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How to Apply for a Student Visa

The U.S. government provides two different types of visas to study in the U.S. - the F-1 visa, for academic studies, and the M-1 visa, for non-academic or vocational studies. In order to apply for a student visa one must already be accepted for a full course of study by an educational institution approved by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Where to Apply for a Student Visa:

Applicants for student visas should generally apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. Changes introduced shortly after September 11, 2001 involve extensive and ongoing review of visa issuing practices as they relate to national security. It is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.

Required Documents:

Each applicant for a student visa must pay a nonrefundable US$45 application fee and submit:

1. An application Form OF-156, completed and signed.

  • Blank OF-156 forms are available without charge at all U.S. consular offices.
  • The U.S. State Department website offers an interactive Form OF-156. Click here to head to the site.

2. A passport valid for travel to the United States and valid at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States. If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application.

3. One photograph 1 and 1/2 inches square (37x37mm) for each applicant, showing full face, without head covering, against a light background.

4. The educational program must send you an I-20 form, or Certificate of Eligibility, to prove you have been accepted as a student.

  • "F" applicants should obtain a Form I-20A-B (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for Academic and Language Students).
  • "M" applicants should obtain a Form I-20M-N (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status For Vocational Students).

Educational institutions obtain these forms from the INS.

5. Evidence of sufficient funds such as current bank statements and other records of financial assets.

  • F-1 students must show proof they will be able to meet all expenses for the first year of study, and that adequate funds will be available for each subsequent year of study.
  • M-1 student visa applicants must have evidence that sufficient funds are immediately available to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of intended stay.

Other Required Documentation

Student visa applicants must establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they will depart the United States when they have completed their studies. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicants' circumstances vary greatly.

For more information on student visa requirements, visit the U.S. Department of State's foreign student visa page.

Can I work while attending a U.S. school? Read the latest updates at:

! If you or your child are a high-school student or younger and want to attend a school in the U.S., you should read up on INS' Restrictions on Student Visas for Elementary and High-School Students.

Useful Links:

Immigralaw.com - a full-service immigration law firm which helps you apply for a student visa online or through phone/fax correspondence.



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