Around 50 students gathered at a talk programme at the United States Educational Foundation (USEF) are listening intently to a lecture entitled "Demystifying the US Student Visa Process" by a US Embassy consular. The lecture is one of ten a US embassy official delivers at USEF annually to, as the title suggests, demystify the visa process.
Before the consular officer began her lecture, the education adviser at the centre asked prospective US-college students if they had completed a whole lot of other processes. Most raised their hands, showing that going to the U. S. for higher studies needs a lot of dedication.
"Every day an average of 300 students visit the Foundation to get information on studying in the U.S.," says Salena Malla, education adviser at USEF.
The number of young Nepalis studying in the U.S. has gradually increased over the years. According to Institute of International Education (IIE) data released earlier this week, there are 8,936 Nepali students studying in the U.S. in the 2007-8 academic year.
Of these, 64 percent are enrolled in undergraduate courses, 28.7 percent in graduate courses, six in optional practical courses and 1.3 percent in other courses.
Nepal currently ranks 11th among the countries of origin for international students in the U.S. and Nepalis make up 1.4 percent of foreign students.
India tops the list with 94,563 students followed by China with 81,127 and South Korea with 61,124 students.
Last year Nepal ranked 13th in this list with 7,754 students. The increase this year has been 15 percent compared to last year, according to IIE which publishes an annual report on educational exchange in and from the U. S.
Although many students would like to go the U. S. for the quality of education on offer, money is the primary concern.
"We would like to encourage students to examine their financial capabilities before thinking of studying in the U.S.," says Malla.
Annual costs vary widely between US$ 12,000 and US$ 50,000.
"About 70 percent of international students are self-funded," says Malla. Figures on what percentage of Nepali students in the U. S. are self-funded are not available.
"Intent to study, which is related to the ability to finance and past academic performance, are the main criteria we look at while adjudicating cases," said the consular officer, describing important factors affecting issuance of visas.
Although data on the exact number of student visas granted every year is not available, the consular officer says that in the summer, which is considered the high season since the academic year in most colleges begins in autumn, as many as 250 students are interviewed for U.S. visas each day.
"For students, approximately half of all applicants are granted visas," she added.
Sunita Nyachhon (name changed) from Bhaktapur hopes to be in the lucky half. She has already secured admission in a state university, which cost less than a private one, and was at the lecture last week. She will be applying for visa soon to join classes in spring 2009.
"I am paying US$ 17,000 per year," she says. "But once I get there I hope to get scholarship since there are opportunities available." Asked if she will return to Nepal she says, "I will explore my options once I finish my studies."