Steps for Getting a Student Visa in the United States


Want to study in the United States? You’ll need to secure a student visa. 

There are three types of student visa. The first is the F-1 visa. This is the most common, the one that covers undergraduate and graduate students attending a college or a university in the United States. The vast majority of the visas we tend to help people with fall into this category. 

The M-1 visa is for vocational or trade school study programs.

The J-1 visa is for temporary foreign exchange visas. 

Each visa lasts as long as your program lasts. 

The first step is not to apply for a visa, however, it’s to apply for the school. You must apply to any school accepted into the Student Exchange and Visitor Program. Here in Philadelphia there are 260 such schools, including the University of Pennsylvania. You can use this site to search for the others. You’ll find art colleges, religious schools, business schools, and trade schools on the list along with other colleges and universities. 

Once you’re accepted, it’s a good idea to start talking with an immigration lawyer. After you pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System fee you’ll be asked to create your visa application. This is no simple form. Minor mistakes can delay your application and make it impossible to start classes at the beginning of your term. In addition, it will be important for you to provide the appropriate evidence. You don’t want USCIS coming back with an RFE, or request for evidence. Keep in mind you will have to demonstrate that you have the resources to meet your needs while you’re here in the United States. 

You will also eventually have to attend a visa interview, and it’s always wise to have a lawyer present when you do. This keeps immigration officers from asking some of the more outrageous “gotcha” questions and gives you access to on-site advice. There are ways this interview can go wrong, especially if the officer has reason to believe you don’t intend to return to your home country after your approved term of study.

Start early; an F-1 or M-1 visa can be issued up to 6 months in advance of your study date and you can enter the United States 30 days before your program starts. Starting as early as possible gives you the maximum amount of time to ensure you can get to class when you need to, and to find housing. 

Need help? Hoping to study in the United States? Contact us today. 

See also:

Can You Apply For a Green Card After an Overstay?

Converting an F-1 Visa to an H-1B Visa 

3 Immigration Mistakes to Avoid

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