In the vast majority of cases, the visa you need to apply for is the F1 or M1 visa, but it's also possible to obtain a J1 visa if you're going to the United States as part of a university exchange. In this article, we'll be explaining in more detail how you should apply for a visa to study in the USA, detailing each essential step and explaining the procedure to follow.
Step One: Obtain Admission to a U.S. Institution and Complete Form I-20:
The first thing to do if you want to go to study in the USA isn't asking for your student visa but getting yourself admitted to an American school. It is necessary to be admitted to a university, a liberal art college or a community college authorized to welcome foreign students before applying for a study visa with the American immigration services.
It's only once you've actually obtained your admission to one of these establishments that a member of the university staff will send you an I-20 form which is an official form essential for this type of stay and which is also known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status. Now let's see what this I-20 form consists of specifically. This form obviously needs to be completed with care, mentioning your personal information. It's useful for multiple reasons since it will allow you to pay the SEVIS fees which we'll talk about in more detail below, but also to file your official visa application to enter the USA at the American consulate or embassy in your country or apply for a driving license or for social security when in the country.
This step is obviously essential following the procedure for applying for a student visa for the United States so you must follow it correctly and obtain the crucial I-20 form if you wish to proceed with the following steps.
Step two: Pay SEVIS fees to obtain a US study visa.
As mentioned, before having the possibility of settling the SEVIS fees, you must have obtained the I-20 form by registering and having been admitted in an American school establishment. The SEVIS fee is actually the student visa application fee and has nothing to do with any tuition fees of the chosen institution.
But why is the I-20 form essential to take this payment step? In fact, you'll find an identification number on the form called SEVIS identification number, which you will be asked for when you pay the fees. This number proves that you have paid for your visa application file.
The term SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System and the fees you'll have to pay are identified as - I-901 SEVIS fees. The fee amount is reassessed each year and amounts to a few hundred dollars, $ 200 on average, for F1 and M1 student visas. You have the option of paying directly online by credit card. However, other means of payment are also at your disposal such as Western Union for example. Bear in mind that payment by credit card is the fastest and most reliable and secure method of payment. Online payment is in fact made on a secure server which encrypts the bank data and prevents any fraud or hacking thereof. You just have to follow the links on the official website step by step and let yourself be guided until the payment is finalized.
During the online fee payment process, you'll also need to complete a new form, this time called I-901. In this form, you will have to complete various information which actually relates to the information written on your passport. So you have this official document with you before starting this step.
Remember! Once you have completed this form and paid the SEVIS fees, you must remember to print the receipt which will serve as proof of payment of these fees. This certificate will be essential when you make your visa application at the American consulate and is part of the supporting documents to provide.
Third step: Proceed with your visa application.
We're now getting to the heart of the matter since you're now able to apply for your actual student visa. First of all, bear in mind that to apply for a student visa, you must follow the process that the American consulate in your country of residence has communicated to you to the letter. The procedure to be followed, as well as the supporting documents to be attached to your application may vary from one country to another.
First of all, you need to complete a third official online form which is the actual visa application form. This form is the DS-160 form that you'll find on the official US Immigration website. Once you have duly completed this simple questionnaire, don't forget to double check all of your answers and print it or print the confirmation page on which your file number will be indicated.
The second step in this process is to get an appointment with the US Consulate. To do this, you'll need to go to another website with an online platform and register there. You'll have to pay additional costs for this request. You'll then be offered several appointment slots from which you can choose according to your availability. Remember! Once you've chosen an appointment, you'll need to stick to it and make sure you show up on time.
Fourth step: Your appointment at the embassy:
Now let's move on to the last step of your student visa application for the United States. First of all, bear in mind that the average time to obtain such an appointment is of the order of a few days to a week on average. You will then have to wait a few more days to obtain your visa if the request is accepted.
The appointment at the American embassy in your country of residence, is just one more formality so we recommend you not worry too much about its content. During the interview, you will in fact be met by an immigration officer who will ask you a number of questions about the elements that you have indicated in the various forms.
You should also take certain supporting documents with you, including proof of your education in the USA, proof of your solvency, meaning proof that you have the sufficient financial means to meet your needs during your stay as well as other supporting documents if necessary.
When is the best time to apply for a student visa for the USA?
Now that you know the procedure for applying for a student visa for the United States, you should also know the best time to initiate this procedure. It may be tempting to do it before the start of your course's school year, but it's actually a bad idea. In fact, the F1 and M1 student visas can be issued up to 120 days before the date of the start of the courses, i.e. 4 months, we often think that we have more time to prepare the file during the summer holidays. However, this is actually the worst time because it's also a period of major peak demand for both tourist and student visas and the American administration is often overloaded.
Also keep in mind that the period of validity of your student visa is that of the duration of your studies in the USA with a bonus of 30 days which will also allow you to visit the country at the end of the school year. Finally, if your visa can be issued to you 120 days before the date of your departure, you will not be able to go to the USA before 30 days before your start of school date.
What are the different student visas for the United States?
To study in the USA, there's not just one but three different visas that we'll be presenting in more detail, namely the F1 visa, the M1 and the J1 visa.
The most frequently used student visas for the United States are F1 visas which are intended for people who wish to study in the United States. The M1 visa falls into the same category but it's a professional visa which is granted to people coming to the USA with the aim of integrating a program in an accredited non-academic institution. For these two types of visa, before making the request, being accepted in one of the establishments validated by the exchange-studies program or the Student and Exchange Visitors Program is essential. The procedure to follow is roughly the one detailed above with some slight changes depending on the case.
The J1 visa is slightly different from the M1 or F1 visa as it's an exchange visa. Its objective is to promote intellectual or cultural exchanges and it adapts to various different situations such as students as well as researchers, professors and other international specialists. This visa is also granted to great extent but requires that its holder reside for two years outside the United States after its expiration with the exception of some cases such as an American government funded program through which the person obtained the visa or funded by the country of residence of the applicant or even by an international organization. Other exceptions exist such as the applicant working in a field identified as being in short supply of in the country of origin or when the person has a medical degree or has followed medical training.