student visa requirements for us
Obtain an I-20 from the school you will be attending
- Obtain an I-20 from the school that you will be attending in the US. The I-20 form confirms your acceptance to a school and shows that you have enough funds to pay for your education and living costs while in the US. The school will send you this form once they accept you.
- Bring this form with you when you go in person to apply for your visa at an embassy or consulate.
- Sign the form before going to the interview. A designated official at your school must sign it as well (to show their approval of your request).
- Check that the information on this form is correct and matches what is on other related documents, including:
- Your application (DS-160) for a nonimmigrant visa
- Your passport, which must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person desiring a visa must submit an application.
Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee
If you’re a nonimmigrant student going to the United States with an F or M visa, you must pay your fee. This is called the I-901 SEVIS fee, and the money goes towards supporting the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which is a government system that tracks whether F or M students are keeping their status while in the United States.
- You must pay this fee before you apply for your visa.
- You can pay this fee by credit card, debit card, check, international money order, or Western Union Quick Pay service.
- After paying your fee, keep your receipt so that you can show it to the Consular Officer when you go to apply for your visa.
Apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or consulate
The next step is to apply for your student visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. In order to do so, you’ll need to:
- Prepare all required documentation (e.g., SEVIS I-901 fee receipt, SEVIS DS-2019 form). You can find out what documents you need by visiting the Embassy or Consulate website that corresponds with the location from which you will be applying for the student visa.
- Complete the visa application form and pay the necessary fees.
- Schedule an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate (required for most applicants). During this interview, a consular officer will ask personal and background information about you and may ask about your plans for studying in the United States as well as other questions related to your visit abroad.
Complete your optional practical training (OPT)
Optional practical training (OPT) is a 12-month period of employment authorization available to students in F-1 nonimmigrant status, which includes those on an M-1 student visa. OPT occurs after a student has completed their program of study and allows them to work full or part time while they are engaging in OPT employment. Certain STEM students may be eligible for an additional 17 months of OPT, for a total of 29 months.
Embark on academic training during your studies. If you are granted OPT, you may also be eligible for up to 17 months of STEM OPT extension during which time you can work in a job related to your degree that falls within the scope of the STEM designation list.
You may make use of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) benefit while studying in the US. If you are granted OPT, you may also be eligible for up to 17 months of STEM OPT extension during which time you can work in a job related to your degree that falls within the scope of the STEM designation list.
The requirements for F-1 students applying for post-completion Optional Practical Training are:
- You have completed or will complete at least one full academic year of study at ELS Language Centers.
- The proposed training is directly related to your major area of study.
- Your employment does not violate any limits on employment for F-1 students as outlined above under “Employment”.
Change your status on an F-1 visa. If you have met the requirements above and have received approval to change status, it is time to apply for your student visa at a US consulate or embassy.
Apply for a change of status with Form I-539 from the DHS. You must submit this form along with the necessary documents and fee to USCIS and await approval. The form can be found on the DHS website.
USCIS will require you to provide a copy of your I-20 form, which is given to students upon acceptance into an approved program by the educational institution. You will also need to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee, as well as provide evidence of sufficient financial resources for attending school in the United States.
If you are a first-time F-1 visa applicant (or if you have had your student visa revoked), you are required to schedule an interview at a US consulate office or embassy in your home country.
Accepted with financial resources – The school has accepted the student and has confirmed that they have sufficient financial resources to cover all expenses while studying in the US.
To be eligible for a student visa, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must be accepted by a school that has been approved by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
- You can provide proof of sufficient financial resources to cover all expenses while studying in the US.
- You are proficient in English or are enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency.
If you meet all of these requirements, you can apply for an F-1 student visa at your local American embassy or consulate.
You must be an accepted student at a qualified school in order to get an F-1 visa
As per the USCIS, in order to be eligible for an F-1 visa, you must be accepted to a SEVP-certified school. To confirm whether your school is SEVP-certified, check out their School Search page on their website. If it is not listed there, you will not be eligible for an F-1 visa.
To become SEVP certified, schools must have a student tracking system that is web-based and capable of supporting the monitoring of all students throughout their duration of time at the institution. It also allows for other government agencies – such as law enforcement and immigration officers – to access information about international students through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This helps ensure that all international students are compliant with U.S. laws while they’re in the country and studying at a university or college.