Qualifying for a Student Visa
Immigration regulations are very specific about requirements that must be met by applicants to qualify for the student visa. The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa. Applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet student visa requirements, including:
- Have a residence abroad, with no immediate intention of abandoning that residence;
- Intend to depart from the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
- Possess sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of study.
When Do I Need to Apply for My Student Visa?
Students are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Embassies and consulates are able to issue your student visa in 120 days or less in advance of the course of study registration date.
All initial or beginning students cannot enter the U.S. until 30 days or less before the report date as shown on the I-20 form.
Applying for a Student Visa
An interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14-79. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged.
- Visa wait times for each U.S. embassy or consulate are available on the www.travel.state.gov website and on most embassy websites.
- Visit the embassy or consulate website where you will apply. There, you can learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, and review embassy specific instructions.
Usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Remember that each student’s personal and academic situation is different; two students applying for same visa may be asked different questions and be required to submit different additional documents.
Each applicant for a student visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:
- A SEVIS generated Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school. You and your school official must sign the I-20 form.
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with an expiration date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended departure from the United States
- One (1) 2 x 2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in Photograph Requirements
- An MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee
- The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt. More information on the SEVIS fee may be found here.
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.;
- Financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you has sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study.
No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. The purchase of non-refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
Entering the U.S. - Port of Entry
A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the United States port of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States.
Student visitors must have their Form I-20 in their possession each time they enter the U.S. In the past, the Form I-94 (DHS Arrival/Departure Record) was issued to visitors who were granted entry to the United States and a CBP officer would attach the I-94 card to the visitor’s passport. Recently, CBP has automated the entry/exit process at air and sea ports of entry. The paper form will no longer be provided upon arrival, except in limited circumstances. Upon entry, a CBP officer will place an admission stamp in the student's passport. A hard copy of the I-94 (record of admission) can be obtained from www.cbp.gov/I94.
For more information about the I-94 Automation process, please visit http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/i94-fact-sheet.pdf.
This information is adapted from http://travel.state.gov, which you may visit for more information.