How do I Obtain a Student Visa to Study in the U.S.?

Student Visa Blog.jpgIf you are a citizen of a foreign country and wish to study in the United States (“U.S.”), you will need to apply for a U.S. student visa. Below is a basic step-by-step guide to obtaining an F-1 visa, a non-immigrant visa used by international students pursuing an academic degree or a shorter course of study in the U.S.

Step 1: Apply to the U.S. Academic Institution(s)
An international student must first satisfy the academic institution’s admissions criteria. Carefully read the school’s website to learn about admissions requirements for international students. The application process may involve completing standardized tests, writing an admissions essay, and submitting recommendation letters. Upon the student’s acceptance, the institution will issue an I-20 form (titled “Certificate of Eligibility”). The I-20 certifies that the student has been accepted to a full-time academic program and is financially capable of supporting themselves in the U.S. throughout their course of study. The I-20 also permits the student to apply for an F-1 visa.

Step 2: Application
Students apply through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate within their home country. The application process includes the completion of the DS-160 (online application for the F-1 visa) and DS 157 forms (for all males between the ages of 16-45), the submission of a photo, and the payment of an application fee.

Step 3: Interview
The F-1 visa interview generally takes place in the U.S. Embassy or Consulate located in the applicant’s home country. The applicant must bring the following documents to the interview: the I-20, a valid passport, the DS-160 form, and an application fee receipt. The Embassy or Consulate may also request additional documents, such as transcripts and test scores.

Step 4: Approval
If the applicant is approved and an F-1 visa is issued, it’s important to keep the following in mind:
• F-1 visa holders may not enter the US more than thirty days before classes begin.
• F-1 visa holders are permitted to work on-campus for up to twenty hours a week. Students who wish to work longer hours must receive authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS may also grant permission for Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training for a total of twelve months.
• F-1 visa holders may remain in the U.S. for up to sixty days after the completion of their academic program.
Please note that F-1 visa approval is not guaranteed, and the applicant can be denied issuance of the F-1 visa if they are found ineligible pursuant to the law.

For assistance with your student visa application, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or

Remember, these blog posts are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult an attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.

photo credit: My collection of passport stamps via photopin (license)

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