Anyone wishing to enter the US to study needs a USA student visa. Compared to some other types of US visa, the process for obtaining a student visa is quite simple.
Below is some of the most important information you must know regarding US student visas. It’s worth researching the process in detail before you begin applying, so you don’t do something wrong or waste money.
There are 2 types of USA student visa:
F-1 USA student visa
An F-1 visa is the “standard” USA student visa. It covers applicants to study at an American college or university (it must be accredited) or to study English at a relevant institute. Also, the university must be registered as a recipient of non-US students.
M-1 USA student visa
An M-1 visa gives applicants the ability to study on a non-academic or vocational course. For example, it might be something like pottery, business, plumbing, etc.
Also, there are J visas. These don’t count as one of the normal student visas because they’re issued under exchange programs. As this isn’t something you’d organize yourself, they’re completed as part of the exchange process.
Exchange programs are run through high schools, colleges, and universities. To be eligible, you must attend a school in your home country that has a program established with an American institution.
Deciding on the Right Type of USA Student Visa
Choosing which is the right visa for you should be easy. It ultimately comes down to whether you’re studying on an academic or vocational course. If you’re unsure of the difference, contact the institution you plan to study at, and they should be able to tell you.
Getting Started with a USA Student Visa
You can’t apply for a student visa until you have been accepted to study on a course in the USA. So, the first step should be to apply for the course you want to do at the college or university of your choice. Aside from ticking an extra box, your application process shouldn’t be too different from that of a US citizen.
Along with this, you must also make sure that the course (and institution) you are applying for meets visa requirements. It’ll say on the institution’s website whether it’s certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
Providing your application is accepted, you’ll then be sent a Form I-20 to begin your student visa application process.
Applying for a Student Visa
The process for obtaining a student visa is simple, but the requirements are quite strict. You must submit the following information:
- Information about the course and institution you want to study at
- Evidence of your financial situation
- Proof of your English language ability
You’ll need documents including your passport, a photo, receipts of applications, and perhaps other US immigration forms. Generally, the required documents should be outlined on your Form I-20.
Part of the application process involves paying visa fees. These are separate from any other fees and don’t automatically mean you’ll receive a visa. As such, it’s vital to get your information right and ensure you have all the correct documents for the next stage.
Along with getting accepted at the institute you are planning to study at, you need to have enough money to complete the selected course, be prepared for studying in the USA, and that you intend to leave the country as soon as the course is completed.
The amount of money you need depends on where you’re studying. It’ll be the course’s funds plus a year’s worth of living funds. As it depends on the institution, it’s mentioned on your Form I-20.
Providing all this is suitable, you’ll be asked to attend an interview.
Student Visa Interview
Most of these factors will be determined during the interview, but there are things that one should research before the interview. Make sure that your bank account holds enough money to complete the course. Also, always wait for your acceptance letter from the university before you apply for your USA Student Visa.
The USA Student visa interview happens at your country’s US Embassy or Consulate. Don’t expect the same questions as asked by other students, since the interviews vary from student to student. If you fail to pass the interview, you won’t be granted a USA student visa.
The interview itself is quite short and usually consists of gathering information about your planned study. For example, you might be expected to show bank statements as proof of funds and proof of residence abroad. As with all US visas, they want to know you’ll go home after.
You could be at the Embassy for up to 3 hours, but the interview is quite short. Employees will obtain your fingerprints and other necessary information before your visa is issued.
Going to the US to Study
Your USA student visa won’t be issued until around 120 days before the start of your course. However, your application can still be processed before this. It’s a smart choice to apply for a USA student visa as soon as you have all the necessary documents. This extra time will come in handy to focus on the other parts of studying abroad such as what to pack, discovering the city you will be studying in and sorting out your accommodation.
If you want your family to travel with you then you first have to prove your relationship with the one coming with you, and then they have to apply for their own visas too.
Just because you have a USA Student visa in your hands, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically get permission to enter the country when you arrive. The Border Protection officials, Department of Homeland Security and US Customs can stop you from entering their country. This isn’t exactly ideal, so make sure that you fully understand the requirements needed to enter the USA and that you don’t unintentionally pack restricted goods.
While this is rare, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with border control laws. Temporary visa holders often don’t have much to worry about, but if you’re moving to the country for a year, you’ll obviously be packing more stuff.
Remember you can always apply for a Green Card via the Green Card Program.
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