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The Basics of Applying for a Student Visa to the U.S.

  • In order to study in the United States, foreign nationals must obtain the correct type of student visa. Currently there are three main types of student visas, F-1, M-1, and B. Even though the United States issued 482,033 F-1 / M-1 visas in 2016, the application process can be quite tricky and a visa is not guaranteed.


    Understanding The Different Types Of Student Visas


    Choosing the right type of visa will depend on two main factors: (a) the type of school you are planning on attending, and (b) what type of course you are going to be taking. To help you better determine if you need an F or an M visa, keep the following guidelines in mind.


    • F Visa. -- You will need this type of visa if you (or your children) plan on attending a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, or a different type of academic institution such as a language training program.
    • M Visa. -- You will need this type of visa if you (or your children) plan on attending a vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution other than a language training program.


    The third potential type of student visa is the B visa. It's important to note that this type of visa can be used only by foreign nationals who are interested in recreational classes that will not be used for credit toward any type of academic certificate or degree. If you have any questions regarding the different types of student visas, you can always speak with an immigration attorney.


    How To Apply For A Student Visa To The U.S.


    Applying for a visa is not as simple as buying a plane ticket with a click of the button. In other words, there are several steps that you have to take in order to successfully complete your visa application. Keep in mind that each year student visa regulations are subject to change, which means that the steps you need to complete might also change year over year. For the most up-to-date information, be sure to consult with your trusted immigration attorney.


    Step 1: Complete The Online Visa Application 
    You must complete the online Form DS-160 visa application. As part of the application process, you will need to upload your photo in the required format. Don't forget to print the application form confirmation page; you will need to bring the printed page to your visa interview.


    Step 2: Schedule An Interview
    With a few rare exceptions, in order to obtain the student visa needed to study in the United States, you will need to complete an interview. The interview portion of the student visa application will need to be completed at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence. For example, if you hold a passport from Italy, then you should complete your student visa interview in Italy. It is important that you schedule your interview in advance, so that you can complete the entire application process before your studies are set to begin.


    Step 3: Pay Fees And Gather Documents
    As part of the third step in the application process, there are certain fees that you will need to pay and documents that you will need to gather. The list of documents will depend on your country of origin as well as the type of program that you are planning on attending.


    • A valid passport that can be used to travel to the United States. The passport should be valid for a minimum of six months past your intended period of study within the United States.
    • Proof of payment for the student visa application, including a copy of the receipt.
    • Form DS-160 confirmation page and the printed photo that you used during the online application phase.
    • The correct certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant academic and language students, also known as Form I-20 for F and M visa applicants. Your school (or vocational program) will send the Form I-20 once your information has been successfully entered into the SEVIS database. Make sure that both you and your school official have signed the Form I-20. You must also register in the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS).


    Step 4: Attend Your Interview
    The final step in the student visa application process is to attend your interview. Be sure to bring all of the required documents and to have paid your application fees in advance. It is also important that you dress appropriately for your student visa interview. After the interview is completed you will find out whether you will be receiving your student visa, or additional steps are needed, or your application has been denied.


    Each year hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals complete the above steps so that they can obtain the student visas needed to study in the United States at accredited universities, high schools, and in other types of educational programs. Speak with a trusted immigration attorney to help you successfully complete the student visa process for the U.S.