USA Student Visa Guide

Mrunmayai Bobade
Updated on Jan 09, 2023 2:42 PM IST

US Visa Process Update

  • January 09,2023 02:40 PM IST
  • With the new administration in the US, numerous immigration agencies of the US government have reiterated their intention to facilitate the rule promoting the raise of the prevailing wage rates for H-1B visa holders as well as green card holders in the recent “fall agenda”. Check out detailed information here: New Draft Wage Rates for H-1B Holders in USA to be Announced in September 2023.

  • January 05,2023 02:00 PM IST
  • As part of the Biden administration's immigration reform initiatives for 2023, H1B visas and L visas (for intracompany transfers) will be subject to markedly higher fees shortly. H-1B e-registration fees are now proposed to be unbeatably hiked by 2050% (USD 215), while application or filing fees are set to be increased by 70% (USD 780). Get more details here: H-1B and EB-5 Visa Fees to Hike Sharply

  • November 16,2022 12:00 AM IST
  • US Visa processing time will reduce by the summer of 2023 and return to normalcy. All categories of visas will have reduced waiting periods and all backlogs are expected to clear by 2023. Get more details here: Waiting Time for the US Visa to Reduce by the Mid-2023

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What is a US Study Visa?

US Student Visa: Indian students planning to study abroad continue to choose the USA as their top destination. To study in USA, you must apply for US student visa if you are among the fortunate few who have received admission to your preferred US university. There are several renowned academic courses in the USA that attract foreign students from around the world, including Indians who study undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD programmes. As per US reports, the highest numbers of international students in the country in the year 2019 were from China (369,548), followed by India (202,014), South Korea (52,250), Saudi Arabia (37,080) and Canada (26,122), respectively. As per the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) report, 2,32,851 Indian students migrated to study in USA in the year 2021. In the same year, the overall number of Indian students enrolled at US Universities increased by more than 12%, with 37% being female.

All international applicants, that is, those without US citizenship or permanent residency, must first receive a US student visa to legitimately attend school in the US. This international student visa enables you to temporarily stay in the country while engaging in an authorised academic exchange programme, language programme, or school. Once you finish your academic programme, your US study visa expires, and following that, you must leave the country after a certain time. However, you may later visit the US as a tourist or with another type of visa, like a work visa. It is advisable that you should start the US visa application process as early as possible because it can be time-consuming. Most students begin the procedure for obtaining a US student visa three to five months before the start of their term. Therefore, all international students who wish to pursue a course of study at US universities must apply for an F1, J1, or M1 visa, depending upon their purpose of relocation.

An F-1 visa is typically required for international students who want to enrol full-time in an undergraduate or graduate programme. To get credits that count toward your home institution, however, you must apply for a J-1 visa if you wish to Study in USA as a Transfer Student or if you have to relocate there for only a semester or two.

Types of US Student Visa

Before discussing the visa process for US student visas or the US study visa requirements, let us shed some light on the different types of US student visas. To enrol in courses leading to credits and degrees, anyone—even citizens of countries covered by the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)—must have a valid US study visa. You will require an M1 type for vocational and non-academic studies, while you will need an F1 type for academic and language studies. On the other hand, a J-1 visa is issued to international students to look for work, teach, learn, undertake skill training, etc. as a part of their visitor or exchange programme. Anyone looking forward to studying in the US should also have a clear understanding of which student visa they need to apply for. Here are the three US non-immigrant visas for students:

F-1 Visa (Academic Studies) - One of the most common US student visas or academic visas is the F-1 Visa. International students applying for an academic program o English language program in the US should apply for an F-1 visa.

The F-1 visa is issued to students or researchers who have applied to US universities, private elementary schools, high schools, etc. Rules pertaining to an F-1 visa include:

  • Maintaining the minimum course load for full-time student status.

  • May work on Optional Practical Training (OPT) before and after completion of their degree.

  • May take up part-time or full-time employment with work hours limited to 20 hours a week when school is in session and up to 40 hours per week during breaks.

  • Students are expected to complete their studies by the expiration date mentioned on their I-20 form.

J-1 Visa (Practical Training) - The J-1 visa is issued to international students for study and work-based exchange visitor programmes. A DS-2019 form by either the US government agency or the sponsoring organisation of the participant is required to apply for this visa. 

  • Meant for students who require practical training that is not available in their home country.

  • These programs are sponsored by an educational or non-profit institution accredited through the  Exchange Visitor Program designated by the U.S. State Department.

  • J-1 visa has a number of programs under it including Au Pair, College and University Student Program, Physician Program, International Visitor Program, camp Counselor, Professor and Research Scholar Program, Secondary School Student Program, etc. Each of these has different requirements and regulations.

M-1 Visa (Non-Academic/Vocational Studies) - This non-immigrant student visa is issued to students who wish to study at a vocational school in the US and in order to apply for the M-1 visa, one must have an I-20 form from a US embassy in India. 

  • Are not permitted to work during the course of their study program.

  • Your M-1 visa should be for a full course of study which means studying for at least 12 semester or quarter hours. The only exception to this will be if your course of study requires a smaller course load.

When Should You Apply for a US Study Visa?

Only after you have applied to and been accepted by an institution that has SEVP accreditation, you submit an application for a US student visa. This programme must certify any US institution that accepts F-1 or M-1 students. You can start the US visa process as soon as you have been admitted to the college or university you want to attend.

Keep in mind that you must obtain your student visa for USA from India before the start of your programme. Although you can apply for a US student visa up to 120 days before the start of your programme, you cannot enter the country on that visa until 30 days have passed since the commencement date.

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A Brief on How to Get a US Student Visa

To submit an application for an M1/F1 visa, you need an I-20 form. To get this, though, you will need to apply to an institution having SEVP accreditation. Once you are accepted, your school, college, or university will enrol you in SEVIS. The institution will then supply you with an I-20 form after you have paid the SEVIS I-901 fees. In addition to being known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, this is one of the most crucial documents you need to apply for an F1/M1 visa. Once you have received your I-20, you can follow the pointers mentioned below to apply for a US study visa:

  • Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork for your visa.

  • Register on the US CEAC website (Consular Electronic Application Center).

  • The DS-160 form is used to apply for a US student visa. Fill out this form online and make a note of the barcode number for future reference.

  • Pay the DS-160 application form fee online and make a note of the receipt number for future use.

  • You must schedule two appointments. The first one is used to submit biometric data to a VAC. The second is for the US Embassy/Consulate interview.

  • Bring your passport, the DS-160 form, and the confirmation page of your appointment to the VAC. Your fingerprints will be scanned, and a digital photo will be taken of you.

  • Bring the passport, the DS-160 paper that has been stamped, and the confirmation of the appointment with you to the embassy or consulate for the interview. Your programme of study, finances, and plans to return to your home country will all be topics of discussion at the interview for a US study visa.

  • In addition, applicants for the same type of visa whose F1/M1 visa has expired within the last year are exempt from having to go to an interview. It is rarely possible that you might be asked to attend an interview or provide your biometrics.

It is important to ensure that your M1 or F1 visa application is appropriately filled and that all supporting documents are original and authentic. An incomplete or faulty application will cause a delay in the issuance of your visa. You may no longer be able to apply for another US visa in the future if you have submitted falsified documents.

What is DS-160 Form? 

  • It is an application for a non-immigrant visa submitted online.

  • It is accessible via the official website of the US Department of State's Consular Electronic Application Center.

All types of US student visa applications must be completed online using the DS-160 form. Make sure you have all the documents and information you need to fill out the application for the location from which you wish to apply. You will be redirected to the form's pages after selecting and responding to a security question. You can see your application ID at the top of the page. If you have to leave the application and come back to it later, you will require this ID to retrieve your form.

The DS-160 form must be completed with the following personal information:

  • Name and date of birth

  • Passport details

  • Address and phone number

  • Details of travel plans, and travel companions (if any)

  • Your point of contact in the US

  • Details of previous US travel (if any)

  • Security, background and medical health information

  • Family, work and education details

  • Address of the US university and programme details you want to enrol in along with your SEVIS ID (as printed on the I-20 or DS-2019 form)

Additionally, you must upload a recent photo of yourself that is appropriate and follows the guidelines listed in the photo specifications mentioned below. For your US visa interview, you will also need to bring a printed photograph that satisfies the specifications if any of your photographs fails to upload.

If you make any mistakes, you could need to reschedule your US study visa interview, so take better care to provide exact and complete answers to all of the questions asked. You must electronically sign your DS-160 by clicking the 'Sign Application' button after completing the US visa application form. You will receive a confirmation sheet with a barcode, barcode number, and your application ID number after your application has been submitted. You must print this document off and bring it with you to your US visa interview appointment. However, it is not necessary to print the entire application.

US Visa Photo Specifications

You must follow the US visa photo specifications as mentioned below:

  • Background: plain white, with a matte finish

  • Colour: Coloured

  • Dimensions:  50mm X 50mm

  • Eyes directed towards the camera and wide open 

  • Facial expression: Neutral

  • Facial hair is permitted

  • Glasses: allowed for medical reasons only

  • Headgear: allowed only for religious reasons

  • Must have 70% face coverage

  • Taken in the past six months

  • Uniforms are not permitted

What is SEVIS Fee? 

  • The Student Exchange Visitor Information System, or SEVIS, is the US Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) web-based programme.

  • The department maintains data on all international and exchange students who migrate to the United States.

  • Registration on SEVIS is the responsibility of the universities/colleges.

  • The SEVIS Number is given to international students on the I-20 form when colleges or universities enrol them.

  • You need to pay the SEVIS Fee for US Student Visa along with the visa application fee to start your US visa application process.

What is the I-20 Form?

  • Your eligibility to study in the USA as a non-immigrant student is validated by the I-20 form.

  • It is a document that the SEVP issues to verify that a foreign student is registered in a full-time programme of study and has the financial resources to support their stay in the United States.

  • The I-20 application will be provided to you by the Designated School Official (DSO).

  • Your educational institution will send you an I-20 form once you have paid your tuition fee. As it enables you to apply for a US student visa at an embassy or high commission in your native country, it is termed a ‘Certificate of Eligibility’.

  • You must pay the I-1901 SEVIS fee as soon as you obtain the I-20 form. Before entering the United States, this fee must be paid.

  • Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, I-20 forms had to be physically delivered, but the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement department has now permitted US universities and colleges to send them electronically instead.

  • To submit your application for a US study visa, you can either scan the physically signed I-20 form or digitally sign it using electronic signature software.

  • Throughout your whole stay in the United States as an international student, you must keep the I-20 form safe. It includes details about the programme, the cost of the academic programme, how long the course will last, etc.

  • Your student visa interview at the consulate will require the I-20 form. The customs officer at the airport in the USA might ask to verify it. As an international student, it can also assist you in obtaining benefits such as a social security number, a driver's licence, an internship, or work in the USA.

  • To apply for a US student visa, you must submit an I-20 form. However, it does not assure that you will receive a visa. To obtain a US study visa, you must meet additional eligibility conditions imposed by US authorities.

US Student Visa: Things to Do Before Applying

Following your understanding of the basic things you will need, let us take a look at some of the things you will need to prepare before applying for a US study visa. The following are some of them:

Now, let us look at each of the above-mentioned pointers one at a time.

Take the Required Entrance Exams

Taking the required Entrance Exams to Study in the USA to demonstrate your abilities and qualification for the kind of programme you wish to study is one of the primary prerequisites for a US student visa. The following are a few of them:

Graduate Record Examination (GRE): Students pursuing an MA or MS in the USA are obliged to take this exam. GRE scores are now broadly recognised by many Top Universities in the USA for MBA programmes.

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT): The GMAT exam is used to assess applicants' potential for admission to MBA schools. It evaluates the student's logic, math, and English abilities. 

Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT): It evaluates the reading and writing capabilities of students for academic enrollment. The SAT exam evaluates students' ability to analyse issues and find solutions using what they have learned. The majority of high school students who want to enrol in UG courses in the USA take it.

Law School Admission Test (LSAT): It is a standardised exam that is required as part of the application process for law schools. It evaluates students' reading comprehension and verbal reasoning skills. 

Take note that it will take nearly four to six months of preparation if you need to retake any entrance exam for admission to your preferred course. Before you may submit an application for your US study visa, you must pass and submit your application before the appropriate deadline.

Related Reads:

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6 Reasons Why You Should Choose GRE Over GMAT

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Score High on the English Proficiency Tests

One of the primary requirements for obtaining a US student visa is scoring high on English proficiency tests. The following are a few English proficiency tests required for a US study visa:

International English Language Testing System (IELTS): It is the world’s most commonly taken English language test for study, work, and migration to foreign countries. IELTS is accepted as a valid indication of real-world English communication competence by almost all US universities. The minimum IELTS score required for a US student visa is 6.5 bands.

Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): One of the most common English proficiency tests that American and Canadian universities and educational institutions abroad recognise is the TOEFL exam. The minimum TOEFL score required for a US student visa is 90.

Pearson Test of English (PTE Academic): One of the most preferred tests for students choosing to study in the USA is PTE Academic. More than a thousand US colleges and institutions recognise PTE scholars. It is completed on a computer in a friendly and secure testing facility.

Duolingo English Test (DET): Several US universities accept the Duolingo English Test as one of the renowned English proficiency exams. For graduate programmes like an MBA in the USA, an MS in Finance, a Master of Civil Engineering, etc., a DET score of more than 120 is considered to be excellent.

Related Reads:

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Apply to SEVP-Approved Institutions

Students can only be enrolled at and get the documents needed for a US student visa from institutions that have received SEVP accreditation. The SEVP is a branch of the US National Security Investigations Division that serves as a liaison between the government and foreign nationals coming to the US to study.

You must always choose a school that has received SEVP accreditation if you are an international student. It ensures that your degree will be accepted by employers, trade associations, academic institutions, and governmental entities all around the world. There is no centralised method for applying to universities in the US. As a result, you will need to submit different applications and meet the admissions requirements for each university. This includes presenting evidence of adequate funds.

The SEVP administers student visas for M (for non-academic or vocational school) and F (for academic studies) programmes. The Department of State (DoS) oversees the M visa programme for students. SEVIS is used by both agencies to track and keep tabs on schools and foreign students.

Choose the Right Educational Foundation

At some of the best, most internationally renowned colleges in America, there are excellent study programmes in conventional disciplines and professional fields. Keep an eye out for the following yardsticks when choosing the right educational foundation:

Academic Excellence: Make sure the college or university you intend to attend is known for its academic excellence. Given that the US is home to some of the best universities in the world, you can, for example, choose the one that consistently ranks high in global university rankings, has high academic standards, adheres to strict practises to maintain quality, and is well-supported to be able to provide its students with a top-notch education.

Modern Technology: US institutions take great satisfaction in being at the cutting edge of technology. Even if your academic programme does not contain science or engineering, you will be able to use these. Make sure to maintain contact with subject-matter specialists.

Opportunities for Training and Research: Several graduate schools in the US provide chances for training and research. Having the chance to work as a research assistant or on particular projects examining elements of your study programme would be extremely beneficial to you.

Programme Flexibility: Study programmes in the US are highly regimented and cater to the individual needs of students. You can choose from a number of classes that match your aspirations. Additionally, you can choose whichever best suits your preferences.

Long-Term career prospects: Long-term career prospects: Employers today look for candidates that possess a broad variety of knowledge, flexibility, and experience. People with cross-cultural communication, negotiation, and business acumen are generally favoured. 

The nation's educational system places a strong emphasis on all factors that will help students have professional careers. Indian students who desire to study in the US have a great chance of finding the ideal educational programme that may maximise their potential and make a significant contribution to the advancement of humanity in every possible aspect.

Apply to Your Preferred Academic Programme

You will receive information about the academic programme along with the application form from your preferred US schools or institutions. However, a student's test results and academic history are used to make final admission decisions. Make sure to submit individual application forms to each before the deadline to each institution or university. This will allow you more time to address any concerns that may arise. The following steps must be completed once you have been applied to and accepted at a certain US university:

Receive Acceptance Letters: After the deadline, you will start getting letters of acceptance from your chosen colleges. However, some colleges notify applicants of their acceptance as soon as the application arrives in the admissions office. Other schools may make you wait months before notifying all candidates at once. 

Paying your Deposit: Several institutions demand that students submit their deposits by a certain date. This could, in some situations, be equivalent to the tuition fees for a semester or an entire academic year.

In the event that you are requesting financial aid, make it a point to send the deposit instantly. Students must submit a statement outlining how much money they expect to have throughout the programme. If you plan to apply for a scholarship, you will also need to give the personal details required by the university.

Pay the SEVIS Fee

This amount must be paid at least three days prior to submitting the US study visa application. For the SEVIS fee, you must submit a paper or online form. In order to do this, firstly, visit the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) SEVP website. Next, enter the necessary data accurately as it appears on your I-20 or DS-2019 application form.

The website outlines the procedure for several payment options, such as cheques, debit/credit cards, foreign money transfers, Western Union Quick Pay, etc. If you do not have sufficient funds, your fees may potentially be paid by outside or third-party sponsors as well. However, in such a case, you will need a receipt from the sponsor's end. After the money has been processed and sent securely, print a payment confirmation from the website. At the time of your US student visa interview, this will be needed as proof of payment.

Avail of Our Test-Prep Services to Score High on Entrance Exams to Study in USA! 

US Student Visa Requirements

An applicant for a US study visa must possess the following fundamental documents to be considered for enrollment at a US university.

  • Score reports for standardised tests including the GMAT, TOEFL, GRE, DET, IELTS, etc.

  • Original mark sheets or provisional certifications from your former academic institution.

  • Payment receipt of the I-20 form.

  • Provide the petition number on the petition submitted by the US employer when requesting a work visa (I-129 form).

  • Proof that you have enough money in your bank account to cover the cost of your programme in the United States for the whole term. For example, sponsor agreements, sponsors, and a scholarship programme.

  • Evidence proving the candidate's intention to leave the country once the academic programme is over.

  • Completed DS-160 form 

  • A passport that is up to date and has a minimum remaining validity of six months following your visit to the country.

  • As part of the application process, attend a face-to-face interview at a US embassy or consulate.

Related Reads:

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Step-By-Step Visa Process for US

As discussed, if you wish to study in the US but are not a permanent citizen of the country, you must apply for a US study visa. Make sure you start putting together your application for a US student visa well in advance - at least three to five months before your programme is scheduled to begin. Applying for a student visa in the US often involves a number of processes. It is, therefore, essential to check the guidelines on the official website of the embassy or consulate where you intend to apply as these procedures differ at each US embassy or consulate. The following is a step-by-step US visa process: 

Step 1: Apply and Get Accepted to a US University

The first step is to apply to (and perhaps be admitted to) a US university. Application deadlines for the majority of US full-time undergraduate and graduate programmes are in December or January of each year. Around March and April when institutions normally send out their admission letters.

The schools you apply to must have SEVP approval, as was previously stated. Most likely, J-1 students will submit exchange programme applications through their home institutions. On the official J-1 visa website, you may also search for organisations that have been designated as sponsors.

Step 2: Receive Your I-20 or DS-2019 Form From Your Applied US University

After being accepted into a programme, you will either obtain Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status), which is given to F-1 and M-1 students, or Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status), which is given to J-1 students.

The appropriate form will be mailed to you by your institution. Your SEVIS ID, the address of your institution, and other important details about your programme will all be on your document. This document will be required for your US visa interview.

Step 3: Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee Online

Go online and pay the I-901 SEVIS fee as soon as your school sends you your I-20 or DS-2019 form. The fee for a J-1 visa is USD 220 and the fee for an F-1/M-1 visa is USD 350. However, applicants opting for a temporary J-1 visa will just need to pay a fee of USD 35. You can pay this fee online with a credit card, with the exception of those from Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, or Nigeria countries. Print off your confirmation sheet after paying the fee because you will need it for your US visa interview.

Note: The I-901 SEVIS fee is different from your US visa application fee. 

Step 4: Visit Your Nearest US Embassy or Consulate

Your nearest US embassy or consulate is where you must submit an application for your US study visa (ideally, in the city or area in which you reside). If you are not sure where your nearest US embassy is located, you can conduct an online search for US embassies and consulates through the US Department of State's official website.

Be advised that depending on the embassy you apply through, the procedures for obtaining a US student visa may vary slightly. This indicates that you might have to submit supporting documents with your visa application at some embassies. Visit your embassy's website or get in touch with them directly for further information on what documents you need to submit.

Step 5: Complete the DS-160 Form Online 

To successfully fill out the DS-160 form online, make sure you have the following documents on hand:

  • A visa photograph (to upload)

  • Your passport

  • Form I-20 or DS-2019 (depending on the type of your US student visa i.e., an F-1/M-1 or J-1)

Next, you may be required to provide:

  • A CV or resume

  • The dates of your most recent five US visits, if any, and/or documentation of your recent international travel.

  • A travel itinerary (if you have already planned to visit the US)

  • Extra information based on your travelling purposes (if required)

Note: Except for the field asking you to provide your complete name in your native alphabet, the entire form must be filled out in English. If you have trouble understanding the English instructions, translations are provided on the form. The US embassy where you want to have your US visa interview will also be listed on this application.

Step 6: Schedule Your US Visa Interview

Again, to schedule your visa interview, get in touch with your nearest US embassy or consulate (preferably the one you listed on your online application before) after submitting the DS-160 Form. The duration of the interview wait varies from one embassy to another. Therefore, to check the wait periods for your embassy, you may visit the official website of the US study visa.

Step 7: Pay Your Visa Application Fee

The next step is to pay the USD 160 application fee. No matter where you apply or where you are from, this fee is the same. Remember that depending on your embassy, the exact day you must pay this charge will vary. Not all embassies demand payment of the application fee prior to interviews, despite the fact that many do. The timing and details of your visa application fee payment should be sent to you by your embassy. You must bring your receipt to your interview as proof of payment if your embassy requests that you pay this cost in advance.

Step 8: Attend Your US Visa Interview

Arranging and attending a US visa interview is the last step in obtaining a US student visa. You can arrange this by phoning the US embassy or consulate that is most convenient for you online or over the phone. In either situation, you should first pay the Machine Readable Visa fee (MRV fee) because you might need to provide your MRV fee number later.

You must attend a consular officer interview before the visa application procedure may be completed. Typically right when you arrive for your interview, you will be subject to a security check and give digital, ink-free fingerprints. Do not be concerned if you must make an appointment for your interview at a different US embassy or consulate than the one you used to submit your visa application. Any US embassy or consulate can access your data by scanning the barcode from your DS-160. However, if you apply for a US visa interview outside of your primary residence, be aware that it could be challenging to be granted a US study visa. The length of the wait for appointments for visa interviews varies by location, season, and visa category.

You will be questioned in the English language throughout your US visa interview. These questioning will primarily centre on your motivations or aspirations for choosing the US institution you have been accepted to and your post-programme plans. It is essential to make it apparent that once your academic programme is over, you do NOT intend to stay in the US.

If your interview goes well, your embassy will let you know when and how it will send your passport back to you together with your new US study visa. Nonetheless, you must leave your passport with your embassy to obtain your visa.

Step 9: Pay the US Visa Issuance Fee (if necessary)

After receiving approval for a US student visa, some students are required to pay a visa issuance fee. Depending on your nationality and the reciprocity agreement between the US and your country, you may or may not be obliged to pay this cost. You can use a chart on the US visas website to verify whether you need to pay a US visa issuance fee.

Step 10: Receive Your US Study Visa

The last step is to receive your US student visa. Your embassy will deliver your passport to you together with your new visa once you have performed all of the aforementioned steps and been granted a US study visa. Keep in mind that certain embassies will demand you to pick it up in person, while others will ship it back to you.

Note: The US visa application process for an F-1 is the same as that for an M-1 and resembles that for a J-1 visa. As a result, all three types of US student visa categories can be obtained using the aforementioned visa procedure.

US Visa Processing Time

Compared to other US visas, the M1/F1 visa processing time is typically speedier. It is not that your US visa application process depends completely on your interview, in fact, the processing gets started prior to your interview. In some instances, you will find out the verdict of your visa application instantly following the interview. If further processing is necessary, it will take roughly 7 to 10 days following the interview to receive your US study visa. This may again depend on the duration of the visa, the workload of the embassy, the time required to verify the submitted documents and other factors.

Documents Required for US Visa Interview

During the US student visa interview, students must have the following documents to move further in the visa process. In the absence of these visa interview documents, the interview will stand cancelled. The documents are:

  • A Valid Passport: The passport must be valid for a minimum of six months beyond the student’s period of stay in the country. 

  • SEVIS Forms: Self-attested I-20 Form and DS-2019 Form (whichever applicable) is required at the time of the interview. If the candidate's spouse or children are also included in the passport, an individual form must be submitted for each of them. 

  • SEVIS Fee Receipt: A printed SEVIS Fee payment confirmation receipt must be brought along with the candidate at the time of the interview. 

  • DS-160 Form: The application confirmation page of DS-160 is required along with the barcode and application ID number. 

  • MRV Fee Receipt: Student must present proof of the payment of the visa application fee, which is also known as MRV Fee. The receipt can be downloaded after the successful payment of the fee. 

  • Photographs: A minimum of 2 passport size photographs must be brought in the interview by the candidate. The photograph should have been printed on photo quality paper. The candidate must not be wearing spectacles in the photograph and 80% are of the picture must be occupied by the student’s face. Pictures with a white background are preferred. 

  • Appointment Letter: Students must submit a printed copy of their visa interview appointment letter. 

  • DS-7002: The applicants of J-1 visa Intern and Trainee must bring DS-7002 form. 

Other documents that may be asked for in the interview are:

  • Standardized test scores

  • Financial evidence to prove sufficient funds

  • Transcripts from the previously attended university or school 

  • A copy of the birth certificate

  • A copy of marriage certificate (if applicable)

Once students have been issued their visas, they can then proceed with their travel plans. It is advisable for candidates to make final plans after the issuance of the US student visa. In some cases, the visa is denied for certain reasons. Applicants are later given the reason that caused their ineligibility to access the US student visa. 

Let Us Help You Avoid Making Mistakes in Your US Visa Interview!

US Student Visa Fees

While applying for a US student visa, one would need to pay a SEVIS fee and the F, J or M application fee or the MRV fee before applying for a nonimmigrant visa. The MRV fee is both non-refundable and non-transferable. The amount to be paid as the visa application fee would be based on the type of visa for which you are applying.

Visa Application Fee

The following table shows the US student visa application fees along with the required SEVIS fee applicable to a distinct type of visa:

US Visa Types

Specification

Visa Application Fee (in USD)

SEVIS Fee (In USD)

F-1 Visa

Full-time students (academic programmes)

160

350

M-1 Visa

Students (Vocational programmes)

160

350

J-1 Visa

Exchange visitor programmes

160

220

Note: (i) - The visa application fee is non-refundable and non-transferable.

(ii) - SEVIS Fee Exception: Only those applicants who would be participating in a US-government-sponsored programme would be exempted from the SEVIS fee.
   

Reasons for US Study Visa Rejection

As reported on the US visa website, the majority of applications for US study visas are approved. Although it is not common, international student visas may be denied in rare cases. The most common reason for this is when you do not fulfil a certain requirement before or during your US visa interview. Ineligibility for a US student visa or Reasons for F1 Visa Denied is likely to be caused by the following problems:

  • Not Providing Proof of Sufficient Funds: One of the main causes cited for the recurrent denial of US study visas is reportedly failing to provide proof of sufficient funds. While having enough money to cover your expenses for the duration of your programme is not always required, you should be able to show that you have enough money (in liquid assets) to cover at least one academic year.

  • Not Conveying Your intent to leave the US After the Completion of the Academic Programme: You cannot (deliberately or inadvertently) overstay your visa, and the US government must ensure it. Therefore, you must present sufficient evidence of your intention to return to your native country after your programme is over.

  • Failing to Pass the Security Check: As obvious as it sounds, you may be ineligible for a US visa if you commit certain crimes.

  • Not Carrying the Required Documents to Your US Visa Interview: A visa application could be turned down if you forget to bring certain items, like your passport, important receipts, and official certificates linked to your visa.

  • Not Showing Up For Interview at All: Your visa application can be turned down if you show up late for your interview or do not show up at all.

  • Applying For a US Student Visa Behind Time: If you apply for your visa too soon before your programme begins, you will probably be denied a student visa. This is primarily due to the fact that you would not have access to your visa until after the commencement of your programme.

This brief description covers several grounds for the denial of US study visas to international students. Your embassy will inform you whether your request for a student visa is denied and why (the reason behind rejection). In the unfortunate event of a rejection, there is no provision for a refund. Furthermore, embassies would not reconsider visa applications, so if your application is turned down, you will need to go through the procedure all over again.

Related Articles:

Reasons for Rejection of Student Visa for Canada

Reasons for Rejection of a German Student Visa

Reasons for Rejection of the UK Study Visa

Common Mistakes to Avoid in a Visa Letter (Visa SOP)

Tips to Ensure an Effortless US Visa Application Process

It is now clear how to apply for a US student visa - but how do you ensure you would not encounter any problems along the whole visa process for the US? We have provided three tips below to help you handle the US visa application process smoothly. Here are they:

Tip #1: Start Applying Early

Applying for a student visa too close to the commencement of your programme will probably result in a visa refusal, so aim to do so as soon as you have been accepted and have collected your I-20 or DS-2019 Form from your institution.

If you are applying to several US universities, it is advisable delaying your visa application until you have heard from each institution about your admission, or until you have heard from your top pick. By doing this, you may evaluate your alternatives and pick the best university for you.

Tip #2: Get Your Visa First Before Booking a Flight Ticket

Although applying for a US student visa early is a good idea, it is better to wait to purchase any flight tickets until you have your visa, as there is no assurance that your application will be accepted.

The likelihood is that you would not get a full refund for your airfare if you buy an airline ticket in advance and are later denied a US student visa. This is because airline refund rules differ, but generally, if you cancel more than 24 hours after making a flight reservation, you would not be eligible for a full refund.

Tip #3: Got Any Questions? Get in Touch With Your Embassy Immediately

Your US visa application process can vary slightly depending on the particular embassy or consulate you choose. Usually, this is because US embassies adopt different methods for handling or processing details. As a result, you should always immediately address any queries or worries you may have with your local embassy. Without a doubt, the greatest source for information on US visa fees, US visa interviews, and other visa-related issues is your embassy.

Note: Remember that having a valid visa only entitles you to travel to a US port of entry and apply for entry; it does not ensure your entry to the country. An agent of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), grants permission to enter. Always keep your visa-related documents in your hand luggage because you will need to be able to show them at the port of entry. Every time you enter the US, you must have your Form I-20/DS-2019 with you; if you travel outside the US for a holiday, you will also need the SEVIS form to re-enter the US. The following are some documents you ought to carry all the time:

  • Name and contact details of your Designated School Official (DSO), including their institution's 24-hour emergency contact number.

  • Evidence of financial resources

  • Passport

  • SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019

  • Evidence that you own a student status in the US (such as recent tuition receipts and transcripts). If you are an exchange student, you must submit a letter from your home university expressing your intention to do so.

Arrival After Obtaining a US Study Visa

You must complete a Customs Declaration form (CF-6059) before landing in the US. If you need assistance or do not understand the form, you may ask a flight attendant. You must also complete an I-94 Arrival/Departure Record form, either online or on paper. The expiration date on your US student visa is the date until your visa is valid. A unique date or ‘D/S’ (duration of status) will be noted by the CBP officer on your I-94 form. You must depart the United States by this mentioned date. Even if your visa expires while you are in the country, you are still allowed to stay until this mentioned date/day. However, if your visa expires before you leave the US, you will not be able to come back and continue your studies. For this, a student visa must be renewed or granted at a US embassy or consulate abroad; it cannot be done domestically.

The date will be written on the I-94 form if it is sent to you on paper. If you receive an electronic I-94, the CBP officer will stamp your passport with an admission stamp that serves as validation for your electronic I-94 and will be marked with the D/S. If you receive an I-94 form on paper, keep it secure in your passport since you'll need to hand it back to a CBP agent when you depart the country. If you have an electronic I-94, a CBP employee will instead record your departure using manifest information obtained from the air or marine carrier with which you are sailing.

Within 30 days of the course start date listed on your SEVIS I-20/DS-2019 form, you must report to the office of your institution that assists international students. This could be the International Programs Office, Office of International Services, Office of International Education, or a similar office. Your intended participation will be verified by a Designated School Official (DSO), who will notify the SEVIS system of your arrival. You must complete this within 30 days, failing which your SEVIS record will be immediately cancelled and you risk being accused of violating your immigration status in the US.

The DSO will also be able to provide you with guidance on issues like insurance. It will very definitely be a prerequisite of enrollment at your US institution that you submit proof of having obtained private health insurance to cover you for medical treatment because the US does not have a social healthcare system.

Departure from the US

Following the completion of their course, F-1 visa holders are permitted to stay in the US for an additional 60 days; however, M-1 and J-1 visa holders are only permitted to stay for an additional 30 days. The applicant is given a ‘grace period’ during which time they can get ready to leave the country.

Every student must leave before the date mentioned on their I-94 document or stamp. Your status will change if you don't leave the US. In the event you do not depart the US, you will be considered out of status. Immigration laws must be followed, and breaking them in the US could prevent you from obtaining a visa in the future. You will require USCIS permission if you want to prolong your stay. As long as you have maintained your student status and have up-to-date SEVIS records, you are eligible to extend your visa whenever you choose.

Working on US Study Visa

The F-1 visa is intended for full-time students. As a student, you are not eligible to work in the US for the majority of jobs because your visa is not a US work visa. There are a few exceptions to the rule, most of which pertain to internships and employment that are associated with your field of study. For instance, you may work for a business that offers college services, such as a restaurant or bookstore. However, international students are not permitted to take on off-campus employment during their first year of school. You can only work a maximum of 20 hours each week while simultaneously attending your academic programme. While you are allowed to put in up to 40 hours a week when there are breaks or holidays. 

Talking with your DSO is the first step in getting an F-1 visa to work. Keep in touch with your DSO periodically throughout your job hunt because they will need to authorise and record any employment you accept. Furthermore, your DSO can assist you in finding positions that are suitable for you as a foreign student. You must have been enrolled in your university programme for longer than 12 months to be eligible for the majority of jobs. Here is a comprehensive list of Part-Time Job Options in the USA for International Students:

Related Reads:

Stay Back Period and Post Study Work Permit in the USA

Stay Back Period and Post Study Work Permit in the UK

PR in Canada - All About Stay Back Period and Post Study Work Permit

Stay Back Period and Work Permit in Germany

Stay Back Period and Post Study Work Permit in New Zealand

Stay Back Period and Work Permit in Ireland

List of US Embassies in India (City-Wise)

For the F-1 visa, the application for a US student visa is done fully online. To complete the biometric and US visa interview processes, applicants from India must visit the US embassy or consulate near them. For Indian students to complete the US visa application process, the following addresses are facilitated:

  • US Consulate General in Chennai, 220 Anna Salai, Gemini Circle, 600006

  • US Consulate General in Hyderabad, Paigah Palace, 1-8-323, Chiran Fort Lane, Begumpet, Secunderabad 500 003

  • US Consulate General in Kolkata, 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, 700071

  • US Consulate General in Mumbai, C-49, G-Block, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra East, Mumbai 400051

  • US Embassy in New Delhi, Shanti Path, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi-110021

Students from India can obtain US study visas quickly and easily if their supporting documents are authentic. The duration of your visa approval will be determined by how well your visa application and interview were evaluated. The applicants should diligently follow the instructions even if it might take some time. The newly stamped passport with the new visa will be returned to you in person or over registered mail if the US embassy or consulate decides in your favour.

Make Your US Visa Application Process Easy With the Help of Our Experts! 

FAQs on USA Student Visa Guide in 2023

What is an I-20 and how do I get one to get an F-1 visa?

Form I-20 is a form issued by the US government to certify that you are eligible for an F-1 student visa. In other words, it says that you can pursue a full course of study in the US, have provided proof of finances, met the university's admissions requirements and are a "bona fide" student. The I-20 is sent to you by the university you have been accepted to. 

If a student is in the US on a B-1 visa, may he or she change to an F1 student visa?

It's generally easier to change your visa status while you're in the US. However, it can take up to several months to get approval on changing from a B-1 visa to an F1 visa. If you're planning on attending college in the US, you can avoid applying for an F1 student visa by filling out the I-20 form at the consulate in your home country.

What is the five-month rule in the US?

The five-month rule in the US is the termination of the visa holder’s record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) due to them being away from classes for five months.

For how long will my US student visa be considered valid?

F-1 visas will be considered until the visa holder completes their program they are studying in the US. They may stay in the US for up to 60 days after graduation.

If you already applied for the Diversity Immigrant Lottery, will you be able to obtain a student visa to study in the U.S.?

This step is important because if you do not plan on coming back to your home country after graduating, your visa application may be denied. If you already obtained a visa through the Diversity Immigrant Lottery, this step may indicate that you are planning on moving to the US.

What do I do if my US student visa gets stolen or lost?

In case your US student visa gets stolen or lost while in the US, a student must report it at the nearest police station. If you have the original documents, you can bring them to the police station. You will also be required to contact your home country’s embassy or consulate in the US to report the missing US visa. In case your US visa goes missing while abroad, report it to the consulate or embassy and ask them for the next steps.

What is SEVIS and how do I pay the SEVIS fee?

SEVIS is an online system that maintains information about students and universities enrolled in the US's Exchange Visitor Program. Before you go to a US embassy or interview, you should pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. This fee is non-refundable and can be paid within three business days.

May I apply for a US student visa from a third country?

You may or may not be able to apply for a US student visa from a third country. If you're planning on applying for a visa to visit the US, then you should first confirm that the country where it's located in a third country. You should also be able to provide proof of finances to study in the US along with your intention of returning upon graduation.

Can I go back to my country during the summer and then return to the US for fall semester?

Yes, you can go back to your home country during the summer and then return to the US for fall semester. Basically, it's your choice. You can either stay back in the US or return to your home country during a school break. US Universities allow vacation from studies only after you have completed two full-time consecutive semesters which means 9 months and 18 credit hours. However, some universities might not have summer breaks in their curricula.

If I have a two-year US student visa, do I need to get it extended before it expires?

No, you don't to need to get your US student visa extended before it expires. In the US, an international student may stay for as long as they are enrolled in their program. So, if you have a two-year visa, you do not need to return to your home country and the length of your visa means how much time you have left to cross the US border. However, international students in the US holding F visas should leave the country within 60 days of the end date mentioned on Form I-20.

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