If you wish to pursue education in the United States, obtaining a visa is mandatory. The American visa system has strict policies in place, requiring careful consideration to obtain the appropriate visa type that meets your specific requirements. Failure to do so will result in being denied entry into the country.
Three distinct categories of study visas available
- F-1 Visa: This visa is for international students who wish to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs at a US college or university. It is the most common type of student visa and is required for most academic programs.
- J-1 Visa: This visa is for individuals who participate in exchange programs that promote cultural exchange, such as study abroad programs, research programs, or internships. The J-1 visa is also used for individuals who participate in specialized training programs.
- M-1 Visa: This visa is for international students who wish to pursue vocational or non-academic studies at a US institution, such as technical or vocational schools. The M-1 visa is required for students who plan to pursue a course of study that is not principally academic in nature.
When considering pursuing education in the United States, the F visa is usually the most appropriate option, as it covers a wide range of short-term and long-term courses, as well as language training programs. This visa is typically valid for the duration of the program, but after completion of the program, the visa holder must depart the United States within sixty days.
M visas are designed specifically for vocational training programs but do not cover language programs. Non-academic study programs, such as unpaid internships or placements, are also eligible for M visas.
For individuals taking short courses, B visas are intended, such as those traveling to the United States for a two- or three-week English-language course, as it may be the most appropriate visa type to obtain.
There are certain common requirements for the three study visa types discussed earlier. First and foremost, the educational institution where the applicant intends to study must be registered with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Once the school has completed this registration, it must provide the applicant with an I-20 form that matches the information on their ID documents. In addition, the applicant must pay the I-20 fee and provide the receipt during the application process.
After obtaining the I-20 form, receipt, proof of enrollment, passport, and two passport-sized photos, the applicant must complete the DS-160 application form online. The form is available here, and upon submission, the applicant should print the confirmation of completion and bring it to the visa interview. The applicant must schedule the interview appointment online at the nearest American embassy or consulate authorized to process visa applications, keeping in mind that waiting times for appointments can exceed one week.
During the visa interview, the applicant must pay the visa processing fee, which varies 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. It is worth noting that additional documentation, such as academic transcripts, may be necessary in some cases, and the applicant will be informed prior to the interview.
It is essential to remember that studying in the United States is not permitted under a visitor visa or the Visa Waiver Program. To succeed at the interview, one of our contributors has provided guidance in this article.
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