Student Visa

The most common student visa is the F-1, though a small number of students travel to the United States on an M-1 visa if they are completing a program of hands-on technical or vocational training, or on a J-1 visa if they are on a sponsored exchange program. Procedures and requirements for applying for a student visa vary from country to country, and inevitably they are more complex and demanding in some countries than others. There are a number of places where you can obtain more information on the visa application process in general and the specific requirements for your country.
Your nearest U.S. educational information or advising center will be able to give you valuable information on the application procedures for your country. If at all possible, attend one of the pre-departure orientation programs they have organized; it will almost certainly include information on applying for a visa. They may also produce written pre-departure materials. Your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate can provide application forms and specific details of the application procedure. They often have telephone information lines and Web sites that provide this information. Booklet Four in this series, Getting Ready to Go: Practical Information for Living and Studying in the United States, covers the visa application in more detail. It is available on the Web site of the U.S. Department of State at
There are several things you can do to increase your chances of a favorable visa decision:
  • Start the process at least two months in advance of your departure date.
  • Assemble all the documentation that can help make your case.
  • Make sure you are well prepared if you are required to attend an interview.
To apply for an F-1 student visa, you must have a valid I-20 form; for the J-1 visa, you must have the IAP-66 form; and for the M-1 visa, an I-20M-N form. Your college will send you the appropriate form after you have been admitted and after you have certified your available finances.
When your form arrives, check the following:
  • Is your name spelled correctly and in the same form as it appears on your passport?
  • Is the other information correct: date and country of birth, degree program, reporting date, completion date, and financial information?
  • Is it signed by a college official?
  • Has the reporting date ("student must report no later than.") passed?
If so, the form expires and cannot be used after the reporting date. If your I-20, I-20M-N, or IAP-66 is valid, you are ready to apply for the visa.
The visa interview usually lasts an average of three minutes, so you must be prepared to be brief yet convincing.
Be confident, do not hide the truth, or lie - U.S. consular section staff have a lot of experience and can easily identify when people are not being truthful about their visa application. In order to issue your visa, the consular officer must be satisfied on three counts:
  • First, are you a bonafide student?
    The officer will look at your educational background and plans in order to assess how likely you are to enroll and remain in college until graduation. If you are required to have an interview, be prepared to discuss the reasons you chose a particular college, your anticipated major, and your career plans. Bring school transcripts, national examination results, and SAT or TOEFL scores (if these tests were required by your college), and anything else that demonstrates your academic commitment.
  • Second, are you capable of financing your education?
    The U.S. government needs assurances that you won't drop out of school or take a job illegally. Your I-20 form will list how you have shown the university you will cover your expenses, at least for the first year. If you are being sponsored by your family or by an individual, how can you show that your sponsor is able to finance your education? Your chances are improved if your parents are sponsoring your education. If anyone other than your parents is sponsoring you, you should explain your special relationship with this person, justifying a commitment of thousands of dollars to your education.
    Provide solid evidence of your sponsor's finances, especially sources and amounts of income. This assures the consular officer that adequate funds will be available throughout your four-year college program. If your sponsor's income is from several different sources (such as salary, contracts, consulting fees, a farm, rental property, investments), have the sponsor write a letter listing and documenting each source of income.
  • Third, are your ties to home so strong that you will not want to remain permanently in the United States?
    Under U.S. law, all applicants for non-immigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. Note that if you are travelling on a J-1 visa, a two-year rule usually applies, whereby, after you have finished your studies in the United States, you cannot apply for an immigrant visa for the United States until you have spent two years in your home country.
  • Overall you must be able to show that your reasons for returning home are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. Economic ties include your family's economic position, property you may own or stand to inherit, and your own economic potential when you come home with a U.S. education. The consular officer will be impressed to see evidence of your career planning and your knowledge of the local employment scene. For family and social ties, the consular officer may ask how many close family members live in your home country, compared to those living in the United States.
What community or school activities have you participated in that demonstrate a sincere connection to your town or country?What leadership, sports, and other roles have distinguished you as a person who wants to come home and contribute your part.
Usefull Links