How to Apply for US Student Visa (F-1)

Students wishing to study in the United States need to learn about the F-1 student visa application process. Quite often, the student visa application process turns out to be complex and intimidating. However, it is not difficult to get a student visa for the USA. But you must follow all student visa requirements for the USA and give yourself plenty of time to complete and submit your paperwork. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to apply for US Student Visa (F-1).

Required Documents to Apply for US Student Visa

  • Your valid passport
  • Form DS-160 for non-immigrant visa applications
  • Two photographs as per the US Visa Photo Requirements
  • Proof of paid F1 visa fee.
  • Form I-20. Your Form I-20 states the amount of funds you need to finance your education and live in the US. You must submit documents that prove you have that amount readily available. This can be done by submitting various documents, such as:
    • Bank statements for the last 3 years
    • Tax records for the last 3 years
    • Pay stubs of previous employment
    • If you have received a scholarship, you also need to submit proof of it
    • Paying a semester’s or a year’s worth of tuition is also a good idea, but not mandatory
    • If you are supported or sponsored by someone else in the US, you will need to submit Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, and bank statements for the last three years of that person.
    • If you are funding your US education through a loan, you must also show proof of the approved loan
  • Documents that prove your previous education and current qualifications:
    • Original transcripts
    • Standardized test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, etc.)
    • Acceptance letters from the educational institution which accepted you
    • Previous degree diplomas
  • Proof of purchased health insurance for international students.

Step-by-Step Guide on US Student Visa (F-1) Application

Step 1: Apply to a US University and get accepted

The first step is to apply to (and eventually be accepted to) a US university. In the US, most full-time undergraduate and graduate programs demand applications by December or January of each year. Admission notices are usually sent out in March and April.

Step 2: Get your Form I-20 from the University

After being accepted to a school, you’ll receive one of two forms: Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) for F-1.

What is Form I-20?

  • The Form I-20 enables international students to pay their I-901 SEVIS fee, apply for a nonimmigrant visa at the nearest US embassy or consulate, and travel to the US.
  • The I-20 form proves that you are a legitimate student studying in the US and is an important step in getting your student visa.

What does Form I-20 Contain?

  • SEVIS ID number
  • Academic program start and end dates
  • Intended program of study
  • Funding sources
  • Cost of attendance at your school of choice
  • Other personal information

How to Get the Form I-20?

Once you are accepted into a SEVP-certified college or a university, you will receive your I-20 form from your designated school official (DSO). After your application has been approved by the SEVP-approved school, you will be registered in SEVIS and must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.

Once you are registered, the college or the university will issue you the Form I-20. The Form I-20 lists the start date of your program, and you may enter the US 30 days before your academic program begins. Your F-1 student visa can be issued up to 120 days in advance of the start date of your program.

Step 3: Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee

Go online and pay the I-901 SEVIS fee once you receive your Form I-20 from your university. The price is USD $350 for F-1 students.

What is SEVIS Fee?

  • SEVIS or The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System is the web-based system of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The purpose of the system is to maintain information on the Student and Exchange Visitors to the country.
  • In simpler words, it is an internal databank of all non-national students/ exchange students traveling to the USA. It keeps a record of all your details, and the reasons for your US travel.

Usually, universities (where you have received admission) provide you with the SEVIS Number on the I-20.

On your part, you are required to pay the SEVIS Fee, which is at present at USD 350. Students are recommended to pay this fee before they start filling out their Visa Application Form (DS 160) as the receipts of the payments are sent by post and might take up to 15 days to arrive. Also, the receipt, in original, would be required when you submit the documents.

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How to Pay the SEVIS Fee?

  1. Log on to the US Immigration website
  2. Click on ‘Submit Form I-901 and Fee Payment’
  3. Read the instructions carefully, select the radio button for I-20 and click OK
  4. It would open a form. Fill out the form with the details. Note that the details should exactly match your I-20. You would be required to provide your personal details, the SEVIS No. (Shared in your I-20), and the address
    • It is very important to give the address which would have UPS Delivery as your SEVIS Receipt would be mailed to you and you would need this receipt at the time of your visa interview.
  5. Select whether you want standard or expedited delivery of receipt. Standard delivery does not cost you extra and you usually receive it well in time. Do provide your contact number.
  6. Select a Payment Method. Note, you can pay it online by credit card or through cheque. A Credit Card is preferred.
  7. Provide Card Details. It would be charged $350 at the existing exchange rates. Please make sure that the card you are using has that balance and can be used for international transactions.
  8. The system would populate a receipt. Please print out the same.

Once you have paid the fee, you can start by filling out the DS 160 form.

Step 4: Locate a US Embassy or Consulate in Your Area

You must apply for an international student visa at the US embassy or consulate nearest to you (ideally, in the city or region in which you live). The US Department of State offers an online search for US embassies and consulates.

Please know that depending on which embassy you apply through, the process for obtaining a student visa in the United States may fluctuate slightly.

Step 5: Fill out the DS-160 Form online

After that, fill out the Online Non-immigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160).

You will also select the US embassy where you will interview for your visa on this application.

Step 6: Make an Appointment for your US Student Visa interview

Contact your nearest US embassy or consulate (preferably, the one you listed on your online application) to organize your visa interview after you’ve filed Form DS-160.

Step 7: Make Payment for your US Student Visa (F-1) Application Fee

Next, pay the application fee of USD $160. This charge is the same regardless of where you apply or where you are from. In INR, the cost would be around Rs. 12,800.

It’s important to note that the exact date you pay this charge will differ based on your embassy.

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Step 8: Attend your US visa interview

The interview is the final major step in the visa application process. This interview will determine whether or not you are granted a student visa in the United States.

Step 9: Pay the US Student visa issuance fee

After being authorized for a student visa in the United States, certain students are required to pay a visa issuance fee. Whether or not you must pay this fee is determined by your nationality and the reciprocity agreement your country has with the United States. You can use a chart on the US visa website to discover if you have to pay a visa issuance fee.

Step 10: Get Your Visa

Your embassy will return your passport to you with your new visa in it if you’ve completed all of the requirements above and gained approval for an international student visa to the United States. It’s worth noting that certain embassies will ask you to pick it up in person, while others will simply ship it back to you.

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Tanmoy Ray
I am a Career Adviser & Admission Consultant. Additionally, I also manage Operations at Stoodnt. I did my Masters from the UK (Aston University) and have worked at the University of Oxford (UK), Utrecht University (Netherlands), University of New South Wales (Australia) and MeetUniversity (India).
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