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USA Student Visa Resource: Visa Types, Requirements, and Applications
USA Student Visa Resource: A visa is a temporary authorization for a passport holder to travel to a country. Other than the one he or she holds a passport. The visa is usually stamped on a passport, but at times, it can be a separate document too. The Indian government issues three types of passports to Indian citizens.
The definition of a visa is a mark on a passport to show that a person can enter a country. An example of a visa is a mark placed on a passport allowing a person from Germany. To enter and temporarily visit the United States. Visa is defined as giving a passport mark allowing one to enter a country.
A visa is a conditional authorization granted by a polity to a foreigner that allows them to enter. Remain within, or leave its territory. Visas typically include limits on the duration of the foreigner’s stay. Areas within the country they may enter, the dates they may enter, the number of permitted visits. Or if the individual has the ability to work in the country in question.
Visas are associated with the request for permission to enter a territory and thus are, in most countries. Distinct from actual formal permission for an alien to enter and remain in the country. In each instance, a visa is subject to entry permission by an immigration official at the time of actual entry and can be revoked at any time. Visa evidence most commonly takes the form of a sticker endorsed. In the applicant’s passport or other travel document but may also exist electronically. Some countries no longer issue physical visa evidence. Instead of recording details only in immigration databases.
What is a US International Student Visa?
To study in the US as an international student, you need to obtain a US student visa. There are three student visa types in the US: F-1 student visa, J-1 student visa, and M-1 student visa.
Before you can apply for a student visa as an international student, you first need to get accepted to an accredited US college or university. If you are unsure about which university or degree programs are right for you, Shorelight can help: Reach out to our expert advisors for college application assistance.
- F-1 students visa must maintain a full course of study. F-1 visas are only issued in U.S. embassies and consulates outside the United States. Although extensions of stay and changes of status may be possible within the United States. Prospective F-1 students must apply at the schools and receive a form I-20 in order to apply for an F-1 visa. F-1 students must show that they are able to support themselves during their stay in the U.S., as their opportunities for legal employment are quite limited.
- The J-1 student visa, also known as the Exchange Visitor Visa or J student visa, is for anyone outside of the US who wishes to take part in the study- and work-related exchange programs in America.
- The M1 student visa is for students who want to enroll in vocational studies in the United States. Cooking classes, technical courses, mechanical classes, flight school, cosmetology are considered vocational studies.
Keep reading to find answers to all your student visa USA questions.
What Are the Types of US Student Visas?
To study in the US as an international student, you need to apply for an F-1 student visa, a J-1 student visa, or an M-1 student visa. The visa you require may vary depending on the type of education you want to pursue in the US.
For example, most universities require international students to have an F-1 student visa for academic studies, but if you want to attend work- or study-based exchange and visitor programs in the US, you need to apply for a J-1 student visa.
As the most popular type of student visa, an F-1 student visa enables international students to attend an accredited college or a university in the US, an English language institute, or if their course of study is more than 18 hours a week. The F-1 student visa process starts after your application to a US institution (certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, or SEVP) is accepted.
As an international student on an F-1 student visa, you are expected to complete your studies by the expiration date included on your I-20 form (also known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, provided by the US college or university you have been accepted to). So, if your expiration date is June 30, 2025, you must earn your degree before that date.
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If you have an F-1 visa, you may be eligible for Optional Practical Training (or OPT visa), which can enable you to gain work experience in the United States.
However, OPT must be directly related to the academic program in which you are enrolled. For example, if you want to request OPT for a software engineering internship, you should be studying for a STEM-related degree. Additionally, the programs you attend in the US must be sponsored by an educational or other nonprofit institution accredited by the Exchange Visitor Program designated by the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Also known as the Exchange Visitor visa, the J-1 student visa is required if you want to attend work- or study-based exchange visitor programs, known as Academic Training (AT), designated by the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The M-1 student visa is required for international students who want to travel to the US for non-academic purposes or vocational studies such as cooking classes, cosmetology courses, and technical courses.
Note that if you are studying in the US on an M-1 student visa, you are allowed to work full time in practical training only after the completion of your program.
US Student Visa Requirements
To be eligible for a US student visa (F-1 student visa for most international students), you should first get accepted to an accredited college or a university in the US. Once you are accepted, you will need:
- Your passport
- I-20 form
- School transcript and the official test scores you used on your university application
- Bank statements you used to fill out your college application
Make sure you meet all US student visa requirements.
The DS-160 form is an online nonimmigrant visa application required to apply for a nonimmigrant visa. As the first step of applying for your student visa in the USA, you have to complete the DS-160 form and pay a non-refundable fee.
When filling in the DS-160 form, you should have the following documents:
- Travel itinerary, if available
- Dates of your last five visits to the United States, if you have traveled to the United States before (you are also required to submit your international travel history for the past five years)
- Resume or CV with information about your current and previous education and work history
- Additional information if prompted (e.g., your intended purpose of travel)
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Completing the DS-160 form is mandatory, as consular officers will use the information you submitted to process your student visa USA application and determine your eligibility for an F-1 student visa. Once you have completed the form, submit it directly to the Department of State’s application portal.
The I-20 form is a document that proves that you are legally enrolled in a program of study in the US. An I-20 is required to complete your US student visa process.
The I-20 form documents your study plans and provides supporting information about your stay in the US. After your university application is accepted by a SEVP-approved college or university in the US, the university will then provide your I-20 form. After obtaining the I-20 form, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee (SEVP processing and maintenance charge) to register your information in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Once your SEVIS fee is paid, you can now start applying for a student visa.
How to Apply for a US Student Visa
Applying for a US student visa takes time, so be patient and flexible during the process. There are several steps you need to complete to apply for an F-1 student visa, J-1 student visa, or M-1 student visa.
Here are 5 steps on how to get a US visa for international students:
- Get accepted to a SEVP accredited US university—Only SEVP-approved colleges or universities in the US can register in SEVIS. And provide the documents required for your US student visa. You can find out if the institution you applied to is accredited by visiting Study in the States.
- Get your I-20 form and pay the SEVIS fee—Three days before submitting the visa application, you are required to pay the SEVIS fee via the payment portal after obtaining your I-20 form from the university you are planning to attend.
- Complete your DS-160 visa application—Also called the online nonimmigrant visa application, this form is required to complete your DS-160 in order to obtain an F-1 visa. To complete your DS-160 application, you need your passport, I-20 form. Travel itinerary, photo for your visa, and will have to pay a fee.
- Schedule your visa interview and prepare—After completing and submitting your visa application. Contact the nearest US embassy or consulate and schedule your visa interview. The waiting time will vary depending on your country, so make sure to schedule your appointment as early as possible.
- Attend your visa interview—In your visa interview, you must prove that you are traveling to the US. With an intent to return home after your studies are complete. You are required to take all important documents. Including your DS-160 and I-901 SEVIS payment confirmation information and your I-20 form.
For more information on the F-1 visa process (or the American student visa process), please visit State.gov.
In situations where you receive an offer of employment or marry a US citizen. You may have to change your student visa status. You can request to change your nonimmigrant status to another category through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
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