Foreign born students wishing to pursue an education at a US college, university or school must apply for and obtain a student visa before commencing their education in the USA. There are thousands of colleges and universities in the USA which accept foreign students on a fulltime or part time basis. The nonimmigrant F-1 visa is the most appropriate for any prospective students who will not be exchange students.
To qualify for an F-1 student visa, the prospective applicant must fulfill the following requirements:
- Show proof of acceptance into an academic program offered by an institution recognized by the US government.
- Have a permanent residence abroad with which the applicant has strong social and economic ties.
- Show intent to depart the USA soon after completion of studies.
- Show proof of sufficient funding to cover the cost of education and living expenses.
The applicant must apply for an F-1 visa at the US consular office in their home country. An interview is conducted for all applicants between the ages of 14 and 79.
The following is a list of documentation required by the US consular office in order to process an F-1 visa application:
- A completed and signed application comprising of forms DS-156 and DS-157. Some embassies allow the applicant to apply online using the DS-160 form.
- Form I-20A-B that is signed by both the applicant and the school’s representative.
- A passport with validity extending 6 months beyond the dates of study.
- A 2X2 inch passport photo.
- Receipt for the visa application fee.
- Receipt for the SEVIS I-901 fee.
Besides the required documentation listed above, applicants may also need to provide transcripts from previous academic institutions they have attended. The applicant may also need to provide scores from standardized tests required by the academic institution. Such tests may include GRE, GMAT and SAT.
Applicants for the F-1 visa are encouraged to apply early for their visa to ensure that their application will be processed in a timely manner and they are able to commence studies at their projected time. Applicants can apply as soon as they have gathered all the required documentation and are ready to do so.
The consular office will however only issue F-1 visas 120 days or less before commencement of studies. If an applicant applies ahead of the 120 days, the consular office will use the added time to process the application and will hold the application until they are able to issue the visa.
If an F-1 visa is granted, the prospective student can only travel to the USA a maximum of 30 days in advance of the course of study as shown on the form I-20. The applicant should therefore plan their travel accordingly.
When traveling to the US, the applicant must carry originals and copies of the documentation they provided during the interview at the consular office as these may be required at the port of entry.