How to Get a Student Visa to the United States

Close up of passports with an ID card.


Students who want to travel to the United States in order to study need to meet specific visa requirements. Other countries (UK, Canada, etc.) have different requirements that play an important role when deciding where to study English abroad. These student visa requirements may change from year to year.

Types of Visas

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 U.S. 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, rather than language training programs.

B (visitor visa). For short periods of study, such as a month at a language institute, a visitor visa (B) may be used. These courses do not count as 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 (Student and Exchange Visitor Progam) approved school. You can find out more about these schools at the Department of State Education USA 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 your application. Generally speaking, there is a three-stage process for obtaining a U.S. student visa:

1) Obtain an interview appointment

2) Take the interview

3) Get processed

Allow six months for the entire process.

Financial Considerations

Students are also expected to show financial means to support themselves during their stay. 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


  • 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.


"Your 5 Steps to U.S. Study." EducationUSA.

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "How to Get a Student Visa to the United States." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Beare, Kenneth. (2021, February 16). How to Get a Student Visa to the United States. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "How to Get a Student Visa to the United States." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).