US Student Visa: A Comprehensive Guide for International Students

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Prodigy Finance - October, 09 2023

8 min read

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At Prodigy Finance, we're committed to helping international talent to achieve their education dreams. We offer international student loans to qualified individuals attending top master's programmes in the US.

Many international students cherish studying in the US to access world-class education and diverse academic opportunities. The process, though, begins with clearly understanding the US student visa process.

A US student visa marks the achievement of a significant milestone on your journey to studying in the United States. By understanding US student visa requirements, the process to obtain it, and the relevant information outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can confidently navigate the visa application process.

Start early, gather all necessary documents, and seek your educational institution’s assistance or of the US embassy/consulate if required.

Studying in the US opens up a world of opportunities for personal growth, academic excellence, and career advancement. Good luck on your academic journey!

Types of Visa for the US
Different types of US visas are available for individuals seeking to travel to the United States for various purposes.

  • The B-1 Visa or Business Visitor visa is for individuals visiting the US for business-related activities, such as attending meetings, conferences, or negotiating contracts.
  • The B-2 Visa or Tourist Visitor visa is for individuals travelling to the US as tourists on vacation, or to visit family and friends.
  • The J-1 Visa or Exchange Visitor visa is for those who intend to participate in an approved exchange programme such as studying, researching, or cultural exchange activities.
  • The H-1B Visa or Temporary Worker visa is for individuals with specialised knowledge or skills with a job offer from a US-based employer. This visa is commonly used in fields such as engineering, IT, and healthcare.
  • The L-1 Visa or Intracompany Transferee visa enables employees of multinational companies to be transferred to the US branch or subsidiary of their employer.
  • The O-1 Visa or Extraordinary Ability visa is for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the fields of sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
  • The E-2 Visa or Treaty Investor visa is for individuals who have made substantial investments in a US business and are visiting to develop and direct operations.
  • The K-1 Visa or Fiancé/Fiancée visa applies to individuals who are engaged to be married to a US citizen. This visa allows the applicant to enter the US for the marriage and can be subsequently used to apply for permanent residency.

The Diversity Visa or Green Card Lottery programme randomly selects individuals from countries with low immigration rates to receive a permanent residency visa, popularly known as the Green Card.

US Student visa: types & requirements

Student visas to the US are of different types as well, each designed for specific educational programmes. The most common visa categories include:

  • F-1 Visa: This visa is for academic studies at a US college, university, or language school.
  • J-1 Visa: This is designed for exchange programmes, including research scholars, professors, and students participating in cultural exchange programmes.
  • M-1 Visa: Applicable to vocational or non-academic studies at an approved institution.

Student visa prerequisites

Certain prerequisites must be met to qualify for a US student visa. These include receiving an acceptance letter from a recognised US educational institution, demonstrating sufficient financial capability to cover expenses, and expressing a genuine intent to return to your home country upon completing your studies.

US student visa eligibility

To be eligible for a US student visa, you must enrol in a full-time academic programme, possess adequate academic qualifications and language proficiency, demonstrate ties to your home country, and provide proof of financial support for tuition and living expenses.

  • Full-time enrolment: Enrol in a full-time academic programme at an accredited US institution.
  • Academic qualifications: Demonstrate adequate academic qualifications and language proficiency.
  • Ties to home country: Establish strong ties to your home country in terms of family, property, or employment.
  • Financial support: Provide evidence of having sufficient funds to cover tuition and living expenses.

Documents required for US Student Visa

The application process requires several essential documents, such as a Form I-20 issued by the educational institution, a completed nonimmigrant visa application (Form DS-160), a valid passport, financial documents to prove your ability to cover expenses, a SEVIS fee receipt, academic transcripts, test scores, and a letter of admission from the US institution.

  • Form I-20: This is the Certificate of Eligibility issued by the educational institution.
  • Form DS-160: Complete the nonimmigrant visa application online.
  • Valid passport: Ensure your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended stay in the US.
  • Financial documents: Provide proof of financial capability to cover tuition and living expenses.
  • SEVIS fee receipt: Pay the SEVIS fee and obtain the receipt.
  • Academic transcripts and diplomas: Submit official transcripts from your previous educational institutions.
  • Standardised test scores: Include scores from tests such as TOEFL or IELTS.
    Letter of admission: Submit the letter of admission from the US educational institution.

US Student Visa Application Process

The US student visa application process involves completing the online visa application (Form DS-160), paying the visa application fee, scheduling and attending a visa interview at the US embassy or consulate, and providing the required documents and answering interview questions.

  • Complete the online visa application (Form DS-160) and pay the application fee.
  • Schedule and attend a visa interview at the US embassy or consulate.
  • Gather the required documents and answer interview questions with confidence.
  • Pay the SEVIS fee and obtain the receipt for the visa interview.

Have a clear understanding of the various components involved when considering the cost of a student visa to the US. The US student visa cost includes fees such as the SEVIS fee and visa processing fee.

The visa application fee is referred to as the SEVIS fee (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). The SEVIS fee for an F-1 visa is $350. Further, there is a visa processing fee that must be paid when submitting your visa application. The specific fee amount may vary depending on the country from which you are applying. Visit the official website of the US embassy or consulate in your home country to obtain accurate fee information. The application or MRV fee for applying for an F-1 visa from India is $160.

Again, optional fees may be associated with specific services related to the visa application process. These additional fees can include expedited processing or visa application centre services. The availability and cost of these optional services depend on your individual circumstances and preferences.

Where to apply for your US Student Visa

To apply for a US student visa, you must visit the US embassy or consulate in your home country. Remember to collect the necessary information and contact details of the nearest embassy or consulate.

When to Apply for your US Student Visa

Application should be timely. To allow sufficient time for visa processing, it is strongly recommended to immediately start the application process upon receiving your acceptance letter.

US Student Visa processing time

The average processing time varies, but it is important to anticipate potential delays. Factors such as the time of year, embassy workload, and individual circumstances can impact processing times.

Types of courses valid under US Student Visa

International students can pursue various types of courses under the US student visa, including academic programmes at universities and colleges, vocational and technical programmes, and language programmes.

  • Undergraduate degrees: Bachelor's programmes in various disciplines.
  • Graduate degrees: Master's and doctoral programmes.
  • English language programmes: Intensive English language courses.
  • Vocational programmes: Technical and vocational courses.
  • Exchange programmes: Study abroad opportunities.

US Student dependent visa

Certain dependent visa options are available if you have plans to take your family along. Understand the eligibility criteria and required documentation to ensure a smooth visa application process for your dependents.
If you have dependents such as a spouse or children who wish to accompany you during your studies in the US, they can apply for a dependent visa, such as an F-2 or J-2 visa. As the process and requirements may vary, consult the US embassy or consulate for detailed information.

FAQs: US student visa

Q1. How do I check the status of my US student visa application?
You can visit the website of the Department of State's Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). Enter your application ID and date of birth to access the status information. Do keep in mind that visa processing times can vary; hence, periodically check the status and allow sufficient time for your application to get processed.

Q2. Are there any scholarships to study in the US?
Yes, international students can avail numerous scholarships to study in the US. The scholarships can help offset tuition costs, living expenses, and other educational needs. Some popular scholarships for international students include:

  • Fulbright Scholarships: Offered by the US government for graduate-level study, research, and teaching assistantships.
  • Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program: Provides opportunities for mid-career professionals to engage in non-degree academic study and professional development.
  • Rotary Foundation Global Grants: Funded by the Rotary Foundation to support international graduate-level study and research.
  • University-Specific Scholarships: Many US universities offer scholarships and financial aid programmes specifically for international students. These can vary in eligibility criteria, application process, and award amounts. It is recommended to research and directly contact the universities you are interested in for more information on available scholarships.

Q3. What are the financial requirements for a US student visa?
You must demonstrate your ability to cover the cost of your education and living expenses in the US. The specific financial requirements may vary depending on the institution, programme, and location. Generally, you will need to provide evidence of:

  • Sufficient funds to cover tuition fees for the duration of your programme.
  • Adequate financial resources to support your living expenses, including accommodation, meals, transportation, and healthcare.
  • Proof of health insurance coverage during your stay in the US.
  • Documentation of any scholarships, grants, or financial aid you have been awarded.
  • Bank statements, sponsorship letters, or other financial documents to substantiate your financial capability.

Q4. Can international students work part-time in the US?
Students studying on an F-1 visa are generally allowed to work part-time on-campus during their academic programme. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows F-1 students to work on-campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students can work full-time during official school breaks and holidays. Off-campus work options are generally more limited and require additional authorisation, such as through Optional Practical Training (OPT) programmes.

Financing your education in the US as an international student

This requires careful planning and consideration. Explore financial options such as scholarships, grants, loans, and personal funds. Start early to secure financial aid and scholarships, and be aware of the importance of financial planning.

  • Scholarships: Explore merit-based scholarships offered by universities, government organisations, and private foundations.
  • Grants: Research grants available for specific fields of study or research projects.
  • Loans: Apply for education loans specifically designed for international students, such as those offered by Prodigy Finance.
  • Work opportunities: Explore on-campus part-time job options to supplement your finances.
  • Sponsorship: Seek financial support from your government, organisations, or family members.
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