How to Apply for a Student Visa for the USA?

Studying abroad is a significant game-changer that would benefit you in many ways. Global education is bound to make a big difference in the way you perceive your studies and also yourself.

Choosing the perfect study destination is the next big thing as you have to see what fits your study requirements. 

One of the top study destinations you can look at is the United States.

The United States is perhaps the most common study destination for Indian students. It is the ideal destination for students to make a life after graduation. The American education system offers flexible and structured courses keeping the student’s best interest at heart. Every year, the country hosts a considerable number of students from across the world. 

The essential requirement to study in the USA is to have a student visa. Before applying for a student visa, all applicants must be accepted and approved by the US Universities. Once accepted by the educational institutions in the US, they will provide each applicant with the necessary approval documentation to be submitted. 

Types of Student Visa for the USA

F-1 Visa

F1 is the most common type of student visa for the USA. If you wish to engage in academic studies in the United States at an accredited college or University, you need F-1 permission. You will need an F-1 visa if your course lasts 18 hours or more for a week.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is primarily for students who want to study on an exchange program. The J1 Visa is also usually chosen by working professionals on an exchange program. Hence the name Exchange Visitor Visa. The period involved for study, with J1 Visa, would be up to 10 months. This would mainly benefit the students interested in some research or fellowship, which is a short term one.

M-1 Vocational/ Non-Academic Student Visa

The M1 Visa is a type of student visa which is purely for vocational purposes. The application process is just as similar to the F1 Visa. The only difference is, M1 visas are time-stamped, and students cannot overstay their visit. M-1 Visas apply to someone who wishes to engage in non-academic studies like the vocational training for career prospects.

Let’s get to the visa application process in detail. 

1. Apply to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) approved institution in the US six to twelve months before the commencement of your studies in the US. 

2. Pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee.

3. Complete filling in the US student visa application form along with a recent photograph.

4. Pay the visa application fee.

5. Schedule and attend a visa interview.

Here is the brief process put together for you. Read on!

1. Apply to a SEVP-approved institution

Firstly, have information about the list of Universities that comes under the SEVP program. Choose an institution and course accredited by the US government’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

As the USA does not have a centralized university application system, you will need to send your applications to each university separately considering each institution’s admissions requirements.

Once you get the University acceptance letter, you will be enrolled in the SEVIS system. A SEVIS-generated document called Form I-20 will be sent to you if you are eligible for an F or M visa or Form DS-2019 if you are eligible for a J visa.

2. Pay the SEVIS fee

You must pay the SEVIS fee at least three days before applying for your US visa. You can pay it either online or offline. Take care to fill in the required details exactly as they appear on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.

It is better to have a copy of the payment confirmation from the website after processing your payment.

3. Complete the US student visa application

The US student Visa application is called DS-160. This DS-160 form has to be filled online. Ensure to have all the documents and information to fill in the visa application form. Make sure you enter your particulars correctly in the form. Make a note of your application ID after filling in the form. You’ll need this ID to retrieve your information at any point in time. 

Details required in completing your DS-160 form,

  • Name and date of birth
  • Address and phone number
  • Passport details
  • Details of your study travel plans
  • Aspects of previous US travel if any
  • Your point of contact in the US
  • Family, work and education details
  • Security, background and medical health information
  • SEVIS ID 
  • Study Course that you intend to enroll in (as printed on I-20 or DS-2019 form)

Take the utmost care in answering all the questions in the form. The answers must be accurate. Because any errors or mismatch in the details given will affect the interview process, and you may have to reschedule it. 

After completing the form, you’ll need to sign by clicking the “Sign Application” button electronically. Once you submit the final application, a confirmation page with a barcode, barcode number, and application ID number will be sent to you. A copy of that confirmation page should be carried along to your visa interview.

4. Payment of the visa application fee

The visa application fee is called a Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee. It is a government-mandated visa processing fee that is required to be paid whether your Visa is approved or not. The MRV fee is non-transferable and non-refundable, and the receipt generated after the payment of the MRV fee is called as MRV Receipt number.

Ways to pay the application fee:

  • In-person at an approved bank
  • Through your phone 
  • Online (you’ll need to print your receipt)

5. Schedule and attend your US visa interview

The final step for getting a visa is to attend the visa interview. You can schedule your interview slot online, or you can also arrange your meeting by calling your nearest US embassy or consulate. Remember, you have to pay the MRV fee before scheduling your interview slot because you will be asked to provide your MRV fee number.

Once you have received your SEVIS form and paid the SEVIS fee, you can make an appointment with the US consulate or embassy for your US student visa application. Sometimes the visa processing times may vary. So, it’s best to apply at the earliest possible schedule. 

Here is the checklist you have to keep on track for your US Visa Application 

  1. I-20 certificate provided 
  2. Letter of admission from the institute
  3. Financial supporting documents like loan approval document, if any.
  4. Academic certificates and test scores of TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, or LSAT.
  5. Valid passport
  6. Form DS-160
  7. Two passport-sized photographs
  8. Machine Readable Visa Fee which is currently at $160
  9. Receipt of SEVIS fee payment, which is $200.

Once done with the successful application process, you will have to attend your Visa Interview. 

Documents required for the Student Visa interview

  • Valid passport
  • DS-160 barcode page
  • Appointment letter from the University
  • SEVIS receipt and I-20 form if you belong to the F or M Visa category.
  • SEVIS receipt and DS-2019 if you are a J Exchange student.

Here we come to the end of the process of applying for a student visa for the USA. Make sure to adhere to the guidelines and follow the checklist mentioned above. Having everything organized will help you smoothen the flow of the process, and increase the probability of you being granted the Visa.

Crack the interview, Get your US Visa, and pack your bags! Wasn’t that some major inspiration for you! Go ahead, gear up with the visa process, get your Visa approved, and start your study abroad journey!

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