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Visa Application Process for Students Wishing To Pursue Education in USA Universities

A large number of foreign nationals apply to universities in the USA yearly to study full-time within the United States. However, to get admission to a USA university, international students need much more than better marks. They need a student visa.

The procedure for securing a student visa can be confusing and complex. This is where you need the assistance of visa consultants. Read on to learn in detail about student visas for the US and the application process.

About USA Student Visa
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To get admission to any US school or university, the applicants who don’t have a US permanent residence or citizenship should get a US student visa in the first place.

A US student visa lets the international students live on a temporary basis within the United States to gain admission to an approved university or learning program.

As soon as the program ends, the student visa too gets terminated. At this point, you should leave the country, but you might come back afterwards as a tourist or on any other visa/permit.

Types of Student Visas for the US

1. M-1 Visa

M-1 Visa is meant for nonacademic or vocational study in the United States. These learning programs are generally for a short period and are career-centric. The international students can get admission to culinary school or a medical training program.

2. J-1 Visa

J-1 Visa is meant for exchange visitors, counting interns, scholars, study abroad students, etc.

3. F-1 Visa

The F-1 Visa is meant for high school or college study in the United States. Both graduates and undergraduates can apply for this visa.

In general, the students from overseas wanting to study full-time in graduate or undergraduate programs will require an F-1 Visa. By contrast, if you wish to study in another country for just a couple of semesters at a university in the United States, you will require a J-1 Visa.

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When to Apply For a Student Visa?

You might apply for a student visa as soon as you have applied for and been approved by a SEVP-accredited university. SEVP is the abbreviation for Student Exchange and Visitor Program. Every school/university in the US that enrolls F-1 or M-1 students have to be certified by this program.

After getting admission to the desired university, you can get started with the visa application procedure.

Make sure that you get the visa prior to the commencing date of your program. As you can get the student visa for the US up to 4 months prior to the commencement date of your program, you might not go to the US on this visa until one month before your commencement date.

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What All Documents Do You Need To Apply For A US Student Visa?

These are the necessary documents you will need when applying for a US student visa:

1. A Valid Passport

All international students should hold a passport provided by their country of origin. The validity of the passport should be a minimum of 6 months further than the end date of your program in the United States. Thus, any passport that will terminate while residing in the United States following the end of your program might not be used. In its place, you will have to apply for a new passport and use that one. The cost and process for passport may differ from country to country. Have a look at the government site of your country to learn more about securing and renewing a passport.

2. Funds

The applicant will have to show proof that they possess enough funds for paying several visa-related fees. For an F-1 visa and M-1 visa, the fee that the applicants need to pay is 350 USD. For a J-1 visa, the applicants need to pay 220 USD. The fee for visa application is 160 USD.

3. Passport-size photos

The applicants need to issue a recent passport-size photo. This photo will afterwards be uploaded and submitted with your online application.

Steps To Attain a Student Visa for the US

1. Apply and get approved by a university in the US

This is the foremost step entailed in the procedure of obtaining a US student visa. A majority of first-time graduate and undergraduate programs within the United States need applications to be issued by December or January.

The school or university that you apply for admission should be SEVP-accredited. In order to find such a school, you can use the SEVP school search tool.

The J-1 visa students will most probably submit an application for exchange programs through institutes of their home country. You might, too, seek designated sponsor organizations online at the J-1 visa site.

2. Get form I-20 or DS-2019

After getting admission to a university, you will get any of these forms: Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. The M-1 and F-1 students will get the first form, and the J-1 students will get the second.

You will receive the relevant form via mail from your school. The address of your school, your SEVIS ID, and other important details regarding your program will be there on the form. This form will be needed at the time of your visa interview and for paying certain fees.

3. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee

After attaining your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 from your university, visit online and pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. For those partaking in short-term J-1 visa programs, the fee is only $ 35.

A majority of students, excluding those from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, or the Gambia, can pay the I-901 SEVIS fee online using a credit card.

After paying this fee, get a printout of your confirmation page. You will require this at the time of your visa interview.

4. Visit the nearby US consulate/embassy in your home country

You need to apply for your US student visa through the nearby US consulate/embassy in your country. You can use the internet to find US consulates and embassies.

Note that the processes for a US student visa might vary a bit depending on the embassy via which you are applying. This signifies that you might have to provide extra documents along with your application at some embassies. To know in detail about what you will have to provide, visit the official site of your embassy or connect with the embassy directly.

5. Duly Filled Form DS-160 online

The fifth step is to fill up the online nonimmigrant visa application or Form DS-160. Ensure that you have your passport, a visa photograph, and a Form I-20 or DS-2019 available to fill up this form. Besides, you might also have to provide a resume/CV, a travel itinerary, and the dates of your previous visits to the United States.

6. Schedule Your Visa Interview

Following the submission of the Form DS-160, reach out to the nearby US consulate/embassy to schedule your interview. The wait periods for interviews differ from embassy to embassy. Visit the US visas site to check the waiting period for your embassy.

7. Pay the application fee

The visa application fee that you have to pay is 160 USD. No matter what is your home country or where you are applying from, the fee amount is the same for all.

While you pay, this fee will differ depending on your embassy, even though a lot of embassies need applicants to pay the application fee prior to their visa interviews. The embassy must guide you on how and when to pay your application fee.

8. Be present at the interview

An interview is the last major step of the visa process. The visa interview will decide whether you’ll get your student visa or not. Prior to attending the visa interview, you should collect all the essential documents and proofs, such as

  • A passport
  • Proof of the paid visa application fee
  • A copy of your visa photograph
  • Form DS-2019 (original) for J-1 students or form I-20 (original) for F-1/M-1 students
  • A printed I-901 SEVIS fee confirmation page
  • A printed DS-160 confirmation page

Additional documents required:

  • Proof of required funds
  • Proof of your purpose to leave the United States after the completion of your program
  • Official records from schools or universities you have attended
  • Credentials from colleges or high schools you have attended

You will go through a security check and submit biometrics, generally just before attending your visa interview.

The questions that you’ll be asked will be in the English language, and these questions will mainly centre on why you wish to study at the university you have chosen and what you want to do following the end of your program.

9. Get the visa

After completing every step mentioned above and getting approval for a US student visa, the embassy will give your passport back along with your new visa. Keep in mind that some embassies will need you to come personally to collect it. Others will mail these documents to you directly.

Final Thoughts

The applicants must begin the procedure early to lessen the chance of getting a denied or rejected application. Also, don't buy an air ticket until you have been accepted for a student visa.


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