Getting a visa

Most non-U.S. citizens who wish to study in the United States will apply for an F-1 (non-immigrant) student visa, but there are other visa types that are sometimes authorized for those who study in the U.S. The different types of visas that involve any form of study are as follows:

  • F-1, or Student Visa: This visa is the most common for those who wish to study in the United States. It is for people who want to study at an accredited U.S. college or university.
  • J-1, or Exchange Visitor: This visa is for people who will be participating in an exchange visitor program in the U.S. The "J" visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs.
  • M-1, or Student Visa: This visa is for those who will be engaged in non-academic or vocational study or training at an institution in the U.S.

- EducationUSA

Key Points to keep in mind when applying for a visa

An F-1 visa applicant must be already accepted into an accredited educational institution as a full-time student. Students must also prove they are able to fully pay their tuition and living expenses.

In order to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, you must first have a SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)-generated document (either an I-20 or DS-2019) issued by a U.S. college or university or Department of State-designated sponsor organization.

  • You will be required to submit this form when you apply for a visa.
  • Paying the SEVIS fee
  • Paying the visa processing fee
  • Making an appointment for the interview process

Planning Ahead

One of the most important things you can do to ensure that you will be able to arrive in time for the start of your educational program in the United States is to plan well in advance, not only for the academic portion of your U.S. program, but also for the visa process. This means you will need to request and receive the appropriate visa-qualifying document (either an I-20 or DS-2019) from the U.S. institution or program sponsor well in advance of your planned departure to the United States. You will also need to make an appointment for your visa interview. Please visit to find out how long it may take to get an appointment.

Key Information about Visas and Entering the United States

There are two additional pieces of information that are useful to know:

  • The U.S.Embassy/Consulate cannot issue a visa more than 120 days before the actual start of the program in the United States.
  • Second, even if you have been issued a visa to enter the United States, you will not be allowed to enter the country more than 30 days before the start of your program, if you are an initial entry student

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