This page will talk about:
- Types of student visas
- Applying for a student visa
- Tips on applying for a student visa
- The visa interview – what to expect and how to prepare
- Common misunderstandings about the student visa process
- Useful links for more information
Foreign students are welcomed to study in the United States because:
- They contribute to and diversify US culture
- They tend to become involved in leadership positions in their home country due to their experience and understanding of American culture
Types of student visas
There are generally 3 types of student visas:
- F visa: This is the “traditional” student visa. The F visa is suitable for students seeking language training in an ESL program such as Academia’s. This school is authorized under federal law to enroll nonimmigrant alien students.
- M visa: This is a vocational student visa. This visa is suitable for students seeking specialized programs like culinary art, pilot training etc.
- J visa: This is the exchange visitor visa, usually suitable for professors, or students in PhD level, and research scholars.
For more details on types of visas, visit US Immigration, Customs and Enforcement’s website at the link below: What are the nonimmigrant categories for students?
Applying for a student visa
Please visit this link below to learn the specific steps involved in applying for a student visa:
Overview of the Steps to Become an F or M Nonimmigrant Student
The visa interview – what to expect and how to prepare
There are 3 factors that visa officers consider when deciding whether to grant a visa:
- Are you a credible student?
- Do you intend to return to your home country after your course of study?
- Are you financially stable and able to cover the entire cost of your course of study?
1. To show that you are a credible student, you may want to show documents such as your acceptance letter from your school, recommendation letters, SEVIS fee receipts, and financial documents. You should prepare to clearly explain your plans. Be sure you can:
- Explain your choice of program. Why do you want to study English?
- Why did you pick this school?
- Why do you think this school is a good fit for you?
2. Remember at the visa interview that the visa officers need to see that your intention of applying for the STUDENT visa is to STUDY. Be sure you can express your plans after your studies. A majority of students express their intention of studying in US will lead to better jobs when they go back home. This is an example of good reason.
Here are few more tips to remember:
- Answer all questions clearly and honestly.
- If you do not have an answer, let the officer know.
- If you did not understand the question, do not be afraid to ask twice.
- Do not say you are planning to stay in the US and don’t want to go back home. If this is your reason, you should not be applying for a student visa.
3. To show financial stability, be sure you can show history of a stable income. For example, if your parents are supporting you, then you can bring your parents’ salary pay stubs. Or if you have a savings account with deposits made regularly, that would be better than a bank statement with a large sum of money deposited just few days before your interview (a warning sign to immigration officials).
Additionally, visa officers will be looking at the financial information recorded on the I-20.
Tips on applying for a student visa
- Do not wait until the last minute to apply for a student visa!
- Prepare for the visa interview by thinking through your answers to the three questions above.
- Student visas have priority over other visas. If a student is in need of a visa appointment yet cannot make the appointment in time for the program start date, contact the embassy for an expedited interview.
A common misunderstanding is that it is very hard to get a student visa and the odds are not in a student’s favor. This is not true. While the U.S. embassies do not release any official data on the subject, they have indicated the acceptance rate is much higher than most people assume.
Another common misunderstanding about the visa interview is that the visa officers look at the university ranking and weigh this factor in their decision. This is not the case. Instead, they will be looking for a good reason why you want to go to that school and how well you demonstrate that you have strong ties to your home country and will return home after you finish your program.
Even if you are rejected the first time you apply, you can try again. You do not have to wait to reapply for the visa. However, the embassy needs to see a change in your situation for which you were denied the visa. For example, the most common reason of visa denial is lack of ties to your home country. This means that the visa officer feels you will not be leaving the US after your studies. If you can prove with new documents or in any other way that you have strong ties to your home country then you could consider reapplying for a visa.