If you’re an international student who wants to attend university in the United States, this guide will help you learn how to apply for a student visa. You would only apply for your visa after you are accepted to an accredited U.S. university. So, apply to university first; you can start with a quick assessment to learn about your best-fit universities HERE.
Scholist offers support to international students, all the way from application through enrolment and visa assistance. Schedule a counseling call HERE.
F-1 Visas: Enter and Stay in the U.S. For Your Program
Once you’ve applied and been accepted to an accredited U.S. university, you can apply for your student visa. If you’re enrolling in a full-time undergraduate or graduate degree, you’ll need to get an F-1 visa. An F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that enables international students to both enter the U.S. and study at universities certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Your university will give you an I-20 form which tells you the expiration date of your program; you’ll have to finish your degree before that expiration date and you can stay in the U.S. until this time on your F-1 visa.
After Graduation: Optional Practical Training (possibly longer for STEM fields)
You’ll have to leave the U.S. within 60 days after you graduate. However, after you graduate, you might be able to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows you to work for up to 12 months in the U.S. in a field related to your area of study. If you graduated with a STEM degree (in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths), you can request 2 years (instead of 12 months) of work in a related field.
What requirements do you have to meet to get this F-1 Visa?
Your university: The university you’ve been accepted into must be approved by SEVP Immigration & Customs Enforcement; see the full list of accredited universities HERE. Please check before you apply to university that it’s on this list!
Full-Time Enrollment: You must be enrolled full-time as a student
Funding: You prove that you have enough funds in your bank account to finance your studies and living expenses during your time in the U.S. However, you can still apply for scholarships.
English Proficiency: You prove that you can speak and understand English at a level that allows you to enroll in an academic program; you can do this by taking an English proficiency test such as the TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo (depending on what your university requires).
Residency in a Home Country: You must be a resident in or have strong ties to your home country in order to have somewhere to return to after you graduate. You must also have a passport that is valid for U.S. travel at least 6 months after your degree completion date.
What steps do you need to follow after you’ve been admitted to an accredited U.S. university?
Have these documents in place:
Your valid passport (valid until 6mo after your date of completion of your program)
Form DS-160; see the form to be filled online HERE
2 photos that meet the requirements listed HERE
Proof of paid F1 visa fee (approximately USD 510)
Form I-20. This will include your proof that you can finance your education and living expenses; you can submit certain documents to prove this, such as:
Bank statements and/or tax records for the last 3 years
Pay stubs of previous employment
Proof of a scholarship and/or loan (if you’ve received one)
If you are supported or sponsored by someone else in the US, you will need to submit Form I-134, Affidavit of Support and bank statements for the last three years of that person.
Documents that prove your previous education and current qualifications, such as:
Standardized test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, etc.)
Original transcripts from your high school or undergraduate institution
Acceptance letters from the universities that admitted you
Previous degree diplomas
Health insurance (only if your university requires it; not required for the F-1 Visa)
What to do now
If you’re starting to consider studying in the U.S., start by getting a personalized list of your best-fit universities HERE.
If you’ve been accepted and just need help getting your visa, Scholist can help with that too; schedule a counseling call with one of our admissions experts HERE.