Applying for US Visa for International Students

After getting the I-20 / DS-2019, the next step is to apply for a US student visa. I-20 / DS-2019 only shows that you are admitted in a US college / university. However, in order to enter the US, you will have to get the student visa.

It is very important that you know the process of getting the US student visa. If you do not have the required documents with you, your visa application is likely to be rejected.

In this section we provide the information regarding the process of applying for a Student Visa for studying in USA and also provide you tips and FAQs.

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Where to apply for US Visa?

When to apply for US Visa?

What kind of US Visa you will get ?

US Visa application fees

Documents required to applying for US Student Visa

Tips to apply for US Visa


Where can I get a more detailed information about applying for US visa?

What are the chances of getting a US Visa?

What are the typical Visa interview questions that I should prepare for?

What is a SEVIS Receipt?

What if my Visa is rejected?

How many times can I re-apply for the Student Visa?


Typical process for getting a US Student Visa

We have listed below the typical steps that you need to go through to obtain your student visa. Please note that these steps also depend on your country. We suggest that you check with the nearest US Embassy / US Consulate for more detailed information.

  1. Look for the nearest US Embassy / US Consulate to you

  2. Take an appointment for visa interview with the US Embassy / US Consulate

  3. Prepare the required documents before your visa interview date

  4. Appear for the interview on your appointment date, at the time specified when you made the appointment. Do not be late, as you might be considered missing your appointment.

  5. The immigration officer will normally adjudicate the visa application at the end of the interview. However, certain applicants might be required to present additional information, or to wait for further processing, before their applications can finally be approved / denied.

  6. If your visa application is approved, normally you will be able to take your passport and visa back within 2-3 days.


Where to apply for US Visa ?

You can apply for the visa at almost any US Embassy / US Consulate nearest to you. For more information, check out the section List of US Embassies / Consulates.


When to apply for US Visa ?

We suggest that you apply for a Visa at least two months before your first semester or quarters begins. The US Embassies / Consulates are able to issue your student visa up to 120 days before your course registration start date (the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019). However, you should also be prepared with all the documents required for Visa application. Sometimes, the US Embassy / US Consulate may decide to conduct a background check on you. Therefore, it is always a good idea to apply for Visa early so that you will allow ample time for the background check.

If by some reason, you are not able to apply for Visa in advance, do not panic. It may still be all right as long as you apply for Visa before the start date mentioned on your I-20 or DS-2019. However it is adviseable that you check with the US embassy / consulate in your country.

For more detailed information about this issue, please visit this link


What kind of US Visa you will get?

There are three types of student visas. You may get:

  • Academic Studies (F visa) if you have been accepted into a program to study or conduct research at an accredited U.S. college or university

  • Academic Studies as an Exchange Visitor (J Visas) if you have been accepted into a program through a designated sponsoring organization to participate in an exchange visitor program in the U.S . Example: Fullbright scholars.

  • Non-Academic or Vocational Studies (M Visa) if you have been accepted into a program to study or train at a non-academic institution in the U.S

If you want to learn more about each type of student visa described above, and some other type of visas, please visit USCIS - visa services


US Visa application fees

In most countries, the US Visa fee is $100. This fee covers the expense of conducting the interview and processing the application. It is non-refundable even if your application is rejected. Check with the US Embassy / US Consulate if you should pay the application fee in US Dollar or in your local currency.

Please note that the fees may differ depending in which country you are from. For more accurate information, please check with the US Embassy / US Consulate.


Documents required to apply for US Student Visa

Below we have listed the general documents that are normally required for student visa application. However, we suggest that you also check with the US Embassy / US Consulate nearest to you for the exact documents that you need for your visa application.

Please note that the following list may be different from one country to another (depending on the country's relations with the US).

  • A fully completed, signed DS-156 application form for each applicant

  • A completed DS-157  if the applicant is a male between 16 and 45 years of age

  • A fully completed DS-158 application form for each applicant (including children)

  • A current passport valid for at least six months (note: If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make a separate application)

  • Expired passports that show previous travel to the U.S

  • Non-refundable $100 application fee for each person (including children).

  • A passport-type photograph (2 x 2 inch)

  • SEVIS Receipt (I-797 (receipt notice) to prove that you have paid the SEVIS fee)

  • Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 and an original letter of acceptance sent by the school

  • Proof of ability to pay for the first year of the study program in the United States

  • Any documentation that might demonstrate the applicants’ personal situation in their country of origin and their incentive to return to their country of origin after the completion of their studies in the United States. In the past, some applicants have found the following to be useful: a reference letter from your employer verifying applicant’s job, length of time in the job, and salary, a receipt(s) for payment of applicant’s salary, a bank account statement showing recent activity in the applicant’s bank account, applicant’s business card, permission from the Department of Trade to operate the business, applicant’s most recent tax payment receipt, an applicant’s company’s charter document, marriage certificates, birth certificates, and a certificate of land ownership. Please note that just bringing these documents will not guarantee the issuance of a visa. 

  • Bank statement or financial statement providing proof of enough money that can sustain the student through his entire period of stay in the US.

(Source:, 2007)

Tips for applying for US Visa

  • Always remember to apply for the visa early

  • Be confident during the visa interview, and avoid lies

  • Have all the required paperwork / documents ready

  • Have all the papers / documents ordered in a file, so that it is easy for you to show the documents

  • Dress appropriately

  • Don’t give up if your visa is rejected. Give it a try again



Where can I get a more detailed information about applying for US visa?

You will be able to get a detail and more customized information in your country’s US Embassy / US Consulate’s website. However, the following websites also provide useful information:

What are the chances of getting a US Visa?

There is no guarantee that your student Visa will be approved even if you have been admitted to a US college / university. However, your chance of getting the Visa is significantly high if:

  • You have all of your required documents ready and that they are all correct / accurate.

  • You can establish a reason to believe that you have a “strong ties” with your home country, and that you are planning to return home after you are done with your education in the US

  • You do not have a reason for the US immigration officer to be suspicious after they conduct a background check on you

  • If your country has a good relationship with the US

  • If you appear confident during the Visa interview

  • If you have good TOEFL / GRE / GMAT / SAT scores


What are the typical Visa interview questions that I should prepare for?

Below is a list of general questions asked by the interview officers. We do not guarantee that these are the only questions, since the officers can ask any questions.

  • Which school are you going to attend? Why?

  • Which program are you going to enroll? Why?

  • How many Universities did you apply for? How many have accepted you?

  • How are you going to finance your education?

  • Could you show me your (family) bank statement or proof of scholarship?

  • Did you receive any scholarships / assistantship from your University or from anywhere else?

  • Do you have any family / relatives in the US?

  • Do you have a job in your home country?

  • Are you planning to return to your home country after graduation? Why?

  • What was your TOEFL score?

  • What was your GRE / GMAT score?


What is a SEVIS Receipt?

Students applying for F, J, and M visas with the initial I-20 or DS-2019 forms issued on or after September 1, 2004 will require payment of SEVIS fee (or SEVIS I-901 fee) before making a visa application.

Continuing students may be subject to the SEVIS fee.  Please visit this link to determine whether you must pay the SEVIS fee.

Your prospective school has the option, but is not required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee for you.  Please contact your school to find out if the SEVIS I-901 fee has been paid for you. If the fee is paid on your behalf, you should receive a receipt from your school. 

Currently there are two different methods for paying the fee, by credit or debit card via the Internet or by check or money order mailed to SEVP. Detail on payment options are described in this link

More information on SEVIS I-901, visit:


What if my Visa is rejected?

Do not panic if your visa is rejected. You can always re-apply. When you re-apply, make sure that you have a significant improvement either in your financial or personal condition, or show that you have a strong ties with your home country (i.e., in your home country you still have: immediate family, employment, or bank account).

Don’t forget to inform your school if you have a problem with your visa. Let the school know if you are planning to re-apply for the visa. If possible ask them to write a letter to convince the immigration officer.

If you believe that you will not be able to get the visa on time (before the starting date of your program), check with your school authorities whether are allowed to enroll for the next semester. In most cases, the university authorities will defer your admission to the next semester and will send you a new I-20 / DS-2019. This will provide you more time to re-apply for your visa.

For more information on this topic, please visit this link


How many times can I re-apply for the Student Visa?

Please note that certain US Embassies / US Consulates have a limit on the number of times you can apply for Visa in a given period of time. Please check with your nearest US Embassy / US Consulate for more detailed information.


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