March 1st, 2010 by Eric J. Ramos
How do I get a student visa?
If you would like to attend a college or university in the United States, you will need to get a student visa. There are two types of student visas. F-1 visas are for academic students, including those who are taking language training. M-1 visas are for non-academic vocational students.
Decide on a School
The first step is to get accepted to an SEVP certified school. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is a program that helps the U.S. government monitor schools and exchange programs that accept international students. Student information is maintained in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You will have to determine which schools you are interested in, contact the schools to find out whether they are SEVP certified, as well as apply to and get accepted by the school you plan to attend.
You should apply as early as possible to ensure that you get your visa and can enter the United States by the time your classes begin. Keep in mind that U.S. consulates can issue your student visa no more than 120 days before your school start date or registration date.
Apply for the Visa
The school you decide to intend will give you a SEVIS form called Form I-20. You will need this form when you apply for your student visa at a U.S. consulate. The school will enter your information into SEVIS and generate Form I-20. You will also need to complete any forms required by the consulate and submit your original passport and a passport photograph. You may be asked to provide transcripts and diplomas from previous educational institutions you intended and scores from standardized tests required for admission to your chosen college or university. All student visa applicants must appear for an interview before a student visa can be approved. At the interview, you will submit the required documents and pay a visa application fee. You must provide evidence that you, your parents, or another sponsor can financially support you while you are studying in the United States. This evidence could be bank statements, payroll information, or tax documents.
Enter the U.S.
Once the U.S. consulate has issued your visa, you may enter the United States. When you enter, a border officer will write your authorized length of stay on your Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. You can enter the U.S. up to thirty (30) days in advance of the start of your classes. If you wish to enter more than thirty (30) days in advance of your studies, you may apply for a visitor visa, enter the U.S., and change your status to F-1 before your classes begin. If you choose to do this, you must make this intention clear when you are applying for a visitor visa. You cannot begin your classes until you change status from visitor to student.