After you’ve decided where you want to study in the United States, the next step is to get your visa. There are three main types of visas available, each with its own set of student visa requirements:
F-1: This student visa allows you to study at US universities or colleges using funds provided by friends, family, or you. When your academic term is in session, you may also work part-time on campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week.
J-1: This student visa allows you to participate in study and work exchange programs at US colleges or universities that have been approved by the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Your program must be sponsored by an educational or nonprofit organization. You have the same work restrictions as F-1 students on a J-1 visa, but you cannot work off campus.
M-1: If you want to study vocationally, you can apply for an M-1 visa, which allows you to study at institutes accredited by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. Friends, family, or yourself may contribute to program funding. You will have the same work restrictions as an F-1 or J-1 student visa, but you can only work on campus for a maximum of six months.
An I-20 form is required to apply for an F-1 or M-1 visa, and a DS-2019 form is required to apply for a J-1 visa. While each form differs slightly depending on the visa, they all include personal information.
Some colleges will include an I-20 or DS-2019 with your admission letter, especially if you have demonstrated that you have sufficient funding for at least one year of academic study and are not required to pay a deposit. Other US universities will send an I-20 or DS-2019 only after funding has been documented, institutional financial awards have been made, and a deposit has been paid.
You must complete four important steps after receiving your I-20 or DS-2019 from your college or university:
- Online payment of the $350 SEVIS I-901 fee (and keep your electronic SEVIS fee receipt)
- Fill out an application for a non-immigrant visa (online DS-160 form)
- Plan your visa interview at the nearest US embassy or consulate.
- Finish the interview
Check out our DS-160 form explained article or speak with a Shorelight advisor to learn more about the DS-160 form. Our advisors can help you learn how to study in the United States for international students, provide personalized visa assistance, and prepare you for the student visa process.