What type of visa do
I need to become an academic student in the United States?
Most non-U.S. citizens who wish to study in the United
States will seek an F-1 (non-immigrant) student visa, but there are other visa
types that are sometimes authorized for those who study in the U.S. Here is a
short description of the different visa types that involve study:
• F-1, or Student Visa: This visa is the most common for those who wish to engage in academic studies in the United States. It is for people who want to study at an accredited U.S. college or university or to study English at a university or intensive English language institute.
• J-1, or Exchange Visitor: This visa is for people who will be participating in an exchange visitor program in the U.S. The "J" visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs.
• M-1, or Student Visa: This visa is for those who will be engaged in non-academic or vocational study or training at an institution in the U.S.
What if I receive an
I-20 from more than one school in the US?
Prospective non-immigrant students who have been accepted by
more than one school must use the Form I-20 from the school they intend to
attend to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee and to apply for a visa.
How can I know about
the visa procedure in my country and find the application forms?
Students should check the embassy or
consulate Web sites at http://usembassy.state.gov/. Each has directions for
non-immigrants applying for a student visa that includes how to make an
appointment for a visa interview.
Visa application forms are also available at
The Apply to USA Consultants for Education
in USA web site lists advising centers that help non-immigrants prepare for
Should I proceed with
my ticket reservations once I have submitted my application to the US embassy?
No one can promise a
visa will be issued before the embassy has fully processed the visa
application. Therefore, do not make final travel plans or purchase non-refundable
tickets until a visa has been issued.
When can I apply for
a student visa?
In order to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate,
you must first have a SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information
System)-generated document (either an I-20 or DS-2019) issued by a U.S. college
or university or Department of State-designated sponsor organization. You will
be required to submit this form when you apply for a visa.
Where do I get the (I-20 or DS-2019 form)
The U.S. academic institution or program sponsor will
provide you with the appropriate SEVIS generated form only when you have been
academically admitted to the institution or accepted as a participant in an
exchange program. The institution or program sponsor will also send you
additional information about applying for the appropriate visa, as well as
other guidance about beginning your academic program in the United States.
When would be the
best time to apply for my student visa?
Once you have all the required documentation, you may apply
for the visa, even if you do not intend to begin your program of study for
several months. It is best to apply early for the visa to make sure that there
is sufficient time for visa processing.
How early should
apply for my student visa?
You should bear in mind that the U.S. Embassy/Consulate
cannot issue a visa more than 120 days before the actual start of the program
in the United States. However, visa applicants are encouraged to apply for
their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so. Thus, if the college or
university to which you have been admitted states on the I-20 or DS-2019 that
the program will start on September 1, a visa cannot be issued before May 1.
When can I enter the US with my student visa?
Even if you have been
issued a visa to enter the United States and it is your first entry as a
student to the United States you will not be allowed to enter the country more
than 30 days before the start of your program, Returning students do not have
this requirement. Using the earlier example, if the program of study starts on
September 1, you will not be permitted to enter the United States until August
1 or later.
As a student what do
I need to bring to a visa interview?
An interview at the U.S. consular section is required for
almost all visa applicants.
All applicants for an F or M student visa must provide:
• Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (F-1), Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students, or DS-2019 if coming on an exchange program or U.S. government-sponsored program.
• A completed application, Non-immigrant Visa Applicant, Form DS-156, together with a Form DS-158. Both forms must be completed and signed. Some applicants will also be required to complete and sign Form DS-157.
• A passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States
• One (1) 2x2 photograph ( see embassy website for specifications)
• A receipt to show payment of the visa application fee, a visa issuance fee if applicable
• SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.
• Also all applicants should be prepared to show if asked:
• Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended.
• Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.
• Financial evidence that shows that the student or sponsoring parents have sufficient funds to cover tuition and living expenses during the period of intended study. If the student is receiving a scholarship for his studies a letter to that affect from the sponsoring agency would be required.
• If travelling with dependents (i.e. children, spouse) must also provide: Proof of the students relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates.)
What happens at the
Because each student's personal and academic situation is
different, two students applying for the same visa may be asked different
questions and be required to submit different documents. For that reason, the
guidelines that follow are general and can be changed by consular officers
overseas, depending on each student's situation.
Usually at the interview, a quick ink-free fingerprint scan
will be taken. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be
notified when they apply
What is the waiting
time for visa interviews?
Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa
processing time information for each U.S. embassy or consulate worldwide is
available on the DOS website at Visa Wait Times, and on most embassy Web sites.
In some embassies or
consulates students are not required to make an appointment for their interview
check your embassy website for specific arrangements at each embassy
How long is the interview for the visa at the
The visa interview
usually lasts an average of 3 minutes. You must be prepared to be brief yet
convincing. Be confident, do not lie or hide the truth.
What is the U.S. consular officer is looking for
in the interview?
Firstly, that you are
a bona fide student. He or she will look at your educational background and
plans in order to assess how likely you are to enrol and remain in college
until graduation. Be prepared to discuss the reasons you chose a particular
college, your major and career plans.
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that you will not want to remain in the United States, that your reasons for
returning home are stronger than those for remaining in the U.S.
Can I work in the U.S. while in college on a
According to the current immigration regulations,
international students can only work part time – up to 20 hours per week - on
campus while school is in session during the required academic year, and up to
40 hours per week during school vacation periods. Students working 10-15 hours
a week can earn enough to pay for incidentals such as books, clothing and
personal expenses, but cannot pay major expenses such as tuition or room and
Does the I-20 from a
reputed university in the U.S. guarantee me a student visa?
No. the I-20 only
allows you to begin the visa application. The consular officer after the
interview decides whether to approve or deny a visa.
How long would my
student visa be valid for?
It is valid for the
duration of your course of study. Keep in mind that your visa stamp in your
passport must only be valid when you are entering or re-entering the country.
What if my F-1 student visa has expired?
You can stay in the United States on an expired F-1 visa as
long as you maintain your student status. However, if you are returning home or
traveling to a country where automatic revalidation does not apply, you must
have a valid visa to return to the United States.
Ensure that you have all the documentation you need for your
visa application and allow sufficient time for processing a new visa. The
documentation you may need for a new visa includes, but is not limited to the
• A SEVIS Form I-20, endorsed for travel and signed by your
DSO and your original Form I-20 (see your DSO before you travel)
• Original evidence showing proof of necessary funds to
cover tuition and living expenses
• Evidence showing
your intention to return to your home country upon program completion, including
evidence of compelling social and economic ties to your home country
• If you have applied
for or had optional practical training (OPT) approved, bring a copy of your
Form I20 endorsed for OPT and your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if
one has been issued
The Department of State recommends that you apply for a visa
in your home country. For more information about visa applications visit the
Department of State website at www.UnitedStatesVisas.gov
I recently received my I-20 (or DS-2019) form
do I need to make an appointment for the student visa?
You should check the website of the US embassy in your
country for student visa application procedures.
How long does it take to receive a student visa?
This can be different
in each country and each student's situation. Refer to the website of the US
embassy in your country for more information
I have a valid 10 year B (visitor) visa to the
US in my passport; do I need a new student visa for study in the US?
Yes, all students
must begin their studies in the US on a student visa.
How long should the length of my study in the
US be before I need to apply for a student visa? Can I take a 3-4 week language
program in the US with my tourist visa?
No, you will need a
student visa for all language programs in the US.
I am in the United States with an F-1 or M1
visa and I want to change schools. What do I have to do?
Make sure you inform the international student office on
your campus to update your SEVIS information with the details of the new
school. This way you can continue your studies in the new school. However if
you are leaving the US to go home for a holiday make sure you take a new I-20
form from the new school with you to apply for a new student visa from the US
Can I use my F-1 visa
to study at a public secondary school?
If the school is on the SEVIS list of approved schools and
the student is paying the full tuition he/she can attend a public secondary
school for one academic year.
How can I become an F or M non-immigrant
• Apply and be accepted by, an SEVP-certified school. When a
school accepts a non-immigrant applicant, it issues a Form I-20 for initial
attendance. Prospective non-immigrant students may apply to more than one
SEVP-certified school but must choose one and use the Form I-20 from that
school when applying for a visa.
• Be able to pay for the cost of schooling and living expenses
while in the United States and furnish proof of sufficient funding to the
• Attend a school full time
• Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee at www.fmjfee.com
• Apply for a visa from an embassy or consulate in your
• After obtaining an F-1 or M-1 visa, the prospective
student may enter into the United States no more than 30 days prior to the
program start date on the student’s Form I-20.
How do F or M non-immigrants
obtain a student visa?
After receiving a Form I-20 from a school, the prospective non-immigrant
must apply to the local consulate or embassy for a visa appointment and
interview. The SEVIS I-901 fee must be paid prior to the interview.
As part of the visa
application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required
for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. Persons age 13 and younger, and age
80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by the
embassy or consulate.
Where can I find more information about
• Student visa information: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1270.html
• U.S. Embassies & Consulates Worldwide: http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/embassies/embassies_1214.html
• Overview visa information: http://www.UnitedStatesVisas.gov
• Visa wait times for interview appointments: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/tempvisitors_wait.php
• Exchange visitor visa information/Nonimmigrant Visa
Application, Form DS-156: