Student Visas

STUDENT APPLICANTS (FOR F-1 AND M-1 VISAS) - OVERVIEW
The first step for a prospective nonimmigrant student is being accepted for enrollment in an established school which is SEVP certified. In general, for academic students attending a university, college, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory or other academic institutions, including a language training program, an F visa is the appropriate category. For students attending vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions, other than a language training program, an M visa is generally the appropriate category.
If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study that is recreational, and the course is less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so on a visitor (B) visa. If your course of study is 18 hours or more a week, you will need a student visa.When traveling to the U.S. to attend seminars, conferences or a program of study for academic credit then you will need a student visa.

WHEN DO I NEED TO APPLY FOR MY STUDENT VISA?
-Students are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing.Students may apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so.

-Students should note that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue your student visa 120 days or less,in advance of the course of study registration date.If you apply for your visa more than 120 days prior to your start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20,the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa.Consular officials will use the extra time for application processing.

-Students are advised of the Department of Homeland Security regulation which requires that all initial or beginning students enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the course of study start/report date as shown on the Form I-20.Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to the U.S.

WHAT IS SEVIS AND SEVP? WHAT SHOULD YOU KNOW ABOUT IT?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is designed to help the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State better monitor school and exchange programs and F, M and J category visitors.SEVIS is an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students (F and M visa), exchange visitors (J visa), and their dependents (F-2, M-2, and J-2). SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications via the Internet, to the DHS and Department of State (DOS) throughout a student or exchange visitor's stay in the United States.

All student applicants must have a SEVIS generated I-20 issued by an educational institution approved by DHS, which they submit when they are applying for their student visa. Your school is responsible for entering your information for the I-20 student visa form into SEVIS. The consular officer will need to verify your I-20 record electronically through the SEVIS system in order to process your student visa application. Unless otherwise exempt, all F-1 or M-1 principal applicants must pay a SEVIS I-901 fee to the DHS for each individual program. See the SEVP Fact Sheet for a fee list. See SEVIS-901 Fee for further information on how to pay the fee.

QUALIFYING FOR A STUDENT VISA
The Immigration and National Act is very specific with regard to the requirements which must be met by applicants to qualify for the student visa.The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa.Additionally, applicants must demonstrate that they properly meet student visa requirements including:
-Have a residence abroad, with no immediate intension of leaving that residence;
-Intend to depart from that U.S. upon completion of the course of study and
-Posses sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of study.

APPLYING FOR STUDENT VISA
As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on our website at Visa Wait Times, and on most embassy websites.

During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer. Also, because each student’s personal and academic situation is different, two students applying for same visa may be asked different questions and be required to submit different additional documents.

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION
-Form I-20A-B , Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students or Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students. You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, I-20, which was provided  to you by your school.You and your school official must sign the I-20 form.

-Online Nonimmigrant visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.-Passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States.-one colored photograph 2 X 2 inches square for each applicant, showing a full face, without head covering, against a light background.
-Original TOEFL scores and SAT, GRE, GMAT scores. (As applicable) Students going to the United States to earn a Bachelor's degree should bring their most recent mark sheets or graduation certificates.
-Students going the United States to earn a Ph.D. degree should bring their original undergraduate degree and mark sheets/Transcripts.
-Spouses and minor children accompanying the student to the United States should bring marriage certificates, wedding photos, and birth certificates with them to the interview, to prove the relationship between themselves and the principal applicant.
-A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee.
-The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.

WHAT ARE THE REQUIRED VISA FEES?
-Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee - For current fees for Department of State government services select Fees. You will need to provide a receipt showing the visa application processing fee has been paid, when you come for your visa interview.

-Visa issuance fee – Additionally, if the visa is issued, there will be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, if applicable. Please consult the Visa Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is. If there is a fee for issuance for the visa, it is equal as nearly as possible to the fee charged to United States citizens by the applicant's country of nationality.

SPOUSES AND CHILDREN
Applicants with dependents must also provide:
-Proof of the student’s relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates.);
-It is preferred that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder’s passport and visa, along with all other required documents.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
-No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore final travel plans or the purchase of non refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
-Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from
the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.

ENTERING THE U.S.-PORT OF ENTRY
Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. Student visitors must have their Form I-20 in their possession each time they enter the United States.
In advance of travel, students should review important information about Admissions/Entry requirements, as well as information related to restrictions about bringing food,
agricultural products or other restricted/prohibited goods explained on the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website. Upon arrival (at an
international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the U.S., it’s very important to keep in your passport.

STAYING BEYOND YOUR AUTHORIZED STAY IN THE U.S. AND BEING OUT OF STATUS
 - It is important that you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip, based on the specified end date on your Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94. Failure to depart the U.S. will cause you to be out-of-status.

-beyond the period of time authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and being out-of-status in the United States is a violation of U.S. immigration laws, and may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future for return travels to the U.S.

- According to INA 222 (g) ,if you stay on your non-immigrant authorized stay in the U.S.,your visa will be automatically voided. In this situation, you are required to re-apply for a new non-immigrant visa, generally in your country of nationality.

 WHAT ITEMS DO RETURNING STUDENTS NEED?
All applicants applying for renewals must submit:
-All items listed in the Required Documentation section and;
 -A new I-20 or an I-20 that has been endorsed on the back by a school official within the past 12 months.

STUDENTS AWAY FROM CLASSES MORE THAN FIVE MONTHS
Students in or outside the U.S., who have been away from classes for more than five months, will likely need a new visa to enter the U.S.

HOW LONG MAY I STAY ON MY F-1 STUDENT VISA?

When you enter the United States on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while you are in America. For a student who has completed the course of studies shown on
the I-20, and any authorized practical training, the student is allowed the following additional time in the U.S. before departure:

·F-1 student - An additional 60 days, to prepare for departure from the U.S. or to transfer to another school.

·M-1 student - An additional 30 days to depart the U.S. (Fixed time period, in total not to exceed one year). The 30 days to prepare for departure is permitted as long as the student maintained a full course of study and maintained status. An M student may receive extensions up to three years for the total program.

As an example regarding duration of status, if you have a visa that is valid for five years that will expire on January 1, 2009, and you are admitted into the U.S. for the duration of your studies (often abbreviated in your passport or on your I-94 card as "D/S"), you may stay in the U.S. as long as you are a full time student. Even if January 1, 2009 passes and your visa expires while in America, you will still be in legal student status. However, if you depart the U.S. with an expired visa, you will need to obtain a new one, applying at and Embassy abroad, before being able to return to America and resume your studies.

OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING
Students who are authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT) must have an I-20 endorsed for OPT, and provide a USCIS-issued Employment Authorization Document (EAD). When authorized, Optional Practical Training (OPT) is temporary employment that is directly related to the eligible F-1 student’s area of study.

ATTENDING PUBLIC SECONDARY SCHOOL
There are certain restrictions on student F-1 visa holders attending public school in the U.S. See our Foreign Students in Public Schools webpage to learn more.

HOW DO I EXTEND MY STAY?
Visitors who wish to stay beyond the date indicated on their Form I-94 are required to have approval by USCIS. See Extend Your Stay on the USCIS website.

HOW DO I CHANGE MY STATUS?
Some nonimmigrant visa holders, while present in the U.S., are able to file a request which must be approved by USCIS to change to another nonimmigrant category. See Change My Nonimmigrant Status on the USCIS website.

Important Note: Filing a request with USCIS for approval of change of status before your authorized stay expires, while you remain in the U.S., does not by itself require the visa holder to apply for a new visa. However, if you cannot remain in the U.S. while USCIS processes your change of status request, you will need to apply for a nonimmigrant
visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

FURTHER VISA INQUIRIES
-Questions on visa application procedures and visa ineligibilities should be made to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad by the applicant. Before submitting your inquiry, we request that you carefully review this web site and also the Embassy website abroad. Very often you will find the information you need.

-If your inquiry concerns a visa case in progress overseas, you should first contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case for status information by selecting U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

-If you have additional inquiries about F or M student visas/J-1 exchange visitor visas, please email our Student/Exchange Visitor Visa Center at: fmjvisas@state.gov.