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
To get an F-1 or M-1 visa, you must fill out a special form DS-160. The application is submitted online.
After submitting the form you will receive the confirmation number. You need this number for the interview. The confirmation itself should be printed out and taken with you to the embassy.
USA visa photo
(2x2" or 600x600 pixels for online submission)
You will need it upon filling out the DS-160 form (the image must be uploaded to the website), that is why you need to take a photo in advance. Get it at https://visafoto.com/us-visa-photo. A printed photo should be taken for an interview, you can also get an image for printing at the same time when getting an image for the online submission at Visafoto, they will come within the same order.
This document confirms that the university, college, or language school has enrolled the student. The form is filled in and issued by the educational institutions themselves.
It should be valid for more than six months from the date a student is expected to return from the United States.
Receipt of payment of fee
The amount of visa fee depends on citizenship. The fee must be paid before the date of the visa officer's interview: the number of a receipt of payment is required for recording. If the visa is not approved, the money will not be returned.
A SEVIS fee receipt
A student visa to the United States requires not only a consular fee, but also a SEVIS fee of 350$. The SEVIS fee is paid only for student visas. All fees are paid to a special information portal where all international students register.
Invitation letter for an interview
You should sign up for it here. You will need your passport number, fee payment receipt number and a DS-160 form confirmation number (10-digit with barcode).
What should I bring along with me for an interview in the U.S. Embassy?
A future student should bring:
- Invitation to an interview;
- Confirmation of the DS-160;
- A printed color photo;
- Current passport as well as old passports;
- You diploma or test certificates (if any);
- Documents confirming the ties with the home country and the financial solvency of the applicant.
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.