As far as studying abroad goes, the United States of America is the most popular destination worldwide, each year attracting more and more foreign students. If you’re hoping to study abroad in the US and grab a slice of the American dream though, you’ll need a USA Student Visa. Whilst this is a vital step in the studying abroad application process, it needn’t be confusing. Obtaining a US Student Visa is a well-worn administrative process that is quite straightforward if you’ve got all your documents in order.


Steps to get US Visa

This article takes you through each step of applying and securing a Student Visa for studying in America:

US Student Visa

To be eligible to study at a college or university in the United States, foreign students must first find, apply to, and be accepted by an accredited school there. Once accepted, the next step is to apply for a student visa, known as an F-1 visa, from the US government. A Student Visa is a non-immigrant visa that does not require you to get a citizenship in that particular country. This US Visa type allows you to study in the country of your preference, for the duration of your course.

What is Form I-20?

International students wanting to study in the US must have a copy of ‘Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status’. The form must be provided by the school or university offering a place.

Students can only study at the institution and for the length of time noted on Form I-20, but can apply to transfer to a university if their original course of study was at a US college.

What are the types of US Student Visas?

There are three types of US Student Visas for students. As per your interest and the course of your choice you need to apply for the specific visa.

1. F-1 Visa: Students who plan to pursue their academic studies in a US Education Institution or in an approved English language program are eligible for this visa. The F-1 visa is the most popular route to studying in the US, and covers all full time academic education; from primary school to university. Students on this visa must have a confirmed place at a recognized primary/elementary school, secondary school, or university. This visa cannot be used to attend publicly funded primary schools or adult education programs. To apply for F-1 Visa, your course time should be over 18 hours a week.

2. M-1 Visa: Students who wish to take a non-academic or vocational training course in the US need to apply for this visa.

3. J-1 Visa: This visa is issued to exchange students, interns, teachers, professional trainees or seasonal workers in the private cultural sector.


F-1 visa applicants must meet several eligibility criteria to be accepted, these include:

  • Having evidence that you can pay your tuition fees and living costs during your stay, such as bank statements
  • A passport style photograph
  • Having a residence in your home country, and intending to return back when your studies are completed
  • Having strong ties to your home country, such as family, assets, and a job offer on completion of your studies
  • Having a confirmed place at a US school or university, as well as a copy of Form I-20

What is the application process for obtaining US Student Visa?

Step 1 – Apply to a SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved school

Step 2 – You’ll receive an I-20 form from the school, once you accept the offer of admission. The school will enter your name in SEVIS (Student and exchange visitor information system)

Step 3 – Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee of US $200

Step 4 – Fill the online nonimmigrant visa application form and pay the F-1 visa fee of US $160

Step 5 – Print and keep the DS-160 barcode. Schedule an appointment at your local US Embassy or Consulate.

Step 6 – Prepare the required documents for your visa interview

Step 7 – Attend your visa interview on the scheduled day

Documents required for the Visa interview:

  • A valid Passport
  • Non-immigrant visa application form (Form DS-160)
  • Standardized digital color passport photograph (Photo requirements)
  • Receipt of visa application fee payment ($160)
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (F-1) Student Status (Form I-20)
  • Financial Documents proving adequate financial support during your stay in the US (eg: Bank Statement)
  • Diplomas, Transcripts, Certificates, and Degrees from your attended schools or Scores from Standardized tests such as TOEFL, GMAT, SAT, GRE, etc
  • Documents that serve as proof of your intent to return upon completing your program

Additional documents may be requested depending on your specific location or the specific program you have been admitted to pursue in the US.

Length of stay

Students on this visa may remain in the US for the full length of their studies as noted on their copy of Form I-20. The one exception is for students at publicly funded secondary schools, who are limited to a stay of 12 months or less; students at privately funded secondary schools do not have the restriction.

What is the US Student Visa Cost?

F-1 students must pay the full US student visa cost of their program before commencing their studies. Depending on your situation, American authorities will allow you to pay this fee online, on location at a visa application centre in India, or through a bank transfer.

How much time will it take to get my Visa?

Be sure to allow extra time for your visa application. Immediately after you’ve been accepted to and enrolled in the university of your choice, you can already start your application for the American F-1 Student Visa. You should apply at least 3 months before your university degree programme starts. The overall duration of visa processing is between 4 and 17 days. (The estimated average time of visa processing is between 4 and 9 days)

Upon arrival at a United States Port of Entry you must present:

  • Your Form I-20, signed by the DSO of the school you will attend
  • Your I-94
  • A valid Visa containing your SEVIS identification number and the name of the school you will be attending (BIR)
  • Financial documentation
  • A valid passport

Your F-1 Visa Interview

Your F-1 visa interview will determine whether you are qualified to receive an F-1 student visa for the USA. Assuming that you have prepared the appropriate documents and met all of the F-1 visa requirements, your visa will be approved at the discretion of the Consular Officer.

What happens if my US Student Visa is postponed or not approved?

Postponement of your US Student Visa just means you have to wait longer for an answer from the consulate about your case. There still may be a chance that your visa will be refused, but there is also a fair likelihood that you will be approved. Waiting for further response or action, or contacting the consulate should be your next step.

Even if your visa application is refused, it’s not the end of the world. While you cannot appeal your case, you can reapply, pay the visa processing fees again, and schedule another appointment. You will be given information from the US Embassy on what to do.

The visa application process may take time, but if you follow all the steps, the path to getting your US Student Visa won’t be that difficult as you imagine.

Experience studying and living in America and discover a new culture!

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