Every year, the United States welcomes international students from different parts of the world to undertake their studies in the U.S. Studying in the U.S. as an international student requires that you apply for and obtain a US study visa. The study visa gives you the legal right to reside in the U.S. for the duration of your studies (the visa expires once your study program is over).
Before applying for a study visa to the U.S., you need to first get approved and accepted into an educational institution in the U.S. You will be provided with the necessary information and documents you need to submit during your study visa application process.
Visa application is a complicated process that requires lots of preparation – you will need to have the right documents, go through all the eligibility criteria to determine if you are fit to go through with the application as well as other things you need to do to successfully apply for a U.S. study visa.
To make the process easier for you, we have compiled some of the basics of getting a study visa to the U.S. We will give you a step-by-step guide on how to apply for your study visa without encountering hassles.
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Types of Study Visa
There are different types of study visas. Types of study visas include:
- F-1 Visa: This is a visa you get if you wish to enroll for studies in an approved school such as an accredited university, college, and approved English language program or if the course of study you want to undertake is more than 18 hours per week. This visa type is the most common visa type. This type of visa is required if you want to undertake a full-time graduate or undergraduate degree in the U.S.
- M-1 Visa: This visa is required if you intend to undertake a short-term program such as a non-academic, vocational study, or training in the U.S.
- J- 1 Visa: This visa is applicable for students participating in exchange programs including high school and university study.
For you to apply for any of the visas above, you must first get approved and accepted by a U.S. higher institution that is certified by the Student Exchange and Visitors Program (SEVP).
Requirements for Visa Application
To apply for your study visa, some of the prerequisites include:
- You will need to provide your international passport issued by your home country. Ensure that your passport is valid until at least 6 months after the end of your study program in the U.S.
- A recent passport-style photograph.
- You will also need to prepare the money to settle some of the payments required during the visa application process.
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Visa Application Process – Apply for a US Study Visa
- The first step in the study visa application process is to apply to a SEVP-approved educational institution. When you have been accepted into an institution accredited by SEVP, the institution will provide you with the documents needed to apply for your study visa. You will also receive Form I-20 or D-2019 from your school depending on which visa you are eligible for.
- The next step is to pay the SEVIS fee. This fee must be paid 3 days before submitting your application for a U.S. visa. You can pay the fee online. The fee is $350 for F-1 and M-1 students and $220 for J-1 students. After payment, print out the confirmation from the website as you may be required to present it during the visa interview as proof of payment.
- Applications are done through the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live. You’ll first need to complete an online visa application form known as form DS-160. You will be asked to fill in some of your personal details such as your name and date of birth and also provide documents such as your passport, your visa photograph, form I-20, or DS-2019. You may also be required to upload your resume or CV.
All questions must be answered carefully and in English. If you find it difficult to understand English, you can find translations in the form. After completing and submitting the form online, you can then print out your confirmation page which you will take to your visa interview.
- Schedule your visa interview by contacting the embassy or consulate you inputted during your online application.
- Pay the visa application fee of 160 USD. This fee can be paid in person at an approved bank, by phone, or online. After payment, you will need to print out your receipt which you will bring with you to your interview.
- The final stage of the application process is to attend your visa interview. During the interview, you will be required to provide:
- Your passport;
- A copy of your visa photograph;
- A printed copy of your DS-160 confirmation page;
- A printed copy of your I-901 SEVIS fee confirmation page;
- The receipt of your application fee payment;
- An original copy of Form I-20 for F-1 and M-1 students or form DS-2019 for J-1 students.
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You may also be required to bring additional documents such as your official transcripts, your degree certificate, standardized test scores, proof of sufficient funds, and proof of your intent to leave the U.S. at the completion of your program.
When attending your visa interview you should be prepared to answer a range of questions. If your interview is successful, you will be informed on when your passport and new visa will be returned to you. Good luck.