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You need a student visa if you want to study in the USA as an international student. With the visa, you will be able to live and study during the duration of your program. For students to be provided this, there are guidelines that students are expected to meet.
There are two major USA student visa types, named F-Visa and M-Visa. The one you end up with will depend on your course of study and the school you will be running your program.
1 USA Student Visa Types
F-1 Student Visa
The F-1 Visa (Academic Student Visa) is usually given to students who will be studying as Full Time Students in an accredited college, university, high school, or other educational place in the United States of America.
To obtain the F-1 Student Visa, you must be enrolled in a course of study that leads to awarding of a degree, diploma, or certificate.
International students who will be studying at a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, and another academic institution, including a language training program in the USA will be able to obtain the F1-Student Visa.
M-1 Student Visa
The M-1 Visa (otherwise known as Vocational Student Visa) is for people who want to study vocational or practical programs. This visa doesn’t cover language training programs.
This visa type is usually for students who want to receive knowledge or training for a short period.
Students who intend to study at vocational or other recognized non-academic institutions in America will be provided M1-Visa
J Exchange Student Visa
The J Student Visa is for international students and working professionals who wish to participate in exchange programs in the US. It enables them to study at a university partnered with their own university.
2 Requirements to obtain the USA Student Visa F-1 or M-1 visa
The following criteria must be met to receive the F-1 or M-1 visa:
- You must be enrolled as a full-time student at any recognized govt school.
- You must be offered an “academic” educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program.
- Understanding English is very important. You should know English well or be taking classes to get better at it.
- The school you’re going to must be allowed by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, part of Immigration & Customs Enforcement.
- A sufficient amount of funds to see you through your studies is also essential.
3 USA Student Visa payment details
- The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) costs US$350. For most exchange students with Form DS-2019, the fee will cost US$220.
- The visa application fee for a student visa costs US$185.
4 US Student Visa Application Process
Follow the step-by-step instructions to apply for a USA student visa:
1. Apply to a college or university that is approved by SEVP
As you now know, you need a student visa to be able to study in the country but the first thing you want to get right is to make sure that the institution you want to attend is approved by SEVP.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is a branch of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Department of Homeland Security that supervises international students and exchange visitors in the U.S. through SEVIS. Going through the process gives you the confidence that the certificate obtained at the end of your program is not bogus.
Applicants will be able to search for SEVP-approved institutions online easily. They have the option of downloading the full list or searching by using the filters button especially if they already have a list of the schools they are considering. There can search by school name, city, state, zip code, education type, or study visa type.
Students also have the option of applying to several schools but what you need is to get admission from at least one school. Without that, you will not be able to get a student visa. After your acceptance by a university, they will register you in the SEVIS system. If you qualify for an F or M visa, you’ll receive a SEVIS-generated Form I-20. If you’re eligible for a J visa, you’ll get Form DS-2019.
If you have a spouse or children who will be going with you to the USA, they will also need to be slotted into SEVIS, will need to obtain their own separate Form I-20s from the SEVP-approved school, and apply for a visa but they will not pay the SEVIS fee.
2. Pay the SEVIS Fee
The sevis fee must be paid after being accepted and receiving your SEVIS ID and Exchange Visitor Program Number from the School. A Form I-20 (F and M Students) or DS-2019 (Exchange Students) will be provided by the school before payment.
After payment has been made, you will be enrolled in SEVIS. The instructions on how to pay the sevis fee can be found on the official site. You can also pay the SEVIS I-901 fee using the form provided by the school you will be attending.
Pay the fee before your visa interview at a US embassy or consulate. The I-901 SEVIS fee can be paid after scheduling the interview but must be done before the interview date. It takes about three business days for the payment to be processed and confirmed.
3. Fill out the visa application online
The next step is completing the visa application online. The visa application fee costs US$185 and is non-refundable. You can easily make your payment online by visiting https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/.
While registering, always try to save your application frequently as the server will time out after 20 minutes. Your application ID should also be copied elsewhere as you can use it to access your page if you mistakenly close the browser or experience poor internet.
Also, endeavor to provide the correct details when completing the online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160). You will also need to upload a recent digital passport on the page which is already among the required documents we stated that you will need.
4. Schedule an Interview
An interview is necessary to complete this process. People within the age bracket of 14 to 79 are usually made to go through this process. Applicants are strongly advised to go with all the required documents including printed ones associated with the student visa process.
Documents needed for US student visa and interview
You’ll need the following documents for your student visa interview:
- A physical copy of your visa interview appointment letter.
- Recent passport-sized photos.
- Receipt of payment for SEVIS.
- Form I-20 from your University or College.
- A valid passport with at least six more months beyond your stay period.
- Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 students/Certificate of Eligibility for M-1 students/DS-2019 Form
- Academic transcripts.
- Score certificates for English proficiency tests.
- Proof that you plan to leave the U.S. after your studies.
- DS-160 application confirmation page with barcode and other printouts
5 Can I work as an International Student on a USA student visa?
Yes, international students will be able to work 20 hours a week during the school’s term and full-time during the school’s break. Most importantly, confirm the Immigration regulations about work for foreign students.