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How to get the U.S. student visa F-1?

The student visa F-1 is the most common type of visa for studying in the USA. It provides the opportunity to study at certified educational institutions: language schools, colleges, universities and private schools.

  • The F-1 visa is issued for a period from 1 to 5 years, but you have the right to stay legally in the USA indefinitely while studying, even if the visa has expired.
  • With this visa, you can work legally if you are studying at a university.
  • F-1 allows taking a spouse and children up to 21 years to the USA.

In what cases is the F-1 visa necessary?

You need this visa if you are going to study in the US certified private schools, universities, colleges or language schools during a long period of time (usually over three months) or if your program makes out over 18 hours a week.

If you have a short-term educational program (less than 3 months) and it takes less than 18 hours a week, you can study with the tourist visa B1/B2. At that, the citizens of the most European Union states, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and some other countries don’t need to receive the B1/B2 visa – they can stay in the USA without a visa up to 90 days.

How long does it take to get the F-1 visa?

The entire process – from choosing the institution to getting the passport with visa – takes in the most cases from 10 days to 3 weeks. In rare cases, the U.S. consulate carries out an additional administrative processing, which usually takes about a month.

The cost of visa

Visa fees make out $360 total.

Steps of getting the visa

Searching for an educational institution

First of all, you need to select a certified educational institution in the USA. These are language schools, colleges, universities or private schools that have SEVP certification — the right to accept foreign students. If you are looking for language courses, they can be chosen on ClassTrip. Read how to choose language courses in the USA or how to enroll at an American university.

Applying to the school and getting I-20

When you will be ready with the choice of an educational institution, you need to contact it and book the course. Typically, it can be done on the website of the school or university. If you are looking for language courses, you can choose and book them on ClassTrip. After it, the school will ask to send your personal data (name, citizenship, address, contact phone number etc.).

Then, the educational institution will send you by courier service the I-20 form that you will need at the visa interview. The shipment usually takes a few business days.

What is I-20 form

The I-20 form is the main student’s document that shows where the person is studying and how long he is allowed to stay in the USA. I-20 can be renewed infinitely. Read what the I-20 form is and what it gives.

Also, ask the school to send you the letter of acceptance to the educational institution via e-mail. Print it – it will be required at the visa interview.

The rules of acceptance vary in different educational institutions:

  • Some schools send I-20 only after a full or partial payment for the course (semester).
  • Sometimes schools ask first to send a statement from your bank account (or the account of your sponsor) as the confirmation of the fact that you will have funds for living in America while studying. At that, your sponsor can be any person with a sufficient amount on the account (according to the school rules).
  • Universities and colleges may have entrance exams (but not always) and usually require from foreign students a TOEFL certificate or offer to pass their own English test.

Paying the application fee and SEVIS fee

When you will have I-20, you will have to pay two fees.

  • Application fee $160 (common for all types of visa)
  • SEVIS fee $200 (for student visas)

See how to pay them in the article Visa fees for the U.S. student visa F1.

Filling the DS-160 form online

See the article How to fill in the DS-160 form.

Sign up for the visa interview

See the article How to sign up for the U.S. visa interview.

Interview at the consulate and getting the passport with a visa

The interview is the most important part of the process of getting a visa. It requires preparation in advance. Be well prepared for the interview. See the article How to be interviewed for the visa to the USA.