If you want to study in the United States, you’ll need a visa that enables you to enter the country and remain here during the course of your study. This guide explains student visas, including F, J and M visas so you can make the right choice before your program begins.
The Three Main Types of Student Visas in the United States
There are three main types of student visas issued to people who wish to study in the United States: F visas, J visas and M visas. The following sections explain each – and if you need more information, feel free to call our San Antonio immigration attorneys for help.
F Visas: The Basics
F visas are for people pursuing academic studies. These are the most common type of international student visas used in the U.S., and thousands of people successfully use them every year.
These visas enable a student to work part time on their campus (but no more than 20 hours per week), as well as optional practical training, or OPT, for up to a year after completing their academic program. To qualify for this type of visa, a student must:
- Prove that they have strong ties to their home country
- Have a foreign residence that they intend to return to upon completion of their studies
- Agree to only study at the academic institution through which the visa was granted
- Demonstrate that they have sufficient financial support for their time in the United States
Students must pay a nonrefundable application fee for this type of visa. It’s important to note that if the visa is denied, the fee is not refundable; that means the student doesn’t get their money back. Additionally, every applicant must have a passport that’s valid for travel to the U.S., and that will remain valid for at least six months beyond the student’s intended period of stay in the country.
J Visas: The Basics
J visas are the least common types of student visas, and they’re issued to students who need practical training that is unavailable in their home country. If you are pursuing a specific type of training, you may wish to speak to an immigration attorney about the program you want to participate in to determine whether a J visa is right for you.
M Visas: The Basics
M visas are for nonacademic or vocational studies. These visas are only issued to students who are going to attend nonacademic or vocational schools and programs. You must be participating in a specific program, and you must be involved in a full course of study in order to qualify for this type of visa.
Like other student visa types, you must pay a nonrefundable application fee and have a passport that’s valid for travel to the United States. Additionally, your passport must remain valid for at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the country.
What About Short Periods of Recreational Study?
If you’re only coming to the U.S. for recreational study – and for a short period – a visitor visa may be more appropriate for you. You can discuss getting a B visa (designed for visitors who aren’t coming here to earn credit toward a degree or academic certificate) with an immigration attorney by calling our office now.
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Attending the Right Schools on a Student Visa
The United States government doesn’t permit anyone to come in and study anywhere. To qualify for an educational visa, you must attend a specific school and be enrolled in SEVIS, which the following sections cover.
What Are SEVP-Approved Schools?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program, or SEVP, is the authority that enables some schools to accept foreign students and works to enable these students to get visas to study in the United States.
To become a SEVP-certified school, it must be an established institution of learning, as well as have the necessary facilities, workers and finances to conduct instruction in recognized courses of study. Additionally, the institution must be currently engaged in instruction and have the appropriate programs available to students.
What is SEVIS?
After a SEVP-approved school accepts your enrollment, you’ll be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, or SEVIS. You must also pay a SEVIS I-901 fee. This system is used to maintain information on SEVP-approved schools, as well as F-1 and M-1 students, J-1 visa participants, and more.
How Do You Apply for a Student Visa in the United States?
Applying for a student visa in the United States requires an entire process. For many people, the best solution is to work with an immigration attorney who understands which forms are required and how to file them.
Is it Easy to Get a Student Visa in the U.S.?
As long as you plan to attend a school that falls under the student visa program, and as long as you are admissible to the United States, it’s not terribly difficult to get a student visa. However, you should know that many people turn to an immigration attorney for help smoothing out the process.
How Much Does a Student Visa Cost?
The current application fee for a student visa is $160. The application fee for a student visa is subject to change, so it’s best if you talk to your attorney about how much it costs to get a student visa. Additionally, you need to know that you may need to pay additional fees based on your individual circumstances. If you hire an attorney to fill out and file your paperwork for you, you will also be responsible for your attorney’s fees.
Do You Need to Attend an Interview for a Student Visa?
You may need to attend an interview to get a student visa in the United States. Your attorney can let you know whether you’ll be required to, but generally, interviews are required for most people aged 14 to 79. Kids under the age of 14 are usually not required to attend an immigration interview, and neither are people age 80 or older.
If you have to attend an interview to get a student visa, the immigration official conducting your interview will most likely ask you why you want to study in the United States, what kind of ties you have in your home country, and what type of program you will be following while you are in the country.
Visa Issuance for New Students and Continuing Students
Student visas for new students can be issued up to 120 days in advance of the school’s start date. However, even if the visa has been issued, the student cannot enter the United States more than 30 days before the program begins. Visas for continuing students can be issued at any time, but only if the student is currently enrolled at an SEVP-approved school or institution and is registered in SEVIS. Continuing students are allowed to enter the U.S. at any time before classes start.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Getting a Student Visa in the U.S.?
If you’re considering applying for a student visa in the United States, we may be able to help you. If you have any questions, we’ll certainly be glad to answer them. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation with a caring, experienced immigration attorney who can help you start moving forward.