Any international student wanting to study in the USA will need to obtain a student visa for the USA. Most students are issued with an F1 visa, and the general outline/process flow for obtaining an F1 visa is as follows:
Be Accepted at an SEVP Approved School
Before you can apply for your F1 student visa for the USA, you must apply to and be accepted by a school approved by the SEVP.
Pay your SEVIS Fee and Receive your I-20
Once you’re accepted, you will be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee in order to be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Then, your school will provide you with a Form I-20. This form will be presented to the consular officer when you attend your F1 visa interview. If your spouse and/or children plan to reside in the USA with you while you study, they will be required to have individual Form I-20s, but they will not need to be enrolled in the SEVIS.
Complete the Visa Application
Applying for the F1 student visa may vary depending on the U.S. embassy or consulate you are dealing with. You will be required to pay a non-refundable visa application fee. There is an online visa application available, which allows you to complete and print the Form DS-160 to take to your F1 visa interview.
Schedule and Prepare for your Interview
You can schedule your F1 visa interview with the U.S. embassy or consulate. Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. An F1 student visa for the USA can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date. You will only be able to enter the US with an F1 visa 30 days before your start date.
The following documents are required for your F1 visa interview:
- A valid passport
- The Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160
- The application fee payment receipt
- A passport photo
- A Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F1) Student Status (Form 1-20)
Additional documents may be requested to prove your eligibility for the F1 student visa, including academic transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates. Test scores such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, or GMAT may also be requested, as well as proof of your intent to depart the U.S. after your program is complete and proof of your financial stability.
Attend your F1 Visa Interview
Your F1 visa interview will determine whether you are qualified to receive an F1 student visa for the USA. Assuming that you have prepared the appropriate documents and meet all of the F1 visa requirements, your visa will be approved at the discretion of the consular officer.
You may be required to pay a visa issuance fee. Digital fingerprint scans will be taken for records. Your passport will be taken so that you can get your visa and you will be informed when you can get it back, either by pick-up or in the mail.
Keep in mind that visa issuance is not guaranteed. Never make final travel plans until you have your visa approved. If your visa is denied, you will be given a reason based on the section of law which applies to your ineligibility. Filing a waiver of ineligibility is possible in some cases.