The Government of the United States offers international students three different types of visas depending on the level of schooling they apply for. Before a student can apply for the F, J, or M student visa, they must apply and be accepted by an institution in the US that is certified by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP).
- F Student Visa: Reserved for students looking to study at a college or university in the US or to study English at an English language institute
- J Exchange Visa: Awarded to students looking to participation in an exchange program at the high school and university level
- M Student Visa: For students looking for non-academic or vocational study or training in the US
Once a student is accepted by a SEVP-certified school, they receive an I-20 or DS-2019 form from the institution's international student office. These forms are important to present when the student applies for their visa. The Government of the United States has two separate government agencies involved in international student arrival and status while studying abroad.
The two agencies involved are: State Departments (responsible for issuing the visa) and the US Department of Homeland Security (responsible for monitoring student entry to the country).
Students applying for an F1 visa will have strict qualifications to prove. including:
- Provide proof of intent to return to their home country upon their completion of studies
- Only studying at the institution notes on the visa
- Demonstrating they have sufficient funds to support their life in the US
- Showing they have strong ties to their home country including:
- A job offer for after graduation
- A House, land, etc.
- Bank accounts
Students are also required to complete a F1 visa interview. This interview determines whether the student is qualified or not. Some examples of F1 visa questions include:
- Why did you choose to study in the US instead of joining the workforce in your home country?
- Why did you choose this school and why is it the best school for you?
- What are your test scores ( GRE, GMAT, SAT, TOEFL, IELTS ), your GPA, and your overall performance as a student in the past?
- How are you funding the entire duration of your education, including tuition, room and board, transportation, and all other expenses?
After you graduate, will you return home or will you stay in the United States?
If a student is approved, they may be required to pay an insurance fee and have a digital fingerprint scan taken for government records. Students are required to provide their passport to receive the visa. Do not make any travel plans until the student has their visa approved. The visa insurance fee does not guarantee visa approval.
Arriving in the United States
When moving to the US, students must remember to bring the following:
- SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019
- Evidence of financial resources
- Evidence of student status (such as recent tuition receipts and transcripts)
- Name and contact information for your Designated School Official (DSO), including a 24-hour emergency contact number at your chosen institution
- If the student is an exchange student, they must provide letter from their home university stating their intent to return to their home university
Traveling with a Dependent
International students can be accompanied to the US by their dependent(s) at any time. Dependents are either a spouse or unmarried minor child (under the age of 21). These dependents apply for an F2 or J2 visa at the same time the international student applies or they can at a later date.
Length of Stay
Students have 60 days after completion of their program to leave the US under their F1 visa. If an international student would like to stay in the US, they have two options available to them. Option one is to re-enroll in a post-secondary program. Option two is to apply for a visa status change. Anyone holding an M1 or J1 visa will have a grace period of 30 days after the completion of their course.
In the case that a student has their F1 visa application rejected, the reason will be provided to that student. Common reasons applications are denied are as followed:
- Applicant failed to provide the necessary information or support documents
- Fraud or misrepresentation
- Unlawful presence in the United States
- Health-related grounds
- Criminal-related grounds
- Security-related ground