US Student Visa Information
Types of Visas
There are generally two types of visas available for students wishing to study in the US.
- F-1 Student Visa
- J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa
With an F-1 student visa, you are allowed to seek employment in the US after completing your study there. But with a J-1 visa, you have to return to your home country and cannot enter the US again for atleast two years. Check with the American consulate for more information regarding these types of visas.
In most countries, first time student visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview. However, each embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas. Students should consult Embassy web sites or call for specific application instructions.
Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period. Students need to plan ahead to avoid having to make repeat visits to the Embassy. To the extent possible, students should bring the documents suggested below, as well as any other documents that might help establish their ties to the local community.
To allow time to overcome any unforeseen problems that might arise, students are encouraged to apply for their visas several weeks before they plan to travel. Students should not apply more than 90 days before the registration date noted on the I-20.
It is important to remember that applying early and providing the requested documents does not guarantee that the student will receive a visa. Also, because each student's personal and academic situation is different, two students applying for same visa may be asked different questions and be required to submit different documents. For that reason, the guidelines that follow are general and can be abridged or expanded by consular officers overseas, depending on each student's situation.
I-20 form and F-1 visa stamp
Once you are admitted to a University, they will send you an I-20 form. The I-20 form is a legal document that entitles you to apply for a student visa at the US Consulate. If your application is successful, then the Consulate will stamp your passport with a F-1 student visa stamp.
Needed for a Student Visa Application
All applicants for a student visa must provide:
- A Form I-20 obtained from a U.S. college, school or university. Please be sure to give us all four pages of the I-20 form. The form must also be signed by you and by a school official in the appropriate places;
- A completed nonimmigrant visa application form (OF-156) with photo for each person applying. A separate form is needed for children, even if they are included in a parent's passport. These forms are available at the Embassy at no charge.
- A passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States;
- A receipt for visa processing fee. A receipt showing payment of the visa application fee for each applicant, including each child listed in a parent's passport who is also applying for a U.S. visa, is needed
All applicants should be prepared to provide:
- Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
- Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE®, GMATTM, etc.;
- Financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study. For example, if you or your sponsor is a salaried employee, please bring income tax documents and original bank books and/or statements. If you or your sponsor own a business, please bring business registration, licenses, etc., and tax documents, as well as original bank books and/or statements.
Applicants with dependents must also provide:
- Proof of the student's relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates.)
- It is preferred that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder's passport and visa, along with all other required documents.
F-1 student visa validity duration
When you enter the United States on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while you are in America.
For example, if you have a visa that is valid for five years that will expire on January 1, 2001, and you are admitted into the U.S. for the duration of your studies (often abbreviated in your passport or on your I-94 card as "D/S"), you may stay in the U.S. as long as you are a full time student. Even if January 1, 2001 passes and your visa expires while in America, you will still be in legal student status. However, if you depart the U.S. with an expired visa, you will need to obtain a new one before being able to return to America and resume your studies. A student visa cannot be renewed or re-issued in the United States; it must be done at an Embassy or Consulate abroad.
Visa application fee and visa fee
Each visa application has to be accompanied by a non-refundable fee of $45. If you are granted a visa, then you are required to pay a fee of $75. Payment has to be made in the form of a bank draft
If you are receiving financial assistance from a university in the US, then they might send you an IAP-66, rather than an I-20 form. With an IAP-66 form, you get a J-1 or Exchange Visitor category visa. This visa comes with a stipulation that you have to stay in your home country for two years.
If relatives or friends are sponsoring your education, then you'll need a notarised affidavit of support from them clarifying their relationship with you and their commitment to pay for your education. You will also need to supply a statement of their annual income, bank statements and other financial assets.
Granting of Visa
When you are granted a visa, you will immediately be asked to submit your passport. You can then collect it the evening of the same day.