Types of Student Visas in the US

Determining What Type of Visa You Need

Many people dream of studying in the US. However, before an international student can study in the United States, they must obtain a student visa. There are several different types of student visas, and figuring out which one is right for your situation can be confusing. The kind of school and program you plan to attend will dictate which type of visa you apply for.

There are three types of student visas international students may utilize:

  • F student visa
  • M student visa
  • J exchange visa

If you plan to attend a university or college, high school, private elementary school, seminary school, conservatory, or another academic institution (such as a language training program), you will want to apply for an F visa. If you are attending a vocational or recognized nonacademic institution, you will use an M visa. If you are participating in an approved exchange program, you will utilize the J exchange visa.

How to Apply for a Student Visa

Before you apply for a student visa, you will first have to apply to and be accepted by a US institution of higher education that is part of the Student Exchange and Visitor Program. It should be noted that not all schools that are SEVP-certified are accredited institutions. If you plan to apply for a J exchange visa, the school you attend must be accredited.

Once you have been accepted to a qualified program, you will then need to complete your online visa application and schedule an interview at your local US Embassy or Consulate. You will also be required to pay your visa application fee.

What Documents Will I Need?

When applying for a student visa, you will need to collect several documents and bring them to your interview. It is very important that you have all your documents in order and that all forms are filled out accurately and correctly. Failure to do so can result in a delay, or your visa may even be denied.

You will need the following documents:

  • Valid passport
  • Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160) confirmation page
  • Application fee payment receipt (only if you are required to pay before your interview)
  • Printed photo (only if your online photo upload failed)
  • The appropriate certificate of eligibility for the nonimmigrant visa you are applying for (form I-20)

Should I Work with an Immigration Lawyer?

Though you can apply for a student visa on your own, the process is complex and difficult. It is a good idea to work with an experienced attorney familiar with handling student visa cases. At Sintsirmas & Mueller Co. L.P.A., we have helped countless students achieve their dream of studying in the united states. We are prepared to help with any student visa matter, including help with documents, determining which student visa best suits your needs, and advocating for you in any proceedings. With our deep understanding of immigration law, we are prepared to help you with your student visa today.

Can I Study While on the Visa Waiver Program or with a Visitor Visa?

The Visa Waiver Program allows noncitizens from participating countries to travel to the US for either business or tourism for 90 days or less without acquiring a visa. This program is not designed for students, and students cannot travel to the US to study on the Visa Waiver Program. Similarly, B-1 and B-2 visitor visas are also short-term visas intended for business and tourism purposes only. Therefore, students are equally barred from using visitor visas for study purposes.

What About Recreational Study?

If a student wishes to participate in short-term, recreational study, a visitor (B) visa may be appropriate. Recreational study is defined as study that is not completed for credit towards a degree or other academic certificate. However, you should speak with an immigration attorney before applying for a visitor visa to ensure that your situation truly qualifies. It is important to remember that any study, no matter how long the course is, completed for credit towards a US conferred degree is never allowed on a visitor visa.