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How to Apply Completely for a US Student Visa in 10 Easy Steps

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June 25, 2024

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SPS Canada

Each year, numerous international students seek admission to US schools for full-time studies. However, gaining acceptance requires more than just strong academic performance—a US student visa is essential. The process of securing a visa can be complex, which is why we’re here to assist.

In this guide, we’ll cover the fundamentals of visas and the steps to obtain a US student visa. Additionally, we’ll provide helpful tips and resources to ensure your visa application goes smoothly.

Types of US Student Visas

  • F-1 Visa: This visa is intended for study in the United States at a high school, college, or university, including language courses. Both graduate and undergraduate students must adhere to it.
  • M-1 Visa: This visa is intended for nonacademic or vocational studies in the US, typically short-term and career-focused programs such as culinary schools or medical training programs.
  • J-1 Visa: This visa is for exchange visitors, including study abroad students, scholars, interns, and au pairs.

International students often require an F-1 visa in order to enroll full-time in an undergraduate or graduate program. On the other hand, a J-1 visa application is required if you wish to study abroad for just one or two semesters at a US university and obtain credits that can be applied to your home university.

How to Apply for a US Student Visa: A Full Overview

Checklist for Applying for a US Student Visa

Let’s quickly go over the precise materials you must have available before we get started with the application procedure.

Passport for USA Student Visa

A valid passport from the student’s home country is required for all overseas students. This passport needs to be valid for a minimum of six months after the conclusion of your program in the United States. You must apply for a new passport if your current one expires during your visit or soon after your program ends.

For information on acquiring or renewing a passport, see the official website of your government. Passport procedures and fees differ by nation.


Photo in Passport Style

You must provide a current passport-style photo that was taken no more than six months ago with your visa application. You will upload this photo along with your online visa application to use it as your visa photograph.

For comprehensive instructions on taking and uploading your visa photo, visit the US visas website. Please take note that starting in November 2016, spectacles are not allowed in visa photos. Additionally, the website offers illustrations of appropriate and inappropriate photo content.


Money for USA Student Visa

To apply for a US student visa, you’ll need to have sufficient funds to cover various visa-related fees. Here’s an overview of the required fees:

  1. I-901 SEVIS Fee: This fee is $350 for F-1/M-1 students and $220 for J-1 students (or $35 for those in short-term J-1 programs). It must be paid by all applicants.
  2. Visa Application Fee: This fee is $160 and is mandatory for all applicants.
  3. Visa Issuance Fee: This fee may be required based on your nationality. Check the US visas website to determine if you need to pay this fee.

Make sure you have the necessary funds available to cover these fees when you apply for your US student visa. Later, we’ll discuss in detail how to pay these fees.

7  Step Guide for your USA Student Visa

Now that you are aware of the fundamental materials you must prepare, let’s take it step by step through the process of applying for a student visa.

 Step 1: Apply and Gain Admission to a US School

The initial step is to apply for admission and subsequently secure acceptance to a US school. Here are the key details:

Application Deadlines: Most full-time undergraduate and graduate programs in the US typically require applications by December or January annually. Admission notifications from schools typically occur between March and April.

SEVP Approval: It’s essential that the schools you apply to are approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Use the SEVP school search tool to find SEVP-certified schools or verify the SEVP certification status of your chosen institutions.

For J-1 students: J-1 students usually apply for exchange programs through their home institutions. Alternatively, you can explore designated sponsor organizations listed on the official J-1 visa website.

Getting accepted into an SEVP-approved school is the critical first step toward securing your US student visa.


Step 2: Receive Form I-20 or DS-2019 From Your School

After being admitted to a school, you will receive one of the following forms based on your student status:

– F-1 and M-1 Students: Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status).
– J-1 Students: Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status).

Your school will send this form to you by mail. The form will include your SEVIS ID, your school’s address, and other essential details about your program. You will need this form for your visa interview (detailed in step 8) and to complete certain fee payments

 Step 4: Find Your Nearest US Embassy or Consulate

Apply for your student visa at the nearest US embassy or consulate. Find locations online through the US Department of State. Processes can vary by embassy. Some may need extra documents. Check your embassy’s website or contact them for details.

 Step 5: Complete Form DS-160 Online

Fill out the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160). Ensure you have:

-Your passport
-A visa photograph (to upload)
-Form I-20 or DS-2019 (depending on whether you are an F-1/M-1 or J-1 student)

You may also need:

-A travel itinerary (if you’ve made travel plans to the US)
-Dates of your last five visits to the US and/or evidence of your international travel history in the past five years
-A resume or CV
-Additional information, depending on your travel purpose

Step 6: Schedule Your Visa Interview

After submitting Form DS-160, contact your nearest US embassy or consulate to schedule your visa interview.

Wait times for interviews vary by embassy. Check the US visas website for current wait times at your embassy.

Step 7: Pay Your Visa Application Fee

Pay the $160 application fee. This fee is the same regardless of your country of origin.

Payment timing and method vary by embassy. Many embassies require payment before the interview, but not all do. Your embassy will provide instructions on when and how to pay. If required to pay before the interview, bring your receipt as proof of payment.

Step 8: Attend Your Visa Interview

The interview is the final crucial step in the visa process and will determine if you receive a US student visa.

Before your interview, gather:

– Your passport
– One copy of your visa photograph (if required)
– Your printed DS-160 confirmation page
– Your printed I-901 SEVIS fee confirmation page
– Your visa application fee payment receipt (if you paid before the interview)
– Form I-20 (F-1/M-1 students) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 students) – bring the original form

Your embassy may also require:

Official transcripts from colleges/universities attended
-Diplomas/degrees from high schools/colleges/universities attended
Standardized test scores (if required by your US school)
Proof of sufficient funds
Proof of intent to depart the US after your program ends

Expect a security check and to provide digital, ink-free fingerprints upon arrival.

During the interview, you’ll be asked questions in English about why you want to study at the selected school and your plans after the program.


Step 9: Pay the Visa Issuance Fee (If Required)

Some students must pay a visa issuance fee after being approved for a US student visa. This depends on your nationality and your country’s reciprocity agreement with the US. Check the US visas website for a chart to see if you need to pay this fee.

Step 10: Receive Your Visa

After completing all steps and receiving approval, your embassy will return your passport with the new visa. Some embassies may require you to pick it up in person, while others will mail it to you.









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