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US Student Visa Requirements

All you need to know about visas for the U.S.


The visa you need will depend on the type of studies you would like to follow in the United States.

The U.S. Government offers three different types of student visa:

  • F Student Visa: this is used when the student studies at an accredited U.S. college or university or studies English at an English language institute.
  • J Exchange Visa: this is used for participation in an exchange scheme, including both high school students as well as university students.
  • M Student Visa: this is used for non-academic or vocational studies or training in the U.S.


You must first apply for your visa and be accepted by a U.S. institution that is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Once you have been accepted, you will receive Form I-20 from your institution's international student office. This form is a hard copy record of your information held in the SEVP database called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

For your visa application, you will need the following documentation:

  • A current passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay within the U.S. (unless exempted by country specific agreements)
  • An acceptance document from an SEVP approved school and your Form I-20
  • Your application fee payment for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System
  • A non-immigrant visa application and the Form DS-160 confirmation page
  • One or two photographs in the required format


Additional documentation may be required:

  • Academic preparation documents for example transcripts, diplomas, degrees or certificates
  • Evidence that you have enough funds to maintain your living expenses for the period of your stay in the U.S. The evidence may include:
  • Bank statements
  • Financial undertaking from a sponsor to cover your accommodation and living costs
  • A scholarship program
  • Evidence that you’ll leave the U.S. after you have completed your studies. This could be an air ticket out of the U.S. to your home country


You may also have to attend a personal interview in the U.S. embassy or consulate. You can find more information about each type of visa on the U.S. Government’s Department of State website.

Upon your arrival in the U.S., you must:

  • Not enter the U.S. more than 30 days before your studies begin
  • Contact your designated school official when you first arrive in the U.S.
  • Contact your designated school official again, no later than the start date of your studies listed on your Form I-20
  • Make sure your visa remains valid


Once you have your visa, there are several things you need to do to ensure your visa remains valid, including:

  • Fulfilling the purpose for which the Department of State issued the visa
  • Following the regulations associated with that purpose


While studying in the U.S., you will need to follow these rules:

  • You must attend and pass all of your classes. If you are finding your studies too difficult, you should immediately speak with your designated school official (DSO)
  • If you think you will be unable to complete your studies by the end date listed on your Form I-20, you must talk to your DSO about requesting a possible extension
  • You must take a full course of study each term. If you are unable to study full-time, contact your DSO immediately
  • You must not drop below a full course of study without consulting with your DSO

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