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HomeStudy AbroadUSAStudying in the United States of America: Understanding Student Visas & Permits

Studying in the United States of America: Understanding Student Visas & Permits


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To pursue education in the United States, obtaining a visa is a mandatory requirement.

The American visa system has rigorous policies in place, necessitating careful consideration to obtain the appropriate visa type tailored to your specific requirements. Failure to do so will result in being denied entry into the country.

There are three distinct categories of study visas available: F visa, M visa, and B visa.

For those intending on pursuing overseas education in the United States of America, an F visa is usually the most appropriate option. F visas cover a wide range of short-term and long-term courses, as well as language training programs. The visa is typically valid for the duration of the program. However, upon completion of the program, the visa holder must depart the United States within sixty days.

M visas are designed for vocational training programs, but they do not cover language programs. Additionally, non-academic study programs such as unpaid internships or placements are also eligible for M visas.

B visas are intended for individuals taking short courses. For instance, if someone is traveling to the United States for a two- or three-week English-language course, a B visa may be the most appropriate visa type to obtain.

Interview at a US Embassy

The three study visa types mentioned earlier have several common requirements. Foremost, the educational institution where the applicant intends to study must be registered with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The school must then provide the applicant with an I-20 form, which must match the information on their ID documents. Additionally, the applicant must pay the I-20 fee and produce the receipt during the application process.

Once the applicant has obtained the I-20 form, receipt, proof of enrollment, passport, and two passport-sized photos, they should complete the DS-160 application form online, available here. After submitting the form, they should print the confirmation of completion and bring it to the visa interview. The applicant should schedule the interview appointment online at the nearest American embassy or consulate authorized to process visa applications. Note that the waiting time for an appointment can sometimes exceed one week.

During the visa interview appointment, the applicant will be required to pay the visa processing fee, which may vary depending on their citizenship but is typically around $160. Regardless of whether the visa is granted or not, the applicant must arrange for the return of their passport. In this article, one of our contributors provides guidance on how to succeed at the interview. 

In some instances, additional documentation such as academic transcripts may be necessary, and the applicant will be informed prior to the interview.

It is important to note that studying in the United States is not permissible under a visitor visa or the Visa Waiver Program.

Nystrom Pernilla
Nystrom Pernilla
Pernilla is a certified Educational and Travel Advisor with over 20 years experience and providing his services in 36 countries across 5 continents.


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