What is a student visa to study in the U.S?
As an International student or person born in another country other than the United States of America, you are required to obtain a student visa in order to begin your studies in the U.S.A. There are three (3) types of student visa types to study in the U.S.A, and they will vary depending on the institution and program you wish to study. The most common type is the F-1 Student Visa, there is also the J-1 Student Visa, and lastly the M-1 Student visa.
In order for your for you as an International student to apply for a student visa, you first need to be accepted to study in an accredited U.S. university, college, or institution. There are thousands of institutions approved to issue a student visa in the U.S.A, and if you are not sure which program or institution is right for you, we recommend you book a free online appointment with one of our international student advisors to help you with the entire application and immigration process.
What are the different student visas to study in the U.S.?
F-1 Student Visa
The most popular of the student visa types, the F-1 student visa allows International students to attend and study in an accredited college, English school, high school, or university. International students that apply for this type of visa will be required more than 18 hours a week, and this type of visa is designed for international students looking to study full time while they are attending the institution they have been accepted into. Only institutions that have been approved by the Student and Exchange and Visitor Program or SEVP can issue a document called the I-20 form which will allow you to petition for your F-1 student visa in the U.S embassy in your home country. It is important to understand that the student visa allows you to enter the United States of America as an international student, but your I-20 form is the one that determines how long you can remain in the country studying. This means that even if your student visa is valid for 5 years, but your I-20 form says your program is only 6 months, you will only be able to study for 6 months in the U.S.A, and upon completion of your 6-month program you have 60 days to leave the U.S.A and return to your home country. Any period of time that you stay beyond the 60 days upon completion of your program, you will be a violating immigration law, and you will be considered to have an illegal immigration status in the U.S.A.
The I-20 form that is issued by the institution usually has a validity period, so there is an issued date as well as an expiration date. International students are expected to complete their studies by the expiration date; however, keep in mind that the I-20 form can be extended by the institution where you are studying and you can also transfer your SEVIS record and I-20 form from one institution to another. The I-20 form is one of the most important documents you have as an international student since it is the dates on the I-20 form that determine when you will need to leave the country, or when you are supposed to leave the U.S.A. Another thing you should understand, is that your legal immigration status inside the U.S.A is determined by your I-20 form; this means that even if you have an expired student visa but your I-20 form is still valid, you are in complete compliance with immigration law and you can continue studying in the country legally.
J-1 Student Visa
The J-1 student visa, also known as Exchange Visitor, is a type of student visa usually for those students that want to attend work or study exchange visitor programs; such as work and travel programs which are very popular in the summer, or winter when hotels need extra workers. Other international students that use the J-1 visa are those attending a public high school in the U.S.A under an exchange program, which is designated by the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The J-1 visa has several restrictions and in most cases, your stay can not be extended.
M-1 Student Visa
The M-1 student visa, is designed for international students that want to travel to the U.S.A for non-academic purposes; or most commonly used for vocational studies such as: pilot training, culinary schools, or technical schools. This type of visa is usually valid for only one or two years.