U.S. Student Visa

Student Visa Overview

If you are a resident of a foreign country wishing to embark on a study abroad program in the United States, you must first complete an F-1 or M-1 visa application

The type of visa required will depend on the specific course of study and school you have selected.

The student visa is different from the B-2 or tourist visa, which covers tourism, vacations, visits with friends or relatives, medical treatment, and participation in certain social events.

A B-1 visa is required for visits involving business consultations, events, or contracts, or to settle an estate.

Finally, an H-1B visa is required for temporary employment within the U.S. and must be directly initiated by your potential employer strictly for business reasons.

Certain criteria cannot be used for U.S. visitation from a foreign country under any of the aforementioned visas, including employment, paid performances, permanent residence and other reasons set forth on the USCIS website.

For U.S. study, each person traveling will need to submit his or her own student visa application, including a valid visa photo, and gain approval prior to departure.

Because of variations in how quickly each country processes its student visa applications, it is advisable to postpone making travel plans until your student visa is obtained in case of unexpected delays.

How to get a U.S. Student Visa

The process for getting U.S. Student Visa is four general steps, yet can vary depending on which Consulate or Embassy you choose to visit.

Fill out form DS-160 – Get Visa Photos – Gather Supporting Documentation – Attend Visa Interview

Completion of Form DS-160

To apply for a student visa, you must first be accepted at a Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP)-approved school; more information about qualifying schools and programs is available on the Department of Homeland Security website.

Once you are accepted into a U.S.-based course of study, you are also enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and must pay the associated fee.

You must also obtain Form I-20, provided by your U.S.-based school, which must then be brought to your mandated personal interview.

The DS-160 is a form that can be completed online.  You will have to bring a print out of your DS-160 to your interview as well.  Consult the U.S. State Department for specific nonimmigrant visa information.

Get Visa Photo

A current, high-quality Visa or Passport photo must accompany your DS-160 student visa application.

For U.S. Student Visas you will upload and submit your Visa Photos online after you complete your DS-160

The requirements for a U.S. Visa photo are similar as those of a U.S. Passport Photo.

  • Color 2” x 2”
  • Gloss or Matte photo quality paper
  • Taken against a white background
  • No shadows on face or background
  • Nothing covering your face, glare on glasses, or hats/headgear unless worn daily for religious purposes

A professional passport/visa photo service is recommended to ensure that you deliver a passport photo that meets the above criteria. Please see above links for more detailed information.

Student Visa Document Preparation

U.S. immigration officials require the following documents before your visa application interview:

  • A valid passport for travel to the U.S. with an expiration date no less than six months after your scheduled return, unless exempted by a separate country-specific agreement.
  • A confirmation page for your Form DS-160 submission.
  • A visa application payment receipt if payment is required prior to the interview
  • A passport photo conforming to DS-160 requirements; if upload is not possible, bring a printed photo that meets the student visa photo specifications. (See Above)
  • A Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant (F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language students OR a Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Student Status for Vocational students. This is the I-20 form, which will be generated via SEVIS once your information is submitted
    and must be signed by you and your school representative.
  • Students, spouses of students and minor children all must be registered in the SEVIS system and receive an individual form I-20.

Please note that additional documentation may be required so it is important to carefully read the instructions for obtaining a student visa on the embassy or consulate website where you will be submitting your application.

Other information that may be requested prior to scheduling your interview include:

  • Transcripts
  • Diplomas
  • Degrees or certificates from previous academic programs
  • Standardized test scores
  • Written certification of your intent to leave the U.S. following your academic study program
  • Demonstrated means for financing your educational, living, and travel expenses

In Person Interview

Part of the process for obtaining an F-1 or M-1 student visa for study in the United States is a personal interview with an embassy or consulate representative, generally required for applicants ages 14-79.

The purpose of your interview is to ensure that your reason for visiting the U.S. conforms to the requirements for a student visa.

You will also be asked to submit to ink-free digital fingerprinting and payment may also be required at this time.

Be sure to bring a copy of your DS-160 confirmation page as well as supporting documentation above to the personal interview.

During your interview, you should inquire as to when and how your visa will be delivered to ensure that your expected receipt is not later than your anticipated travel date.

Once your interview is completed, there is generally a period of processing time prior to receiving your travel-ready visa.

Please be aware that wait times for your tourist visa interview vary by location, season and visa category, so it is advised to apply early.

U.S. Student Visa Fees

The application fee for U.S F-1 or M-1 Student Visas is: $160

Payment is non-refundable, regardless if application is accepted or denied.

Be sure to read up on additional issuance or reciprocity fees by country prior to arriving for your scheduled interview as pre-payment may be required.

Additional Information

There is no guarantee that your visa application will be approved so it’s best to wait before making final travel arrangements to the U.S.

If you have not attended classes in the U.S. for five months or longer, you are required to obtain a new student visa.

Your student visa will be valid until the expiration date printed on the document.

If your passport expires but the U.S. visa has not yet expired, your visa is still valid for use provided that your receive a new passport, including a new passport photograph.

Your spouse and unmarried, minor children who reside with you may accompany you to the United States, but must obtain their own visas. They must present a copy of your F-1 or M-1 student visa, along with proof of your familial relationship.

For additional information about obtaining your student visa, please consult the Study in the States website or your local consulate or embassy.

For information about work requirements for foreign students enrolled in U.S. academic programs, please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.