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How to apply for a student visa to the U.S. with 6 easy steps

Whether you come from China, India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Australia or Denmark, and whether you are planning to do a Bachelor of Science, Master’s degree, MBA or Ph.D., the first step to moving to the States is getting a student visa - and it’s a long process too. With so many universities in the USA and research and job opportunities, it’s no wonder that American higher education institutions have become a meeting point for international students to share their knowledge and advance their professional career. But with all of these opportunities, there's also quite a bit of homework to do. So if you’re feeling lost and confused about approaching the bureaucratic process of getting a visa to the United States, here are six steps that will simplify it for you:

1. Is your school is approved by the SEVP?

Before you start, make sure that the study program you got accepted to is approved by the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program).

The SEVP is a part of the National Security Investigations Division, working also with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of State.

Its main purpose is monitoring international students during their stay in the United States and making sure that they abide by the immigration laws and regulations. International students are only allowed to enroll in schools that are approved by the SEVP, which are thoroughly checked to make sure that they have all of the necessary facilities for foreign students.  

2. Understand which visa you’ll need and consult:

The type of visa you will get is determined by the school you go to and the study course and program you attend.

Types of student visas:

  • F-1 Visa - This visa is for students who are planning to study in an academic institution such as: college, university, high school, elementary school, seminary, conservatory or any other academic institution.

  • M-1 Visa - This visa is for students who are attending any recognized nonacademic institution.

  • J-1 Visa - This visa is for students who are on exchange programs.

Before you do anything, consult! Call the American Embassy or Consulate in your home country to get an understanding of the type of visa that you’ll need and the process you are going to go through.

3. Apply online for a visa:

Fill out the visa application form. After speaking to a delegate from the Embassy or Consulate and understanding the criteria and requirements for receiving a visa, fill out the online visa application form (also called DS-160).

4. Schedule and pass an interview.

After filling out the visa application form, you’ll be required to pass an interview in the local American Embassy or American Consulate near you. Schedule the interview for as early as you can before your course starts, so that you’ll have enough time to prepare and receive your visa in time.

5. Get interviewed:

This is not a job interview, so don’t get too nervous. You do need to come ready though. When I say ready, I mean, bring all of the right paperwork.

You’ll need your passport, visa application form, visa application receipt, a photo of yourself and a certification from the school which you plan to study in. There might be some additional documents which are necessary. To make sure you have everything you need, call the embassy or consulate.   

Keep in mind that digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of the application process, and further processing might be necessary.

Visa fees:
The visa application process requires some additional fees. Depending on the country you come from and the type of visa you’ll get, there’s usually a fee before the interview and also when the visa gets issued to you.

6. Receiving the visa and moving abroad:

If you're waiting for your student visa, just know that you’ll receive it up to 120 days before your course starts. Hold your horses though! You’ll only be able to enter the United States only 30 days before you start your studies.

After getting your visa, make sure that you made all of the necessary arrangements, that you have health insurance, an apartment waiting for you and you're all set to get on the first flight to the U.S.

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