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How to Obtain your Student Visa and study in the USA

The Immigration and Nationality Act provides two nonimmigrant student visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States. The "F" visa is reserved for nonimmigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs, and the "M" visa is reserved for nonimmigrants wishing to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies.

F Visa-Academic Students and M Visa-Vocational Students Requirements

Foreign students seeking to study in the U.S. may enter in the F-1 visa or M-1 visa category provided they meet the following criteria:

  • The student must be enrolled in an "academic" educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program;
  • The school must be approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);
  • The student must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution;
  • The student must be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency; The student must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study; and
  • The student must maintain a residence abroad which he/she has no intention of giving up.

On my webpage you can find information about becoming an academic student and entering the United States with a student visa.

You can also obtain information regarding studying the English language in the United States.

Also, you can find out information about entering the US through a student visa to attend vocational school and how to apply for the visa, visa ineligibility waiver, and student employment.

Valuable information on financial aid for individuals seeking student visas is also available.

See information about the new interagency initiative known as the Student Exchange and Visitors Program, or SEVP program. SEVP is designed to improve processes for foreign students and exchange visitors holding F, J, and M visas, and schools, colleges and other organizations sponsoring programs for these visa holders. Also, click here for a listing of designated sponsors by category for J-visas (cultural exchange).

SEVP will facilitate and automate several processes affecting foreign students, such as:

  • Visa issuance
  • admissions to the U.S.;
  • benefit requests; and
  • information reporting.

Ultimately, as an applicant of a student visa to enter the United States, you will need to read the helpful information provided by the Ice Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. You can obtain a guide informing you about what you should expect when entering the US as a student visa holder. There is also a guide showing you what to expect when entering the US as an exchange visitor.

Read our site to find a full list of US Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Visas.

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 student 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 visa holder - An additional 60 days, to prepare for departure from the U.S. or to transfer to another school.
  • M-1 student visa holder - 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, 2001, 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, 2001 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 before being able to return to America and resume your studies. A student visa cannot be renewed or re-issued in the United States; it must be done at an Embassy or Consulate abroad.



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