All You Need to Know About the USA Student Visa

Those wishing to enter the US to study must obtain a USA student visa. The type of education you receive, along with your length of stay, dictates which type of USA student visa is correct for your application.

Compared to other types of American visas, student visas are fairly easy to understand. However, there is still plenty you must know before and during your application to ensure its success.

In this post, we’ll go over the most important information you need to obtain a USA student visa.

What is a USA Student Visa?

A USA student visa is, unsurprisingly, a category of nonimmigrant visa for those wishing to enter the US for education. It’s a nonimmigrant visa because it doesn’t allow you to remain permanently in the country, although most courses last several years.

There are 2 overall types of USA student visas, F and M. They both provide the same security and benefits but apply to different types of educational courses.

The F visa covers:

  • University or college
  • High school
  • Seminary school
  • Private elementary school
  • Conservatories
  • Other institutions, including language training programs

The M visa, however, covers vocational or non-academic training courses. To apply for the correct type of visa, you must first know where you want to study and what course you want to sit.

In some less common circumstances, USCIS will accept a visitor visa (B visa) as entry for education. However, it must be “recreational education”, meaning it doesn’t count towards a US-issued degree or educational certificate. Examples include a privately-run business course or art program.

Visa Eligibility – US student visa requirements.

There is very little necessary information regarding eligibility for a student visa for the USA. They are open to people of all ages and all nationalities.

The main thing you must check is whether US Citizenship and Immigration Services have approved your chosen institution and course of study. If not, you must apply elsewhere.

Also, the course must be full-time (from an education perspective). This does not mean dedicating 40 hours or more a week to the course, but it must be labeled as full-time rather than part-time. Again, this should be fairly clear on the course information page.

Finally, you must be able to fund your course and living expenses while staying in the US. There is no set amount for this, as it depends on where in the country you’ll study. USCIS will ask for proof of funds during your application, so you must have at least the first year’s money to hand along with the evidence you can fund the remaining years.

It might be obvious, but USCIS will expect you to speak English at an acceptable level. After all, you’ll be studying an English-language course, so it makes sense. The only exception is if you’re entering a language training program.

If these requirements apply to your situation, here are some other facts and information you should know when it comes to applying for a student visa.

Student Visa Guidelines (USA Student Visa)

Your permitted length of stay in the country on your USA student visa depends on the length of the course. As such, there’s no real maximum stay like there is with other visas. However, USCIS will expect you to return to your home country within 60 days of your visa expiring.

Student visa holders can extend their stay in the country under certain circumstances. An official at the school you are attending can assist you with filling out the necessary documentation for this. It requires an I-20 form, which is filed in addition to Form I-94, your passport, arrival and departure document, and verification of the purpose of your extended stay.

Also, it is possible to adjust a USA student visa to a Green Card. For this to happen, you must have a job offer lined up or you must marry a US citizen. This process then follows the standard adjustment of the status procedure.

If you are granted a USA Student Visa there are a few other guidelines you must follow to remain in compliance.  First, you must be enrolled in the approved educational institution when you were granted your student visa.

Employment and Traveling

If you seek student employment, it must be on the premises of the educational institution you are attending.  If you plan to work off the grounds, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must grant you approval. 

Additionally, if you have any dependents in the country while you’re a student, they are not eligible to seek employment. Neither you nor your dependents will be eligible to apply for a Green Card while you are on a student visa (unless for the reasons mentioned above).

In terms of travel guidelines, you may leave the US to return to your home country during vacations from school.  When you return to the US, you must present Form I-20A-B with a current signature from the appropriate school official, your passport and USA Student Visa, and the documentation that validates your ability to support yourself financially.

USA Student Visa Documentation

Like other visa applications, there is a list of documentation you must provide in order to qualify for a USA student visa. Having knowledge of what is required ahead of time will help you to better prepare for your application.

First, you must prove that you have completed the necessary prior education to enroll in the next relevant level. If you’re applying for a university degree, for example, you’re expected to have the equivalent of a US high school diploma.

You must then apply to a US educational institution that is approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Doing so registers you on the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which you use to complete your visa application.

After the school you’re applying to receives your details, they’ll send you a copy of Form I-20, which you and they must sign. If you’re bringing a spouse and children, they’ll each receive their own copy.

Once you have all the necessary documents you can complete a Form DS-160, which is a nonimmigrant visa application. Your passport should also be current with two extra photos and you will need to submit a letter of admission from the educational institution you plan to attend. 

You should also be prepared to submit the other documentation we described above before your local Consular approves your USA Student Visa. Following this, you’ll likely have to attend an interview at your country’s US Embassy or Consulate. It’s not generally required for those under 13 or those over 80, however.

Finally, you need the correct supporting documents. These include proof of finances for your course and cost of living while studying. As mentioned, this will be different depending on where you’ll live.

You must show that your course of study will be useful in your home country, which also indicates your plan to leave the US when your education is complete. Along with this, you’re required to prove you will return to your home country by showing proof of family ties in your country of permanent residence.

Getting Help with the USA Student Visa

While the USA student visa serves its purposes for education, applying can be a long and difficult process. There’s also the issue of having to leave once your visa expires. To get a USA student visa you could seek professional help or do it yourself by using the US Student Visa Guide from USGCA.

Instead, why not consider applying for the Green Card Program?  Winning a Green Card will guarantee you permanent residence in the United States, which you can then use to study whenever! You can submit your application online today.

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