Student Visa: Types and Uses

Student Visa: Types and Uses

A foreign national seeking to enter the United States must first get a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. To study in the United States, you'll need a student visa. Whether you need an F visa or an M visa depends on your course of study and the sort of school you plan to attend.


To Enter USA

F visa category:

University or college


High School

Private elementary school



Another academic institution, including a language training program

M visa category:

Vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution, other than a language training program


Institutional types:

A wide range of institutions in the United States offers high-quality education. The following are the categories:


Undergraduate degrees are frequently offered by colleges, which are smaller than universities. Community colleges, which are a low-cost study option in the United States, offer two-year associate degrees, following which you can continue your studies for another two years at a university to earn an undergraduate degree.


There are research master's, PhD, and post-doctoral degrees offered. There are essentially two types of universities in the United States:

The bulk of public universities are state universities, which are formed and run by the state government.

Private universities are a mix of for-profit and non-profit institutions that are funded by tuition and donations; approximately 20% of students attend private colleges.

How To Apply:

The process of obtaining a visa entails multiple procedures. The order in which you complete these tasks and how you do them may differ depending on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Please refer to the guidelines on the website of the embassy or consulate.

1. Complete the Online Visa Application:

You must first finish the online visa application and then print the confirmation page from the application form.

Photo — When completing the online Form DS-160, you will add your photo. Your photograph must follow the guidelines outlined in the Photograph Requirements

2. Schedule an Interview:

Interviews are necessary for visa applicants in most cases, with a few exceptions listed below. Any visa application may be interviewed by consular personnel.

You should make an appointment with the US Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live for your visa interview. You may schedule your interview at another U.S. Embassy or Consulate but be advised that obtaining a visa outside of your home country may be more challenging.

Because interview wait times vary by location, season, and visa category, you should apply for your visa as soon as possible. Examine the interview wait time at the place where you'll be applying:

3. Appointment Wait Time:

Find out how long you'll have to wait for a nonimmigrant visa interview at a US Embassy or Consulate.

New Students - Student (F and M) visas can be issued up to 120 days prior to the commencement date of a programme of study for new students. You will not be permitted to enter the United States on a student visa more than 30 days prior to the commencement date.

Continuing Students - Student (F and M) visas may be given at any time as long as the student is currently enrolled in a SEVP-approved school or institution and is registered in SEVIS. Continuing students are permitted to enter the United States at any time prior to the commencement of classes.

4. Prepare for Your Interview:

Fees - Pay the non-refundable visa application fee, if you are required to pay it before your interview. If your visa is approved, you may also pay a visa issuance fee, if applicable to your nationality. Fee information is provided below:

Application Fee:

To learn more about fee payment, look at the guidelines on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply.

Collect the necessary documentation:

Before your visa interview, gather and prepare the following documents:

  1. Valid passport for travel to the United States – Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your stay in the US (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). Each person who requires a visa, including any family members indicated in your passport, must complete a separate application.

  2. Confirmation page for the Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160).

  3. If you have to pay an application fee before your interview, keep your receipt.

  4. Photo — When completing the online Form DS-160, you will add your photo. If the photo upload fails, you must produce one printed photo that meets the Photograph Requirements.

  5. Nonimmigrant Certificate of Eligibility (F-1) Form I-20, or Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students, is required for academic and language students (M-1) Form I-20, Student Status for Vocational Students – Once your information has been submitted to the SEVIS database, your school will issue you a Form I-20. The Form I-20 must be signed by both you and a representative from your school. The Student and Exchange Visitor System requires that all students be registered (SEVIS). If you intend to live in the United States with your spouse and/or minor children, each of them will obtain a separate Form I-20.

Academic year:

The Fall session is when most American universities and colleges start classes in August/September. Others offer a January/February intake, dubbed the Spring intake, that lasts until April. In actuality, a Summer intake is offered for a limited number of programmes and colleges between the months of May and August.

The university and specialisation decide the length of each course. Bachelor's degrees take three to four years to finish, master's degrees take one to two years, and doctorate degrees take four to seven years to complete. The academic year at many colleges is divided into two semesters. The trimester system, which is used by several schools, is a three-term calendar.

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