How to Get a Student Visa to the United States

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Students who want to travel to the United States in order to study need to meet the following visa requirements. Other countries (UK, Canada, etc.) have different requirements which play an important role when deciding where to study English abroad. These student visa requirements can also change from year to year. Here is an overview of student visa requirements for the United States. 

Visa Types

F-1 (student visa).

The F-1 visa is for full-time students enrolled in an academic or language program. F-1 students may stay in the US for the full length of their academic program plus 60 days. F-1 students must maintain a full-time course load and complete their studies by the expiration date listed on the I-20 form.

M-1 (student visa). The M-1 visa is for students who participate in vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions, other than language training programs.

B (vistor visa). For short periods of study such as a month at a language institute a visitor visa (B) may be used. These courses are not to be taken for credit toward a degree or academic certificate.

Acceptance at a SEVP Approved School

If you would like to study for a longer period of time you must first apply and be accepted by a SEVP approved school. You can find out more about these schools at the Department of State EducationUSA website.

After Acceptance

Once you are accepted at a SEVP approved school, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) which also requires the payment of a SEVIS I-901 fee of $200 at least three days before submitting your application for a U.S. visa. The school to which you have been accepted will provide you with a Form I-20 to present to the consular officer at your visa interview.

Who Should Apply

If your course of study is more than 18 hours a week, you will need a student visa. If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study of less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so on a visitor visa.

Waiting Time 

There are several steps when applying. These steps may differ depending on which U.S. Embassy or Consulate you choose for application. Generally speaking there is a three stage process: 1) Obtain interview appointment 2) Take interview 3) Processing

Tip: Allow six months for the entire process.

Financial Considerations

Students are also expected to show financial means to support themselves during their stay in the USA. Students are sometimes allowed to work part-time at the school they are attending.

Student Visa Requirements

  • Acceptance by university or learning institution
  • Knowledge of English language (usually established through TOEFL scores)
  • Proof of financial resources
  • Proof of non-immigrant intent

For more detailed information visit the US State Department's F-1 information page

Where Students Come From

According to a recent study at Brookings most foreign students come from China, India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

 

Tips

  • Double check requirements at the consulate or embassy near you before beginning the process
  • Find out which school you would like to attend and make sure that it is SEVP approved
  • Apply to the school you would like to attend before applying for a VISA
  • Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee well before your Visa Interview