Documentation & Requirements

In general, those wishing to study in the United States require student F-1 or M-1 visas depending on whether the study is academic or vocational. One cannot use the Visa Waiver Program or other visitor visas to study in the United States. One can participate in recreational courses that cannot be applied towards degree progress while in the United States on a visitor visa or B-1 or B-2 visa.  

If you wish to attend a university or other academic institution in the United States, including primary and secondary school, or a language training program you will require an F-1 visa. Please note that F-1 visas cannot be issued to attend a public elementary school (grades K through 8, approximately ages 5 to 14) or publically funded adult education program such as foreign language classes.

While an F-1 can be issued to attend public secondary school (grades 9 through 12, approximately ages 14 to 18), students are limited to a maximum of 12 months of high school in F-1 status and must show proof that payment has been made for the full, unsubsidized cost of the education at the time they apply for the visa.  Private elementary or secondary schools are not affected by this ruling and provided the school issues you with the form I-20, you may apply for an F-1 visa.
 
Your spouse and children can accompany you to the United States during your studies as F-2 derivatives. You must file an I-20 form for each individual family member, though you do not have to pay the SEVIS fee for your family members. 

Requirements to Apply

Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:

  • The student must be enrolled in an academic education program, not a vocational-type program;
  • Educational institution must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
  • The student must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution;
  • The student must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency;
  • The student must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study; 
  • The student must maintain a residence abroad which he/she has no intention of giving up

Required Forms 

  • Form DS-160, 

Required Government Filing Fees

  • Fees - Pay the non-refundable visa application fee, if you are required to pay it before your interview. When your visa is approved, you may also pay a visa issuance fee, if applicable to your nationality.

Required Documentation

  • Passport valid of travel to the United State for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (though there are exceptions)
  • Non-Immigrant Visa Application
  • Bring the confirmation page with you to your consular interview 
  • Application fee payment receipt if you have already completed your payment prior to the interview 
  • Passport-style photo (can be uploaded with the DS-160, if that is not possible, you can bring one printed photo to the interview)
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant(F-1) Student Status For Academic and Language Students, Form I-20
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students, Form I-20

Recommended Documentation 

  • Academic documents
  • Transcripts
  • Diplomas
  • Degrees or certificate 
  • Evidence of intent to depart the United States after you complete your education 
  • Evidence of how you will pay educational, living, and travel costs 

The Process

There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you intend to apply. (Depend of the country).
 
You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview, generally, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. You may schedule your interview at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but be aware that it may be difficult to qualify for a visa outside of your place of permanent residence.
 
Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. Review the interview wait time for the location where you will apply:
 
When you apply for F-1 or M-1 status for the first time, the visa can be issued up to 120 days in advance of the start of your course of study. Though your visa can be issued up to 120 days in advance of this start date, you cannot enter the United States earlier than 30 days before your start date. Once approved, continuing students do not have the same restrictions on entry. Continuing students can renew their visas at any point, as long as they are still enrolled in the appropriate course of study and the SEVIS record is current. 

New Students – F-1 and M-1 student visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date. However, you will not be allowed to enter the United States in F-1 or M-1 status earlier than 30 days before your start date.
Continuing Students - May renew their visas at any time, as long as they have maintained student status and their SEVIS records are current. Continuing students may enter the United States at any time before their classes start.