Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Archive

As you search for information about studying in the United States, you can enter in the search box below some key words or a question you would like an answer to, or you can look in one of the nine categories of most frequently asked questions listed below. If you speak Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, French, Spanish, Russian or Portuguese, please select your language from the pull down box below, and you will see these topic areas change to the selected language.

 <<Back
Student Visas
pages: 1 2 3
Most non-U.S. citizens who wish to study in the United States will seek an F-1 (non-immigrant) student visa, but there are other visa types that are sometimes authorized for those who study in the U.S. Here is a short description of the different visa types that involve study:

• F-1, or Student Visa: This visa is the most common for those who wish to engage in academic studies in the United States. It is for people who want to study at an accredited U.S. college or university or to study English at a university or intensive English language institute.

• J-1, or Exchange Visitor: This visa is for people who will be participating in an exchange visitor program in the U.S. The "J" visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs.

• M-1, or Student Visa: This visa is for those who will be engaged in non-academic or vocational study or training at an institution in the U.S.

Prospective nonimmigrant students who have been accepted by more than one school must use the Form I-20 from the school they intend to attend to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee and to apply for a visa.
A- Students should check the embassy or consulate Web sites at http://usembassy.state.gov/. Each has directions for non-immigrants applying for a student visa that includes how to make an appointment for a visa interview.

B- Visa application forms are also available at http://evisaforms.state.gov.

C- The EducationUSA web site lists advising centers that help non-immigrants prepare for visa interviews.

No one can promise a visa will be issued before the embassy has fully processed the visa application. Therefore, do not make final travel plans or purchase nonrefundable tickets until a visa has been issued.
In order to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, you must first have a SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)-generated document (either an I-20 or DS-2019) issued by a U.S. college or university or Department of State-designated sponsor organization. You will be required to submit this form when you apply for a visa.
The U.S. academic institution or program sponsor will provide you with the appropriate SEVIS-generated form only when you have been academically admitted to the institution or accepted as a participant in an exchange program. The institution or program sponsor will also send you additional information about applying for the appropriate visa, as well as other guidance about beginning your academic program in the United States.
Once you have all the required documentation, you may apply for the visa, even if you do not intend to begin your program of study for several months. It is best to apply early for the visa to make sure that there is sufficient time for visa processing.
You should bear in mind that the U.S. Embassy/Consulate cannot issue a visa more than 120 days before the actual start of the program in the United States. However, visa applicants are encouraged to apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so. Thus, if the college or university to which you have been admitted states on the I-20 or DS-2019 that the program will start on September 1, a visa cannot be issued before May 1.
Even if you have been issued a visa to enter the United States and it is your first entry as a student to the United States you will not be allowed to enter the country more than 30 days before the start of your program, Returning students do not have this requirement. Using the earlier example, if the program of study starts on September 1, you will not be permitted to enter the United States until August 1 or later.

An interview at the U.S. consular section is required for almost all visa applicants.

Each applicant for a student visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:

  • Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students or Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students.You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school.You and your school official must sign the I-20 form. See the previous section for SEVIS information.
  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160. Visit the DS-160 webpage to learn more about the DS-160 online process.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must complete an application.
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in nonimmigrant photograph requirements;
  • A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee.
  • The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.

All applicants should be prepared to provide:

  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
  • Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.;
  • Financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study. For example, if you or your sponsor is a salaried employee, please bring income tax documents and original bank books and/or statements. If you or your sponsor own a business, please bring business registration, licenses, etc., and tax documents, as well as original bank books and/or statements.


Can’t find your questions answered in these FAQs? Click on the Ask an Adviser button below to contact your local EducationUSA Advising Center.