Student Visas

Students who wish to pursue their studies in approved educational institutions in the US need to obtain appropriate categories of visas which are: F-1 (academic students), M-1 (vocational students) and J-1 (exchange students). F-1 and M-1 students must be accepted in a program approved through the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS), Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). J-1 students must be accepted in a program which has been approved by the Department of State (DHS).

These programs are available for secondary students as well as college/university students. After acceptance, prospective students generally will need to apply for a visa at the U.S. consulate abroad in order to enter the U.S. Some individuals who are in the U.S. may be eligible to apply to change their status to that of a student.

For more information, please see below:

STUDENT

VISA TYPE

Academic

F-1

Au pairs,  Professor, Scholar, Teacher (Exchange Visitor)

J-1

Vocational

M-1

 
 

F Visa Classification

The F-1 visa category is for academic students attending a university, college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory or other academic institutions, including a language training program. The student has to be accepted for enrollment (I-20) in an established school which is SEVP certified. Applicants must submit I-20 when they are applying for their student visa.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is designed to help the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State to monitor school and exchange programs and F, M and J category visitors. Exchange visitor and student information is maintained in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students (F and M visa), exchange visitors (J visa), and their dependents (F-2, M-2, and J-2). SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications via the Internet, to the DHS and Department of State (DOS) throughout a student or exchange visitor's stay in the United States.

An F-1 student visa is required if an applicant’s course of study is 18 hours or more a week or when traveling to the U.S. to attend seminars, conferences or a program of study for academic credit.

In cases where a student applies for visa more than 120 days prior to the start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold the application until it is able to issue the visa. Consular officials will use that extra time for application processing. All initial or beginning students should enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the course of study start/report date as shown on the Form I-20. A beginning student who wants an earlier entry into the U.S. (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), must qualify for, and obtain a visitor visa. A prospective student notation will be shown on his/her visitor visa and the traveler will need to make the intent to study clear to the U.S. immigration inspector at port of entry. Continuing students may apply for a new visa at any time, as long as they have been maintaining student status and their SEVIS records are current. Continuing students may also enter the U.S. at any time before their classes start.

Applicants for F-1 visa must demonstrate that they properly meet student visa requirements including acceptance at a school; sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of study; preparation for the course of study; and intention to leave the United States upon completion of the course of study. All applicants should be prepared to provide transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended; scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.; and financial evidence that shows sufficient funds to cover tuition and living expenses during the period of their intended study. Spouses and children (dependents) must provide proof of the student’s relationship (marriage and birth certificates) to obtain F-2 visa.

J Visa Classification

J-1 visa classification is for exchange visitors like professors or scholars, research assistants, students, trainees, teachers, specialists, nannies/au pairs and camp counselors etc. who intend to participate in an approved program for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying, observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special skills, receiving training, or to receive graduate medical education or training.

The exchange program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills, in the fields of education, arts, and science and is undertaken by exchange sponsors, usually public and private entities designated by Department of State. These entities provide Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status for an applicant to apply for J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. J-1 applicants may not enter the United States more than 30 days before the program begins. Employment is authorized for J-1 nonimmigrants only under the terms of the exchange program.  The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age, regardless of nationality, are entitled to J-2 classification and are entitled to work authorization. Their income cannot be used to support J-1 visa holder.

M Visa Classification

The M-1 visa category includes students in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training. The students may engage in practical training only after they have completed their studies. Any off-campus employment must be related to their area of study and must be authorized prior to starting any work by the Designated School Official (the person authorized to maintain Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)) and USCIS.