If you are a student looking to study in the United States, you will need to apply for a student visa. The process of obtaining a student visa can seem daunting, but don’t worry! The Law Offices of Fadel A. Ibrahim, PLLC is here to help.

In this blog post, we will provide an overview of the student visa application process, as well as information on how long it takes to process a student visa, and how much it costs.

What is a US student visa?

A US student visa is a document that allows foreign students to enter the United States for the purpose of studying at an accredited school or university. The student must be enrolled in an approved program and be able to demonstrate the ability to pay for their tuition and living expenses during their stay in America.

Types of US Student Visas

The types of US student visas available depend on the individual’s educational goals. There are three types:

F-1 Visa

The most common type of student visa is an F-1 visa, which allows foreign students to pursue academic studies at accredited US institutions such as universities or colleges.

M-1 Visa

An M-1 visa is for students wanting to attend vocational or other nonacademic programs in the US.

J-1 Visa

A J-1 Visa is a type of non-immigrant visa issued to those traveling to the US temporarily for work, study, or cultural exchange. It allows foreign visitors to come to the US for a set period of time in order to participate in a wide variety of educational and cultural exchange programs.

Step-by-step Process of Applying for a Student Visa

Happy girl student holding backpack, book, notebook, passport and USA flag

Getting a US student visa can be a long and tedious process. It is best to hire an experienced immigration lawyer to help you along the way, so you will surely waste no money and resources.

They will also be able to assist you with the necessary requirements and maybe even speed up the 10-step process.

Step 1: Apply and Get Accepted to a US School

The first step to obtaining a US student visa is to apply and get accepted at an accredited school or university in the United States. In order to do so, students must find a school that meets their educational goals and interests, then complete the application process for admission. Depending on the school, this may involve taking entrance exams such as the SAT.

Step 2: Acquire Form I-20 or DS-2019 From Your School

Upon receiving an acceptance letter from a school in the United States, the applicant must then obtain a Form I-20 or DS-2019 from their school. Form I-20 is used to apply for an F-1 student visa, while the DS-2019 is used to apply for a J-1 exchange visitor visa.

Step 3: Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee

The I-901 SEVIS Fee is an important fee the United States government charges for all international students seeking to study in the US. The fee must be paid before the student can apply for their visa at the US consulate or embassy. The fee is roughly around $200 for F-1 and M-1 visas and $180 for J-1.

Step 4: Locate the Nearest US Embassy or Consulate

Locating the closest US Embassy or Consulate is a crucial step for any international student who wishes to apply for a visa. The nearest consulate or embassy can be found on the US Department of State’s website. Once you have determined your location, search for “US Embassy [your location]” or “US Consulate [your location].”

Step 5: Submit Form DS-160 Online

Form DS-160 is an important part of the visa application process for those who wish to study in the United States. The form must be completed and submitted online before you can schedule an appointment with a US Embassy or Consulate. Applicants must provide detailed information regarding their background, educational history, work experience, and any other relevant information.

Step 6: Schedule a Visa Interview

At the time of your visa interview, you will be required to provide certain documents to support your application. These documents may include proof of financial resources, evidence of your academic qualifications and transcripts, and a valid passport. If you are applying for an F-1 or M-1 student visa, you must also bring your Form I-20.

Step 7: Pay the Visa Application Fee

The fee to apply for a student visa is generally $160. This fee is non-refundable and must be paid before the visa application can be processed. Depending on the country, there may also be additional fees for processing or biometric services.

Step 8: Attend Your Visa Interview

Attending the visa interview is essential in the student visa application process. The interview is conducted by a consular officer at the US Embassy or Consulate. During the interview, the applicant will be required to provide information about their background and any other relevant details that may be asked.

Step 9: Pay the Visa Issuance Fee (If Necessary)

The visa issuance fee must be paid in order to obtain a student visa. It is a non-refundable processing fee, and the cost will depend on the type of visa being issued. For example, the fee for an F-1 student visa is around $220. This fee must be paid before the student visa can be issued.

Step 10: Obtain Your Visa

Once the visa interview is completed and all fees are paid, applicants will receive their visas. The visa will be placed in the applicant’s passport and it is valid for up to 10 years. This allows the student to travel to the US multiple times during this period. Upon entry into the US, students will be issued a Form I-20.

US Student Visa Requirements

There are several requirements to be able to get a US student visa.

These include:

  • Certificate of Eligibility for nonimmigrant students (I-20)
  • Receipt from your SEVIS fee
  • Receipt from the online visa form (DS-160) for a non-immigrant student
  • Passport with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States
  • Any old passports you may have
  • Documents that prove your financial situation or any financial support you will have during your studies
  • Two recent color photos of yourself, one physical, one digital. These must also meet US immigration’s image requirements
  • Transcripts, test scores, qualifications, or certificates from schools you have attended

Where to apply for an F-1 visa?

Building of the Embassy of the United States of America in Russia, Moscow

The first step in applying for an F-1 visa is to contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. The applicant must then fill out Form DS-160, which is an online application form available on the US Department of State website. This form must be thoroughly filled out and all questions answered accurately. The applicant should also pay attention to the application deadlines, as they may vary from one Embassy or Consulate to another.

When to apply for an F-1 visa?

The best time to apply for an F-1 visa is as early as possible, ideally between three and six months before the planned program start date. This allows sufficient time for processing all documents, payment of any necessary fees, scheduling the interview at the US Embassy or Consulate, and printing or delivery of the visa.

What to expect at your F-1 visa interview?

At an F-1 visa interview, the applicant will be asked a series of questions that are designed to assess their eligibility for an F-1 student visa. The consular officer will ask the applicant to demonstrate that they have strong ties to their home country, as well as sufficient financial resources to support themselves during their studies in the US.

How long does it take to get a student visa?

The process of obtaining a student visa can take anywhere from two to four months, depending on the individual circumstances. The total amount of time can be broken down into three stages: preparation, application, and processing.

Stage 1: Preparation

This stage involves collecting all the documents and financial resources needed for the application process, as well as understanding the requirements and instructions for an F-1 visa.

Stage 2: Application

This stage involves completing the online application form (DS-160), paying the associated fees, and scheduling an appointment at a US Embassy or Consulate.

Stage 3: Processing

Once all of the necessary documents are submitted, the visa processing time typically takes between two to four weeks. During this period, applicants will receive updates on their status via email or text message. Once approved, applicants will receive their student visa in the mail or can pick it up at a designated location.

When applying for a student visa, it is important to be patient and allow sufficient time for processing. Following these steps correctly and being honest during your interview will help make the visa process as smooth and efficient as possible.

What is the duration of a student visa?

F-1 Visa on a USA flag background

The duration of a US student visa is generally valid for the length of the student’s program. Depending on the individual program, it can be anywhere from a few months to several years. Typically, student visas are issued for one year and must be renewed every year until the completion of the program. In some cases, students may be granted an extended stay of up to four years.

What to do if you are declined for an F-1 visa?

If a student’s F-1 visa application is denied, the applicant should review their application and any supporting documents to determine what led to the denial. It is important to take into consideration the reasons given by the consular officer when deciding how to proceed.

The applicant may choose to reapply for another visa if they are able to address the reasons for the denial. This may involve demonstrating financial resources, updating documents such as transcripts or diplomas, or obtaining a new study program in the US. Alternatively, they may choose to pursue another form of visas such as an exchange visitor or work visa.

Get Help from the Immigration Experts

Obtaining a student visa can seem overwhelming and intimidating, but following these steps, hiring an immigration lawyer, and being honest with the consular officer will help make the process as smooth as possible. The duration of the visa is typically valid for the length of the student’s program, and it can be renewed every year until completion.

No matter what your circumstances are, there are many other options for studying in the United States and gaining valuable experience. Speak to an experienced immigration lawyer from the Law Offices of Fadel A. Ibrahim, PLLC for more guidance.

Last updated on January 11, 2023