The United States of America remains to be one of the top international student destinations in the world in spite of the recent controversial measures regarding student visa restrictions. It offers unparalleled scope for students from every stream to study and excel in their selected fields.

Every year, innumerable international students apply to the top schools of the USA to study full-time. However, to attend school in the States, you need more than just brilliant grades- you need a student visa to the USA. Unfortunately, the process of obtaining a visa can be quite complicated. Hence, here to help.

If you are one of those international students out there who are striving to get your hands on all crucial information regarding international student visa to the USA, then stop looking far and wide. In this well-detailed guide, we will walk you over the fundamentals you should know at the back of your head to get a student visa in the USA. If you want to turn around your situation and have a hassle-free phenomenal experience, then reading this blog would surely put you miles ahead.

USA Student Visa: A Brief Overview

Now, before learning “Is student visa an immigrant visa?” it is essential to comprehend and develop a deeper understanding of what a student visa actually is.

The student visa is for students looking to travel to a foreign country to pursue higher education. Now, to attend school in the US legally, every international applicant- those without US citizenship or permanent residence- should first acquire a US student visa. This document helps you temporarily reside in the US to attend an approved school, academic exchange program or language program.

Once you complete your program, your student visa tothe USA ends. During that time, you must depart the US.

Types Of Student Visa For USA

The US Government provides a brilliant opportunity to every student who aims to pursue higher education in the country. But as a prerequisite, you will have to acquire a student visa first. Here’s an overview of different student visa types granted by the United States government-

  • F1 Visa

The F1 student visa is the most common type of student visa. It’s offered to students attending an academic or English language program. To maintain the legal F1 visa status, students should be enrolled full-time. They can also work for up to 20 hours a week. After completing school, F1 visa holders can also work on OPT (Optional Practical Training). They must complete their study tenure by the expiration date mentioned on their Form I-20 or Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Student Status. An F1 visa can be granted to students wishing to attend high school (from grade nine to twelve).

  • J1 Visa

The J1 student visa is akin to the F1 visa. It helps international students in receiving their practical training. Most of the applicants are foreign exchange students. Employment opportunities for J1 visa holders are similar to the F1, only if they get employment permission from an exchange visitor program sponsor.

  • M1 Visa

An M1 student visa is issued to an international student who is going to attend a vocational or non-academic school. These visa holders are not permitted to work during the course of their studies. Further, they should have evidence that sufficient funds are available immediately to pay all living and tuition costs for the entire period of intended stay.

Student Visa USA Requirements

Each country in the world, depending on their Immigration laws have a specific list of documents. When applying for a student visa for the US, you would generally need-

General Student Visa USA Requirements

  • A valid passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your stay period in the US (unless exempted by country-specific agreements).
  • Application fee payment for the SEVIS
  • Non-immigrant visa application and the Form DS-160 confirmation page
  • Your photograph in the specified format and number

Some additional documents that might be required include-

  • Evidence that you have adequate funds to maintain your living expenses throughout the period of your stay in the US. This may incorporate- bank Statements, financial undertaking by a sponsor to cover your accommodation and living costs, and a scholarship program
  • Evidence that you would leave the US once you complete your study tenure. This can be also in the form of an air ticket out of the US to your home country.

You may also have to appear for a personal interview at the US consulate.

Student Visa Educational Qualifications Requirements

  • Form I-20 and acceptance at a SEVP approved school
  • Academic preparation documents like transcripts, degrees, diplomas, or certificates required
  • Applicants also need to have documents based on each school’s academic requirements like GPA. They should also have test scores from the GMAT, TOEFL, LSAT, GRE, SAT, or ACT handy. 

Student Visa Medical Requirements

Student visa applicants might also have to demonstrate proof of medical insurance to cover any medical expenses during their studies. If you do not have medical insurance from your home country, make sure to research options in the US.

What Is The Student Visa Application Process For USA?

Now, that you are well-versed with the basic items you need to have ready, let’s walk you through the student visa application process for the USA, one step at a time-

  1. Get Accepted To A US School

The first and foremost step is to apply (and eventually get admission) in the US school of your preference. Most schools typically send out admission notifications around March and April that are to be submitted by December or January every year. Remember, the schools you apply to should be approved by SEVP. To find aSEVP-approved school or confirm the schools you have selected are certified by SEVP, you can also make use of the SEVP school search tool.

  1. Avail Form I-20 or DS-2019

Once you get admission in the school, you would get two student visa application forms- F-1 and M-1 students would receive Form I-20, and J-1 students would receive Form DS-2019. The form would be mailed by the school to you. This form would be required in your visa interview.

  1. Make The Payment of I-901 SEVIS Fee

Go online and pay the I-901 SEVIS fee once you have received the accurate form from your school. Note the fee is 200 USD for F-1/M-1 students and 180 USD for J-1 students. Most students can make the payment of this fee online by credit card (with the exception of Cameroon, Ghana, Gambia, Nigeria, or Kenya). The I-901 SEVIS fee is completely different from your visa application fee. Once you have made the payment, make sure to print out the confirmation page as you would need to bring it to the student visa interview.

  1. Look For Your Nearest US Embassy or Consulate

It is crucial to apply for your international student visa through the nearest US embassy or consulate. Know that the US student visa processes may be slightly different based on the embassy through which you apply.

  1. Fill Out The DS-160 Form Online

Next, complete filling out the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, also popularly known as the Form DS-160. On this application, you also need to choose the US embassy at which you aim to interview for your visa. Note that you must fill out the entire form in English. Print out the confirmation page to bring to your visa interview.

  1. Schedule The Visa Interview

Once you have submitted the form, contact your nearest or the one mentioned on your form US embassy or consulate to schedule the visa interview. Wait times for the interviews may be different in different embassies.

  1. Pay Your Application Fees

Next, make the payment of 160 USD application fee. This fee is the same price irrespective of your country origin and where you apply. Remember that when you pay this fee would vary depending on your embassy.

  1. Attend Your Visa Interview

The final big step in the visa process in the interview. This interview would make the decision as to whether you would receive the US student visa or not. Before attending the interview, gather all the documents we have mentioned above. You would undergo a security check and asked to give digital ink-free fingerprints usually right after you arrive at the interview. Remember to state clearly that you do not intend to remain in the US once you complete your program.

  1. Make Visa Issuance Fee Payment (If Necessary)

Some students should pay a visa issuance fee once they are approved for the US student visa. Whether you need to pay or not the fee depends greatly on the nationality and your country’s reciprocity agreement with the US.

  1. Receive The Visa

Once you have finished all of the steps above and have received approval for a student visa to the US, your embassy would return your passport to you with your new visa in it.

What Are The USA Student Work Restrictions?

The Department of Homeland Security states four ways for international students to legally work in the US on an F1 student visa-

  1. On-Campus Employment

On-campus student visa employment is available to F1 students freely. This refers to the work that takes place on or at an ‘educationally affiliated off-campus location.” So in simple words, you could work somewhere on your school’s campus such as a library, bookstore, dorm, or cafeteria. This is the only kind of employment you can pursue starting in your first academic year. Work hours are limited to 20 hours per week while the school is in session.

  1. Off-Campus Employment

As per the work permit on student visa USA,jobs outside the school campus are only available to international students who have completed one full academic year. They should also have a qualifying economic hardship or an emergent circumstance. To apply for off-campus employment, one needs to contact his/her Designated School Official (DSO). He/she must approve the reason. Also, he/she should recommend off-campus employment as the initial part of the application process.

  1. Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

CPT should be a part of your school curriculum. Unlike other employment categories, it can be full time with no weekly hour limit. You can also avail more than one CPT authorization at the same time.

  1. Optional Practical Training (OPT)

OPT signifies temporary employment relating to your field of study. Like working at news the station would qualify if you are pursuing journalism. Eligible students can receive up to 12 months of OPT employment. In pre-completion OPT, you can work up to 20 hours a week when school is in session or full time while it is not. This option becomes available once you have completed one full academic year at a US college or university. In the post-completion OPT, you can work either part-time or full-time. This option can be availed only after completing the studies.

Finally, remember, if you are considering running your own side gig like turning your dorm room into a small restaurant, then the US government views this as a job. To make it legal, you have to apply for OPT or change student visa to work visa in the USA.

Wrapping Up,

While applying for a student visa to the US can give students a difficult time, this comprehensive blog could be the answer to it all. With this lucid guide at hand, you can sail through the application process of US student visa like a champion. Take the help of this comprehensive guide, keep all the crucial information in mind and implement all the steps to live your dream of pursuing higher studies in foreign universities of the US successfully. Here’s wishing all the luck!