Questions About U.S. Student Visas
What is a student visa?
Student visas are nonimmigrant visas that allow you to study in the U.S. for a specific period of time. Student visas are available for academic and vocational study. To qualify for a student visa, you must enroll in a qualified U.S. academic or vocational program.
What are the different types of U.S. student visas?
F-1 Academic Student Visa
F-1 visas allow students to study at a U.S. academic school, university, or program. Some examples of U.S. academic schools, universities, or programs include the following :
- Universities or colleges that offer degrees (non vocational)
- High schools
- Private elementary schools (please note that you cannot attend a public elementary, or primary school on a F-1 student visa)
- Other academic institutions, including some language training programs
Learn more about F-1 visas.
J-1 Student Exchange Program Visa
If you are currently enrolled in a college or university program outside of the U.S., your school may participate in an international student exchange program with a U.S. institution. These programs could be for academic study or for an approved internship. J-1 programs are for a maximum of 36 months. You may not complete a bachelor's degree on a J-1 visa. If you wish to complete a degree in the U.S., an academic F-1 Student Visa may be another option.
If you are a high school or secondary school student between the ages of 15 to 18 ½, and want to study in the U.S. for a semester or academic year while living with a host family, there are also J-1 secondary school programs available.
Learn more about J-1 visas.
M-1 Vocational Student Visa
M-1 visas are similar to F-1 visas, but M-1 visas are for foreign students who wish to study in the U.S. in a vocational or another recognized nonacademic program. Examples of vocational or nonacademic study include: flight courses, culinary studies, auto repair, agricultural education, secretarial training and technical training.
Language training programs are not included in the M-1 visa.
Learn more about M-1 visas.
B-2 Visitor Visa
Student enrolled in short courses or classes that are done for enjoyment or as a hobby, without receiving academic credits, may be eligible for a B-2 visa. A three-day cooking class or weeklong pottery class are examples of eligible courses.
Learn more about B-2 visas.
How do I apply for a U.S. student visa?
There are several types of U.S. student visas, the most popular being F-1, M-1, B-2 and J-1. Your course of study will determine which visa you should apply for.
Each student visa has different eligibility requirements. The length of time and program type will help you determine which visa is best for your situation.
If applying for an F-1 or M-1 visa, you must enroll in a school approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). If applying for a J-1 visa, the student must enroll in a qualified exchange program at an accredited secondary school, college or university.
If you are under the age of 14 or over the age of 79, you may not be required to have an interview.
You will be required to bring the following documents to your visa interview:
- A passport valid for at least six months past your planned date of departure
- The confirmation page from your Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before the interview
The U.S. embassy or consulate where your interview will take place may request you provide additional documentation, such as evidence of:
- The purpose of your trip
- Your intent to leave the U.S. after your trip
- Your ability to pay all the costs of your trip
The visa interview will take place at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live. A consular officer will interview you to determine if you are qualified to receive a visa. The officer will review your visa application, supporting documents, and ask questions about your personal history and the reason for your trip to the U.S.
If the consular officer approves your visa, they will take your passport and insert your visa inside. When your passport and visa are ready, you will be notified to pick it up or you can tell the consular office where it should be mailed.
Depending on your nationality, you may have to pay a visa issuance fee if your visa is approved. Check if you have to pay a fee here.
How do I extend my student visa?
There are different ways to extend your stay in the U.S. depending on your visa.
F-1 Academic Students: Students with visas that expire on a specific date can apply to extend their status using USICS ELIS. Students who were admitted for "duration of status" should contact their designated school official to extend their status.
M-1 Vocational Students and B-2 Visitors: M-1 students and B-2 visitors can apply to extend their status using Form I-539, Application to Extend/ Change Nonimmigrant Status.
J-1 Exchange Students: J-1 students should contact their designated program officer to extend their status. Students who need more time to finish training may have their status automatically extended for up to six months by their program officer.
If a student needs an extension for more than six months and up to 18 months, their program officer must :
- Provide the USCIS with evidence of exceptional or unusual circumstances related to the extension request
- File a request for "Extension Beyond the Maximum Duration of Program Participation"