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Student Visas

Student Visas Allow you to Study Abroad in the United States!

When you study abroad you aren't just learning about your chosen course of study, but about the culture, people and environment of an entirely different country. Any student should consider studying abroad if only to expand upon their college experience, but in order to do so you must be issued a student visa.

Student Visa Types:

The F-1 student visa is granted to students working towards an academic degree, diploma or certificate in a school authorized to accept foreign students. Establishments that may be authorized include colleges, universities, conservatories, seminaries or preparatory schools.

After the completion of a full academic year you will be able to procure off-campus employment through one of three programs: the Curricular Practical Training program, which is, in effect, an internship within the field that you are studying; the Optional Practical Training program; and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Optional Practical Training Extension (STEM OPT). Students are allowed to work on-campus during their first year as long as they adhere to terms set by the United States State Department.

Students travelling to the United States to study a vocation are supposed to apply for an M-1 Student visa. Vocational students holding an M-1 visa are not allowed to work until they have completed their school courses.

The government requires that if you wish to hold either an F-1 or an M-1 visa you must be

  • Enrolled at a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services approved educational program on a full time basis,
  • Either competent in the English language or enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) courses,
  • Able to fund your educational career in the United states (independently or through your parents),
  • And you must have a residence outside the United States that you intend to return to.

If you are interested in taking part of an exchange program within the United States you will have to obtain a J-1 classification visa. These programs cover a variety of things that you can do within the United States. You can teach, study, research, lecture or simply observe as a scholar, researcher, trainee or au pair.

Your spouse and/or children are entitled to visas as well to accompany you on your trip abroad. They are to obtain an F-2 visa if you are an academic student, an M-2 visa if you are a vocational student, or a J-2 visa if you are participating in an exchange program.

Obtaining your F or M Classification Visa for Students:

In order to qualify for a student visa it is necessary that you demonstrate to the government that you do not intend to immigrate to the United States. This is accomplished by showing that your home is outside the United States, that you are going to return home upon completion of your studies and that you have the money to pay for your course of study.

You must also be accepted to a school that has been approved by the Department of Homeland Security and register in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, also known as SEVIS.

Depending upon which consulate you choose to submit your visa application wait times vary for the interview appointment and issuance, but it is probably a good idea to do so early. There is little worse than missing the first week of classes because your interview was scheduled too late.

You are also going to need some documents to complete your application process:

  • The DS-160 form which is required for all non-immigrant visa applicants and is available online.
  • Your passport, of course! Please note that you will need the validity date to extend at least half a year past your entire stay in the United States.
  • A two inch by two inch photograph that a local professional photographer would be eager to provide for you. Or, if you'd like to take your own photo, be sure to follow the State Department's guidelines carefully.
  • A copy of your I-20 form, signed by both you and your school.
  • The receipt for both your visa application fee and the I-901 fee that you will pay upon registration with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.
  • You are also going to need to gather your transcripts, diplomas, standardized test scores and some sort of proof that you have the financial means to provide for your schooling for the interview.

Obtaining your J classification Visa for Exchange Programs:

Similarly to the process for obtaining a student visa, you must find a program that is approved by the Department of Homeland Security's Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification. After being accepted by an exchange program it will be necessary for you to register with SEVIS. Upon completion of your term in the United States you are expected to return to your home country so that you can put your new-found skills to use. This means assuring the United States government that you claim another country as home and you fully intend to return.

The visa application process for an exchange program visa is slightly different than the process for student visas. If you are applying for an exchange visa you will need certain documentation:

  • The DS 2019 is the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. This form is provided by SEVIS and should be filled out by you as well as your wife or child.
  • If you are coming the United States for training purposes or as an Intern you will also need to complete a DS-7002 form.
  • The DS-160 form which is available online.
  • Your valid passport
  • A photograph to be included with the DS-160, the parameters of which can be found in the section above.

Scheduling your interview appointment early is always important and you will also want to have all of this documentation at the time of your interview. The embassy or consulate that you will be applying at may require additional documents and you should check their website for specifics.

Once your visa has been issued you may enter the United States either thirty days or less from the start of your exchange program.

If you want either your spouse or child to accompany you to the United States under a J-2 visa:

  • They can only work if they have submitted an I-765 form at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • They may study without getting an F-1 visa.
  • And if they are not living in the United States, but wish to visit for a short period of time, they should apply for a B-2 visitor visa instead of a J-2 exchange program visa.

Your spouse or children still need to fill out the requisite paperwork to obtain the proper visa to be allowed into a United States port-of entry.

Student Visa Fees:

  • The visa application fee for F, M and J classification visas will be $160.
  • The SEVIS I-901 fee for academic (F) and vocational (M) students is $200. For J classification or exchange program applicants it is $180. In some cases, short term exchange program applicants only need to pay $35.
  • The visa issuance fee varies upon a variety of factors such as which country you are applying from. Visit your country's consulate page to see how much the fee is.