How to Get a Student Visa in the United States

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So, you want to study in the United States. There is a lot of information out there on the best, easiest and fastest way on how to get a student visa.

Using only official information and sources I have created this simple step by step guide on how to obtain a student visa to study in the United States. This guide is made for undergraduate and graduate students alike.

There are steps to take before and after you have applied for your student visa. Check it out!

1 – Think About It

What do you want to study when you come to the United States? Why do you want to study in the United States? What are your goals? How will you pay for it all?

There are thousands of colleges and universities to choose from, and only you can decide which one is best for you. There are a lot of unofficial ranking systems to help your choose. Do your research.

You should choose a school that best fits your needs.

You might have to take a few tests (if you haven’t already) in order to be accepted into a school. This will likely include an admissions test, for example the GRE or the MCAT depending on what you want to study. As well, you will have to take an English language ability test.

You should start to look at schools and begin the testing process about 1 to 1 and a half years before you want to begin studying in the United States.

student visa usa
Thousands of students apply and are granted student loans to help pay for their education each year

Getting financial help can also be a lengthy process. The school you’re going to attend wants to make sure you’re going to have the funds to pay for it.

You don’t need to have all the money right away. Thousands of students apply and are granted student loans to help pay for their education each year.

Getting accepted into a school, getting financial aid, applying for a visa and arranging travel, housing and classes can take a while. So start early.

2 – Complete Your Application- Get Accepted

After you have decided where you want to go to school you need to start the paperwork for your school applications. This part comes before applying for the visa. You need to have an acceptance letter from the school and a FORM I-20 in order to apply for a student visa.

This is the part where you are going to want to pay close attention to the details.

Each school in the United States has it’s own set of requirements for students wanting to attend. Closely review the information on each school’s website to make sure that you are sending in all of the requested material when you apply.

This will most likely include any educational information from high school or colleges that you have attended, your test scores, recommendation letters and a personal essay.

After you have sent in your application and application materials you will likely have to wait a few months to hear a response. If you get a “congratulations you’ve been accepted!” letter, you will receive a Form I-20.

This is very important. Keep this form with you, because you will need to show it at your visa interview, day of entry into the United States and day of departure.

3- Choose the Right Student Visa

There are 3 types of student visas: F, J and M.

The F visa type is for students looking to study at a traditional college or university to study the topic/major of their choice or the English language. There is a list of approved schools created by the United States government, to help you choose a school that you can attend with this visa.

The J visa type is for those who are interested in a work-study or exchange type program.  The list of those eligible for this visa can he found here.

The M visa type is for people who are interested vocational training programs not including English language programs.

student visa usa
There are 3 types of student visas: F, J and M so you should choose the right Student Visa

4- Apply For Your Visa

The first step to this process as mentioned above is being accepted into an approved school.  You will be entered into a system call SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) and will have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee, which is about $200.

Go here to learn more and pay the fee. You will need a SEVIS ID number.

After you have been accepted and paid your fee you can begin the process of applying for your actual visa.

The process each country uses for its citizens to obtain a U.S student visa may be slightly different from one another. Go to your country’s embassy website to help you figure out what steps you need to take in order to apply for a student visa.

Now you must complete the online application, FORM DS-160. You must also print this completed form and bring it with you to your interview.

You will also have to upload an approved photo. Here are the requirements for the photo.

There is an application fee of $160 that is non-refundable. You may be asked to pay this ahead of your interview, or at your interview.

5- The Interview

If you are between the ages of 14 and 79 you will most likely have to attend a visa interview. You can schedule your interview at the U.S embassy or consulate in the country in which you live.

Wait times for interviews can vary by country. Be sure to schedule an interview in advance and check the U.S embassy or consulate’s website in your country for wait times.

Here is a list of documents that you will need to bring to your interview;

  • Passport – Valid for 6 months beyond your expected stay in the United States
  • Application Form DS-160
  • Application Fee Receipt – if you were required to pay ahead of time, if not you’ll receive this at the interview
  • Photo – If you were unable to upload a photo to your online application, bring an approved photo to your interview
  • Form – I20

You may be asked to bring additional information (financial or educational) to show that you are qualified and can afford to travel, live and study in the United States.

At your interview it will be decided if you are allowed to obtain a student visa. If you are admitted your digital fingerprints will be taken for record.

F1 and M1 visas can be issues up to 120 days before your first class, but you are not allowed to enter the United States until 30 days before the start of your first class.

Your passport will be taken and your visa will be place inside. This takes time. Review how long it will take here.

6- Coming to America!

You did it. You got accepted into a school, filled out all the right paperwork, attended an interview and you finally got your passport back with your student visa inside. Congratulations.

When the time comes (remember no more than 30 days before your first class) you will need to bring your passport and visa with you to the airport. You will receive a stamp or paper FORM I-94 which will be your proof of admission to the United States.

Do not overstay your visa! It will affect your status if you decide to return to the United States. Students with an F type visa can stay 60 days after your program ends according to your I-20 form.

The I-20 form is extremely important. Keep it somewhere safe for your entire stay in the United States. Don’t lose it!

student visa usa
Coming to America!

Other Important Information

If you plan on bringing your spouse or children with you on your studying adventures in the United States they will require a F-2 or M-2 visa and a FORM I-20 which your school would issue to them. They do not have to pay the SEVIS fee.

Your children would be allowed to attend school while you are studying in the United States.

A visa does not guarantee your entry to the United States. An official at the port of entry in the United States has the right to deny your entry. This won’t happen unless you give them a reason to deny you.

Act politely and make sure you have followed this guide and bring all your documents with you!

Good luck and happy studying!

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