U.S. Student Visa: how to get it

The procedure for obtaining a student visa to the United States: what the applicant needs to know.

Types of US student visas

There are two types of student visas in the States. M-1 visa is intended for those who want to get professional non-academic education. The F-1 visa is much more common: it is required for most colleges and universities in the country. The F-1 visa is also granted to students attending language courses if they are studying intensively for 18 hours or more per week (if they have less than 18 hours, the B1/B2 visa is sufficient).

The first and the most important step is to apply to and to be accepted by a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-approved school in the US. The application process should be started six to twelve months prior to the study.

After your enrollment is confirmed you can move on to the visa processing.

Documents required for obtaining a U.S. student visa

What should I bring along with me for an interview in the U.S. Embassy?

A future student should bring:

You must prove to the consul that you have some kind of connection to your country, and that once the studies are over you will return back home. You can provide the documents that prove material ties with the home country (documents on real estate, a car, etc.), family ties (marriage certificate, birth certificate), professional ties (work, participation in public organizations, etc.), etc.

You should also take the original diploma with grades, test results and certificates (A-levels, SAT, TOEFL, GMAT, GRE, etc.).

At the interview it is obligatory to provide evidence of financial solvency. Usually future students provide a bank statement confirming that they have the necessary funds. If you are applying for an M-1 visa, you must demonstrate that you have funds for the entire period of study. If applications are made for an F-1 visa, proof of funds for at least one year of study is required. If your studies and stay are paid by a sponsor, you will need to provide documents proving your relationship (this may be a birth or marriage certificate). Sponsors must provide personal financial information, such as bank statements and tax returns.

At the interview you do not need to show airline tickets, as well as any bookings.

US student visa procedure

Student visa refusals may happen, but they are quite rare. In this case, the passport is returned already during the interview, and the officer informs about the reason for refusal. If the officer does not return anything, then everything is fine. The passport with a student visa in it is delivered within about two weeks by a courier service. Student visa processing can be started in advance, but it is not issued earlier than 4 months before the start date of study.

Working while studying in the USA

The F-1 visa also entitles you to work no more than 20 hours per week on campus. This rule applies to most universities, but not everywhere: the right to work on campus must be clarified with the college or university itself. In your second year of study a student may qualify for off-campus work.

Dependent family members of US students

Spouses and children of students applying for F and M visas may also apply for U.S. visas. Spouses will not be eligible for employment, but children of an F-1 visa holder will be able to attend U.S. primary and secondary schools.

Is it possible to apply for a student visa amid the Coronavirus pandemic?

The US resumed issuing of F-1 visas from August 2020. The ability to sign up for interviews varies by your home country. Check the U.S. visa information and services to find out current information about the operation of U.S. consulates in your country.

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