will be offering seminars to let people know how to prepare for their visa,” he said.
The first 10 registrants will get a discount to attend a $335 seminar course on how to get a visa.
“We’ll be having a lucky draw so people can attend the seminar at a very low price,” he said.
“I want to help people make it through the process and not have a problem.”
Weightman has helped a number of Cambodians get into Southern New Hampshire University, a small university in Manchester, New Hampshire on the United States’ east coast.
“I think it is an excellent school for a lot of Cambodians,” he said. “They’ve got 60 undergraduate and graduate programs in business, education, hospitality, community economic development and liberal arts. They cost about $25,000 per semester and have a very inexpensive summer session,” he said.
For a US bachelor’s degree education, Weightman estimates it will cost from $40,000 to $50,000.
“These universities are well respected and there’s no denying that. If you want to come back to Cambodia to work in the government or the private sector, a US degree carries a lot of weight.
Weightman himself is a graduate of the William S Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii.
He can be reached by telephone at 012604698 or by email at email@example.com