Student visa requirements for the US
Applying for a US student visa? Here’s help
The US Government provides an opportunity to all Sri Lankan students to study in the country but as a prerequisite, you’ll have to obtain a student visa first. The visa you need will depend on your age and the type of study you wish to pursue in the US. Here’s an overview of the types of study visas and their application requirements:
The US Government offers three different student visa types:
Types of student visa
F-1 Student Visa
to study at an accredited US college or university or to study English at an English language institute
J Exchange Visa (J-1)
for participation in an exchange program, including high school and university study
M Student Visa (M1)
for non-academic or vocational study or training in the US
*For detailed information, please visit the US Government’s Department of State website
As a primary step, you must first apply and be accepted by a US school or university that is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Once accepted, you will receive a Form I-20 from the institution's international student office, which is a paper record of your information in the database called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
For an exchange visitor visa, you’ll have to file your application under J-1 visa, and as a pre-requisite, you have to submit DS-2019 form that will be given by your sponsoring US institution.
Documents required for a US student visa
When applying for your student visa for the US, you will generally need:
- A valid passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the US (unless exempt by country-specific agreements)
- Acceptance at a SEVP approved school and your Form I-20
- Application fee payment for the SEVIS
- Non-immigrant visa application and the Form DS-160 confirmation page
- Your photograph in the requested format, and number
- If you are opting for Optional Practical Training (OPT), then in addition to the Form I-20, you must apply to USCIS for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
Some additional documents that might be required include:
- Academic preparation documents such as transcripts, diplomas, degrees or certificates
- Evidence that you have sufficient funds to maintain your living expenses throughout the period of your stay in the US. This may include:
- Bank statements
- Financial undertaking by a sponsor to cover your accommodation and living costs
- A scholarship program
- Evidence that you will leave the US once you have completed your course of study. This can be in the form of an air ticket out of the US to your home country
You may also have to appear for a personal interview at the US embassy or consulate.
*Please note that these are the basic requirements, speak with your IDP counsellor for a detailed list of documents required for visa processing
F-1 Student visa
Most students who wish to pursue their studies overseas opt for the F-1 Student Visa. There are three major steps to its procedure, being:
SEVIS fee and I-20 form collection
Once you pay the SEVIS fee, you are given an I-20 form from your new school or college. Duly fill the form and bring along for your F-1 interview.
VISA fee and form collection
Pay your visa fee at the designated bank and collect the visa form. Duly fill the form and bring along for your interview.
Schedule a visa interview with the US embassy in your country. The waiting time may vary depending on the visa type. Once you complete the interview successfully, you’ll receive your visa 120 days in advance.
P.S: You can move to the US only 30 days before the start date of your program.
Applying for your visa online
You’ll have to apply for your student visa application online using the US Embassy Sri Lanka website. Remember, your application date is the date when your application fee is paid.
How can IDP help with your visa application?
If you’re an IDP student with an offer letter from any of our partner institutions in the US, we can advise you on how to go about the entire process. We’ll make sure you are fully informed on the latest visa requirements and conditions; also help you prepare the right documents for your submission.
Our team of experts will direct you to the official websites and to authorised immigration representatives to ensure you have the latest applications forms and guidance. To reduce the hassle, we can also help to certify, translate and courier your documents.
As an applicant from outside the US, you will have to pay US$160 as an application visa fee (do check the latest fee when applying here.)
There is now a US$350 SEVIS fee on F and M visa applications and US$220 on most of the J Visa applications, this includes the cost of the computer system which is used to record your stay in the United States (SEVIS).
English language requirements
To gain your US student visa, you’ll have to provide evidence of proficiency in the English language. This usually means passing a secure English language test to be able to prove your communication and correspondence skills.
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the world’s most popular high-stakes English language proficiency test for study, work and migration, with more than three million tests taken in the past year. The IELTS results are recognised by more than 10,000 organisations, including educational institutions, employers, professional associations and governments, in 140 countries around the world.
US educational institutions require a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 bands.
When you first arrive in the US, you must:
- Contact your designated school official on a priority basis
- Contact your designated school official again, no later than the program start date listed on your Form I-20
Making sure your visa remains valid
Once you get your visa, there are several things you need to do to ensure it remains valid, including:
- Fulfilling the purpose for why the Department of State issued the visa
- Following the regulations associated with that purpose
While studying in the US, you will need to observe the following rules:
- You must attend and pass all of your classes. If you are finding your studies too difficult, you should speak with your designated school official (DSO) immediately
- If you think you will be unable to complete your program by the end date listed on your Form I-20, you must talk to your DSO about requesting a possible program extension
- You must take a full course of study each term. If you cannot study full-time, contact your DSO immediately
- You cannot drop below a full course of study without consulting with your DSO
You can always contact us for a free counselling session and we can guide you on how to go about the entire visa application process.
Note: Given the current COVID-19 situation, there might be some updates in the visa process. Don’t worry, our international education experts are here to guide you with the latest information to help you apply for the same. Feel free to connect with our experts for a free counselling session and keep posted about the latest COVID- 19 updates.
Updated on August 24, 2020