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U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs Visa Services
Student Visas Students are Encouraged to Apply Early
Student Applicants (for F-1 and M-1 visas) - Overview
If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study of less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so do so on a tourist visa. You should inquire at the appropriateU.S.Embassy or Consulate.
If your course of study is more than 18 hours a week, you will need a student visa. Please read this information for general information on how to apply for an F1 or M1 student visa. For additional student related information, select Guide to U.S Higher Education to visit the Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs website to learn about
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 bassy 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.
Changes introduced shortly after September 11, 2001 involve extensive and ongoing review of visa issuing practices as they relate to our national security. It is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.
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.
The consular officer may need to get special clearances depending on the course of study and nationality of the student. This can take some additional time. For more information on applicants who may have additional processing requirements see Special Processing Requirements.
Students should note that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue your student visa 90 days or less, in advance of the course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa more than 90 days prior to your start date or egistration 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 to accomplish any of the necessary special clearances or other processes that may be required.
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 student who wants to an earlier entry in 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 traveler 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 a change of classification, filing Form I-506, Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status, and also submit the required Form I-20 to the Department of Homeland Security office where the application is made. Please be aware that there is an additional fee of $140 for this process, and that one may not begin studies until the change of
What is Needed to Apply for a Student Visa?
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.
All applicants for a student visa must provide: A Form I-20 obtained from a U.S. college, school or university. Please be
An application 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 aparent's passport. The DS-156 must be the February 2003 date, either the electronic "e-form application" or the non-electronic version. Select Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156 to access both versions of the DS-156. You may also check with the Embassy Consular Section where you will apply to determine if the hard-copy blank DS-156 form is available,
A passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States; One (1) 2x2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in nonimmigrant photograph requirements.
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, 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
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. What Items Does a Returning Student Need?
All applicants applying for renewals must submit: A passport valid for at least six months; An application 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
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; A new I-20 or an I-20 that has been endorsed on the back by a school official within the past 12 months;
All applicants applying for renewals should be prepared to submit: A certified copy of your grades from the school in which you are enrolled; Financial documents from you or your sponsor, showing your ability to cover the cost of your schooling.
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
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
As an example regarding duration of status, 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
There are certain restrictions on attending public school in the U.S. Persons who violate these restrictions may not receive another visa for a period of five years.
The restrictions apply only to students holding F-1 visas. They do not apply to students attending public school on derivative visas, such as F-2, J-2 or H-4 visas. The restrictions also do not apply to students attending private schools on F-1 visas. The restrictions are:
Students who attend public high schools in the U.S. are limited to twelve months of study. Public school attendance in the U.S. prior to November 30, 1996 does not count toward this limit. F-1 visas can no longer be issued to attend public elementary or middle schools(Kindergarten - 8th grade) or publicly-funded adult education programs.
Before an F-1 visa for a public school can be issued, the student must show that the public school in the U.S. has been reimbursed for the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of the education as calculated by the school. Reimbursement may be indicated on the I-20. Consular officers may request copies of canceled checks and/or receipts confirming the payment as needed.