US Student Visa

US Student Visa

About US Student Visa

What is a US Student Visa F M? The US Student Visa is one of the most in-demand non-immigrant visas to the United States. Both the F & M categories of the general US Student Visa allow foreign students to enroll in American academic institutions (at the university, high school, and middle school level—among other levels and types of academic and vocational institutions). Student Visas are required for all foreigners looking to enter the country temporarily for education purposes (a group which includes both those who are eligible and ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program).  

Student Visa Eligibility

Eligibility for a US Student Visa includes foreigners who are English-speaking (or registered for English language lessons) who are looking to come to the United States for the purpose of studying temporarily at a school in the country. This school may be academic (such as a high school or college) nonacademic (vocational) or language-learning in nature. Please note that in order to be eligible for the F/M Student Visa, the school must be recognized as SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) certified.

Successful US Student Visa applicants are those who show proof of acceptance and registration as a non-temporary student to their SEVP school. In addition to showing proof of their ability to finance their studies (and cost of living) they must also demonstrate their commitment to leaving the US post-study (most commonly by owning/renting a property abroad).

Student Visa Purposes

You are allowed to come to America on a US F M Student Visa if your reason for travel includes enrolling in one of the following types of institutions:                                       

  • Elementary school (excluding public institutions) 
  • Highschool
  • College/University
  • Foreign language school (or other scholastic program)
  • Religious institution (such as a religious instruction school)
  • Music/Arts School
  • Non-scholastic vocational school (excludes language schools)

Student Visa Validity and Duration of Stay

The validity period and duration of stay for your Student Visa depends on a number of factors, including your nationality. If you are in the country on an “F” Student Visa, your duration of stay should reflect the duration of whatever class/course you are taking in the US (you will likely have two months to exit the country following the conclusion of said course). The day the course/class ends will be noted on your I-20 form; you must abide by that date, even if the course duration changes (unless you are able to extend your Student Visa).

Student and Exchange Visa Categories

The several different types of US Student Visas (including Exchange Student Visas) are explored below, in brief. You should select the type which grants you access to the institution in which you seek to enroll:

F - Select the “F” Student Visa to enroll in one of the following:

Elementary school (excluding public institutions) 

Religious institution (such as a religious instruction school)

M - Select “M” Student Visa to enroll in a non-scholastic vocational school (excludes language schools)

J - Exchange Student Visa (see “Exchange Visa” section below)

Required Documents for US Student Visa (in general)

US Student Visa requirements include the submission of the below common materials and documents. Please note that you may have to submit different documents depending on which specific Student Visa type (J/M) you are applying for:

DS-160 application form

The DS-160 is a major element of the total application package for a US Student Visa. It is accessible online, through the following link:

Applicant Photo

Colorized, recently captured, passport-sized image, which should be submitted electronically as a component of the DS-160 application form (or alternatively submitted in paper copy at visa appointment).


A government-issued, valid travel document, with an expiration date that covers the entirety of the US Student Visa period, plus an additional six months  

Payment (and confirmation of payment)

Total (non-refundable) payment (and payment confirmation) of the US Student Visa Cost (you may alternatively be allowed to pay for your US Student Visa fees during your required visa appointment.

Certificate of Eligibility

  • Students receive this form from their SEVP school; it should be signed by both the student and the institution
  • If you are applying for either the F or M Student Visa type, your eligibility certificate will be the I-20 form
  • If you are applying for the J Student Visa type, your eligibility certificate will be DS-2019. 

Additional documents

Students (especially minors) may be asked to provide documents attesting to the following:

  • Identity (additional IDs, documents denoting family history)
  • Proof of finances (financial documents, evidence of current and consistent employment)
  • Proof of travel (study/enrollment in vocational program)
  • Proof of exit (evidence that the student will exit the country before the expiration of his or her US Student Visa)

How to Apply for US Student Visa

  1. Decide when you need to travel 

    Consider the starting date of your program when you need to enter the US, so that you receive your Student Visa in time to attend.

  2. Find your application destination 

    US Student Visa applicants must apply through a US Embassy or Consulate—usually in their country of residence.

  3. Select your US Student Visa category

    US Student Visas are divided into several subcategories: F, M, or J. The type you select will determine the subsequent steps of your US Student Visa application process (for example, if you are applying for a J Visa you will need to submit an application for an official US exchange program (pending your acceptance into your selected program, you may then proceed with your general US Student Visa application). 

  4. Apply to SEVP School

    You must have proof of acceptance into an SEVP School in order to proceed with the rest of your US Student Visa application process. Once you have been accepted, you will do the following:
    -   Remit SEVIS I-901 payment fee
    -   Receive your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019
    -   Enroll in SEVIS system

  5. Assemble your application

    o   Access the online US Student Visa application, which consists of the DS-160 form. Please note that this form must be completely filled out (in English) and printed out in advance of your visa interview, where you will be asked to present a paper copy of the DS-160 confirmation page as well as your I-20 form.
    o   Assemble the rest of your application by gathering the rest of your basic required materials, such as your passport.

  6. Make an appointment for a visa interview

    o   In-person visa appointments are required for the majority of US Student Visa applicants (would-be middle school students—i.e. anyone age 13 or less—are typically exempt).
    o    Your visa interview will be held at the US Embassy or Consulate you are applying through, and it is likely where you will submit your complete application).
    o   Because it can sometimes take days, weeks or even months to get a visa interview, you should attempt to schedule one as soon as possible, in case you are forced to wait a long time for your appointment.

  7. Sit for your visa interview

    Visa interview appointments are where applicants fulfill the in-person US Student Visa requirements (i.e. pay for their visa, sit for a US Student Visa interview, have biometric information collected, etc). 

  8. Receive a decision

    After you have formally submitted your application at your visa interview, you may receive a decision immediately. Alternatively, you may have to wait for your application to be processed (this can take several weeks or even months, as US visa processing times tend to depend on a number of factors). Keep in mind that you must have your physical Student Visa in your possession in order to enter the US. Once it is granted, you may travel.

Please note: US Student Visa applicants should be prepared to submit other documents/materials pertaining to their US Student Visa. These depend on the specific type of the Student visa (F/J or M), as well as other factors. Requests for supplemental materials will likely occur during your visa interview stage. Examples of supplemental documents for Student Visas include: results of national/international academic tests, proof of education/degree obtained, academic transcripts (grades).

Exchange Visitor Visa

Conceived as a way to promote the cross-cultural exchange of ideas, expertise, and people, the Exchange Visitor Visa enables eligible foreigners to visit (for weeks or years at a time) America, where they can gain employment experience or engage in various diverse activities relating to research, education.  Select the non-immigrant “J” Exchange Student Visa to officially take up an “exchange” position as an Au Pair, attend an exchange student program, enter the US via the Government Visitor Program, or take up other seasonal work initiatives geared toward specific nationalities. Additional programs included in the Exchange Visitor Visa category  include the Summer Work Program, the Alien Physician Program, and various other internship initiatives. Eligibility for the Exchange Visitor Visa is predicated on one’s prior acceptance into one of the official Exchange Visitor Visa initiatives.

Student Visa Interview

The US Student Visa Interview is one of the main US Student Visa requirements. With few exceptions, applicants for US visas must sit for an in-person interview at their application destination (i.e. the US Embassy or Consulate they are applying through). As an applicant for a US Student visa, you will be asked general questions about who you are (where you live, your employment history, etc.), as well as those relating to your purpose of travel (study/vocational training). As a US Student F M Visa holder, you can expect to answer questions like the following:

What is your previous education history?

What school/institution are you planning on attending in the US?

What is the specific course/class you intend to enroll in?

What proof do you have that you will leave the US before your visa expires?

How do you plan to afford your costs of study/cost of living while in the US?

When to Apply for Student Visa

All applicants for US Visas should consider that it can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to multiple months to be approved (or rejected for) a US Visa. Because Student Visa applicants are usually applying to attend a specific course or class in the US (with a specific start date) they should take extra care to apply a long time before their class starts, so that they receive their visa in time to enroll. 

Where to Apply for Student Visa

The process for how to apply for a US Student Visa begins with identifying where to apply. US Student Visa applications should apply through their local US Embassy or Consulate (whichever is in command of processing US Student Visas).

Student Visa Processing Time

Most US Student Visa applicants receive a decision on their application at the end of their visa interview. However, a Student Visa application which needs additional looking over will have a significantly longer processing time. Keep in mind that it is usually not possible to forecast whether or not an application will require further processing. Because of this, processing time estimates can range from immediately (post interview) to several months.

FAQ about US Student Visas

What is a US Student Visas F M?

The US Student Visa is a type of non-immigrant US visa, which includes the categories F u0026 M. Foreigners looking to looking to attend a traditional US academic institution such as college or high school (among other levels/types of institutions) are usually eligible for the “F” Student Visa. Foreigners looking to attend non-scholastic vocational school (excludes language schools) should apply for the “M” category.

What is the US Student Visa Cost?

Most US Student Visas cost $160, although an additional visa issuance payment can be requested of certain foreigners, depending on what country they are from.

Is it possible to extend the US Student Visa?

It is generally difficult to extend a US Student Visa, although in certain cases, F1 Student Visa holders may apply for an extension.

What are the US Student Visa requirements?

How to Apply for a US Student Visa involves meeting the various US Student Visa eligibility requirements, submitting an application, paying all related visa fees, and sitting for an interview.

What are the available US Student Visas?

There are several types of US Student Visas: the type you apply for reflects the type of study you are pursuing in the US. One main category includes the subtypes F and M, the second includes the Exchange Visitor Visa.

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