Student visa applicants are encouraged to apply early for their visa.
When Do I
Need to Apply?
Student Applicants (for F-1
and M-1 visas) - Overview
The first step for a prospective non-immigrant student is being accepted for
enrolment in an established school which is SEVP
certified . In general, for academic students, including those in language
training, F visas are the appropriate category, and for non academic vocational
students an M visa is the appropriate category.
If you are going on visit visa you can do a course where study hours are less
than 18 hours/week. For course where study hours are more than 18 hours per
week you required a student visa.
When Do I Need to Apply for
My Student Visa?<
Students are encouraged to apply for their visa
early to provide ample time for visa processing. Students may apply for
their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so.
Students should note that Embassies and Consulates
are able to issue your student visa 120 days or less, in advance of the
course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa
more than 120 days prior to your start date or registration date as
provided on the Form I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your
application until it is able to issue the visa. Consular officials will
use that extra time for application processing.
Students are advised of the Department of Homeland
Security regulation which requires that all initial or beginning students
enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the course of study
start/report date as shown on the Form I-20. Please consider this
date carefully when making travel plans to the U.S.
A beginning student who wants an earlier entry
into the U.S. (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), must
qualify for, and obtain a visitor visa. A prospective student
notation will be shown on his/her visitor visa and the traveller will need
to make the intent to study clear to the U.S. immigration inspector at
port of entry. Before beginning any studies, he or she must obtain
approval for a change to Exchange Visitor status, filing Form
I-539 , Application for Change of Non-immigrant Status and pay the
fee. Also you must submit the required Form I-20 to the Department of
Homeland Security office where the application is made. Please be aware
that one can not begin studies until the change of classification is
- Continuing students may apply for a new visa at any time,
as long as they have been maintaining student status and their SEVIS
records are current. Continuing students may also enter the U.S. at any time before their classes start.
Qualifying for a Student Visa
The Immigration and National Act is very
specific with regard to the requirements which must be met by applicants to
qualify for the student visa. The consular officer will determine whether you
qualify for the visa. Additionally, applicants must demonstrate that they
properly meet student visa requirements including:
- Have a residence abroad, with no immediate intention of
abandoning that residence;
- Intend to depart from the United States upon completion of
the course of study; and
- Possess sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of
Applying for a Student Visa
As part of the visa application process,
an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants
from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and
age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by
embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for
applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa
wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for
each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on US website at Visa Wait Times
, and on most embassy websites.
Each applicant for a student visa must
submit these forms and documentation as explained below:
- Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant
(F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students or Form I-20M-N,
Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (M-1) Student Status for
Vocational Students. You will need to submit a SEVIS generated
Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school. You and your school
official must sign the I-20 form. See the previous section for SEVIS
- A completed application, Non-immigrant Visa Applicant,
Form DS-156, together with a Form
DS-158. Both forms must be completed and signed. Some applicants will
also be required to complete and sign Form DS-157. A separate
form is needed for children, even if they are included in a parent's
passport. The DS-156 must be the March 2006 date, electronic
"e-form application." Select Non-immigrant Visa Application Form
DS-156 to access the electronic version of the form DS-156. Important Notice:
At certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad, non-immigrant visa
applicants are now required to apply for their visa using the new DS-160
Online Non-immigrant Visa Electronic Application, instead of the non-immigrant
application forms DS-156, 157, 158, and other related forms. Learn more
and find out which Embassies have converted to the DS-160 Online process.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of
stay in the United States (unless country-specific
agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in
the passport, each person desiring a visa must complete an application.
- One (1) 2x2 photograph.See the
required photo format explained in non-immigrant photograph requirements
- A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application
- The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.
All applicants should be prepared
- Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions
- Scores from standardized tests required by the educational
institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, 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.
What are the Required Visa Fees?
- Non-immigrant visa application processing fee - For
current fees for Department of State government services click here.
You will need to provide a receipt showing the visa application processing
fee has been paid, when you come for your visa interview.
- Visa issuance fee – Additionally, if the visa is
issued, there will be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, if
applicable. Please consult the Visa
Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay a visa issuance
reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.
Spouses and Children
Applicants with dependents must
- 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.
- No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given
in advance. Therefore final travel plans or the purchase of non refundable
tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
- Unless previously cancelled, a visa is valid until its
expiration date. Therefore, if the traveller has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport.
You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to
the United States.
Staying Beyond Your Authorized Stay in the U.S. and Being Out of Status
- It is important that you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip, based on the
specified end date on your Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94.
Information on successfully maintaining your
immigration status while a student or exchange visitor can be found on
the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website.
- Staying beyond the period of time authorized by the DHS
causes you to be out-of-status in the United States, which is a violation
of U.S. immigration laws. This may cause you to be ineligible for a visa
in the future for return travels to the U.S. Select Classes
of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas to learn more.
- Staying unlawfully in the United States beyond the date
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authorized, even by one
day, results in your visa being automatically voided, in accordance with
immigration law, INA 222(g). In this situation, you are required to
reapply for a new non-immigrant visa, generally in your country of
What Items Do Returning Students Need?
All applicants applying for renewals must
- All items listed in the Required Documentation section
- A new I-20 or an I-20 that has been endorsed on the back
by a school official within the past 12 months.
Students Away from Classes More Than Five Months
Students in or outside the U.S., who have
been away from classes for more than five months, will likely need a new visa
to enter the U.S.
How long may I stay on my F-1 student visa?<
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 a student who has completed the course of studies shown on the I-20, and any
authorized practical training, the student is allowed the following additional
time in the U.S. before departure:
- F-1 student - An additional 60 days, to prepare for
departure from the U.S. or to transfer to another school.
- M-1 student - An additional 30 days to depart the U.S. (Fixed time period, in total not to exceed one year). The 30 days to prepare for
departure is permitted as long as the student maintained a full course of
study and maintained status. An M student may receive extensions up to
three years for the total program.
As an example regarding duration of
status, if you have a visa that is valid for five years that will expire on
January 1, 2009, 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, 2009 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, applying at and Embassy abroad, before
being able to return to America and resume your studies.
Further Visa Inquiries
- Questions on visa application procedures and visa
ineligibilities should be made to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad by
the applicant. Before submitting your inquiry, we request that you
carefully review this web site and also the Embassy website abroad. Very
often you will find the information you need.
- If your inquiry concerns a visa case in progress overseas,
you should first contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case
for status information by selecting U.S.
Embassy or ConsulateIf you have additional inquiries about F or M student
visas/J-1 exchange visitor visas, please email our Student/Exchange
Visitor Visa Center at: firstname.lastname@example.org.