United States of America is the home to world's top universities, including the No. 1 in the world which is MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY. USA attracts thousands of students from around the world seeking higher education every year. Most of the foreign nationals who want to travel to the USA must obtain a visa before doing so, including international students who want to study abroad in the USA. A student visa is a non immigrant visa that allows foreign students to enter and stay in the US for the duration of their studies or coursework.

Before applying for a visa, students are required to be enrolled at a qualified educational institution. Student visas are issued for the period it takes the student to complete his/her course of study, program, or work assignment. The course of study and the type of institution determines the category of visa that will be issued to the student.

There are three major types of student visas on which international students can study in the US.
  • F-1 Visa : Academic Studies
  • J-1 Visa : Academic Studies as an Exchange Visitor
  • M-1 Visa : Non-Academic or Vocational Studies

An F-1 Visa is the most common type of non immigrant student visa. F-1 visas are issued to students or researchers who wish to study or conduct research at an accredited US college, university, high school, private elementary school, approved English language school, or other approved academic institutions. Students issued an F-1 visa are expected to complete their studies in the nominated time.

In order to be qualified for an F-1 visa, students must be accepted by a recognized school, college, or university as a full time student and have proof of sufficient financial support during their stay in the US. An F-1 student can stay in the US as long as he/she is enrolled in a school, college, university, seminary, conservatory, or other academic institution.

F-1 visa applicants must obtain an I-20 form from their college or university in order to apply. F-1 visas are only issued in US embassies and consulates outside the US.

Excluding any training required by a course, F-1 visa holders cannot work in the United States. F-1 students are only eligible to work part-time on campus for up to 20 hours per week.

A J-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa for individuals who will be participating in a work and study based exchange visitor program that promotes cultural exchange in the US, especially for medical or business training.

To qualify for a J-1 visa, the participant must be proficient in the English language and have appropriate medical insurance. All applicants must meet the eligibility criteria and be sponsored by the government or a private sector program. They must have a proof of funds to cover their expenses in the US and be able to show plans to remain in the US for a specific period, including their return to their home country.

The participant will receive a DS-2019 form from his/her sponsoring organization or US government agency, which is necessary to apply for a J-1 visa.

An M-1 visa is a non-immigrant student visa for individuals who want to pursue a full course of study at a non-academic institution or vocational school in the US.

  1. Once a US education provider accepts you as one of their students, they will issue a "Confirmation of acceptance of the student" known as i-20. An i-20 is required for an F-1 or M-1 student visa. As well as applying for the visa, i-20 form is necessary to enter the U.S. for the first time, re-enter U.S. after a short visit outside the U.S., and for the entry of family / dependents (spouse, children).
  2. SEVIS is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. SEVIS I-901 fee is required for all F and M students as well as J exchange visitors. To pay the fee, go to: https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.jsp
  3. Your next step is to pay the visa application fee. This fee has to be paid at the approved HDFC bank. In addition to the visa application fee, you also need to pay the VFS service.
  4. The visa application form, known as the DS 160 needs to be completed online. In order to complete the form you will need to have completed all steps up to this point. After successfully completing the online form, you will receive an application ID number and password, and you will be able to access the confirmation page of the DS-160 : https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
  5. The next step is to make an appointment for your visa interview at the U.S. Embassy. Appointments are booked online. To book an appointment, click on : http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/index.html?firstTime=No Once your appointment has been booked, you will be able to view your appointment letter. Make sure you take a print out of this as you will need to bring this with you when you attend your interview.
  6. On the date of your appointment you will need to take your entire visa case with you to the interview. It is important also that you prepare for your visa interview. Make sure you are clear on the reasons you have chosen to Study in the USA, and why you have chosen the course and institution for which you have been issued an i-20.
  7. On the day of your interview, you will be informed about the visa decision. In case the visa is refused, your passport will be handed over to you directly by the visa officer. For approved visas the passport will be returned to our office, with the visa stamp, approximately one week after your interview.