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USA Student Visa Requirements

USA Student Visa Requirements
You must have a student visa to study in the United States (F-1, M-1 or J-1 visa). Students must travel with a valid visa.


Your course of study and the type of school you plan to attend determine whether you need an F-1 visa (University or college; high school; private elementary school; seminary; conservatory; another academic institution, including a language training program) or an M-1 visa (vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution, other than a language training program).

Citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participating countries who intend to study cannot travel on the VWP or on visitor (B) visas, except to undertake recreational study as part of a tourist visit.

Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, which is not for credit toward a degree or academic certificate, is permitted on a visitor (B) visa. 

Study leading to a U.S. conferred degree or certificate is not permitted on a visitor (B) visa, even if it is for a short duration. For example, distance learning which requires a period of time on the institution’s U.S. campus requires an F-1 visa.

Before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an F or M student visa, you must first apply to and be accepted by a SEVP approved school. When you are accepted by the U.S. school you plan to attend, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee.

The U.S. school will provide you with a Form I-20 to present to the consular officer when you attend your visa interview. If your spouse and/or children intend to reside with you in the United States while you study, they must obtain individual Form I-20s, but they do not pay the SEVIS fee.

There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. 

Interview and documentation
While interviews are generally not required for applicants of certain ages, consular officers have the discretion to require an interview of any applicant, regardless of age. You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview, generally, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. You may schedule your interview at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but be aware that it may be difficult to qualify for a visa outside of your place of permanent residence. 

Required documents:

  • Passport valid for travel to the United States, valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the US;
  • Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page;
  • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview;
  • Photo;
  • Certificate of eligibility for nonimmigrant (F-1) student status for academic and language students, Form I-20A-B or certificate of eligibility for nonimmigrant (M-1) student status for vocational students, Form I-20M-N.

Additional documents may be requested to establish that you are qualified. For example, additional requested documents may include evidence of:

  • Your academic preparation, such as: transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended; standardized test scores required by your U.S. school;
  • Your intent to depart the United States upon completion of the course of study;
  • How you will pay all educational, living and travel costs.

Visas for younger students
Students wanting to study at elementary school (from grades kindergarten through 8, and approximately 5 to 14 years old) or high school (grades 9-12) are required to hold F-1 student visas, with some exceptions.

F-1 visas can no longer be issued to attend public elementary or middle schools (K-8th grade) or publicly funded adult education programs. Students who attend public high schools in the U.S. are limited to twelve months of study. 

J-1 visas
The Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa category is for individuals approved to participate in work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. Participants are integral to the success of the program.

To take part in one of the J-1 Visa programs, locate and contact a designated sponsor. The designated sponsors supervise the application process and are the main point of contact throughout the exchange program process.

Sponsors screen and select their program participants according to the eligibility criteria for each program category. Some categories require that a personal interview be part of the screening and selection process. In addition to program-specific criteria, all participants must satisfy English language proficiency and insurance requirements.

Sponsors are to provide participants with pre-arrival information prior to their departure from their home countries and an orientation upon their arrival in the United States. Sponsors are also required to monitor the progress and welfare of the participants for the duration of their programs.

Required documentation for j-1 visa

  • DS 2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.
  • A Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002.
  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
  • A passport valid for travel to the U.S.
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph.
  • Applicants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they are coming to the U.S. for a temporary period.

Secondary school student program
Secondary school students travel to the United States to study at an accredited public or private high school and live with an American host family or at an accredited boarding school. 

To be eligible for this program, secondary students must:

  • Be at least 15 years of age, but not more than 18 years and six months of age as of the program start date, or
  • Not have finished more than 11 years of primary and secondary school, not including kindergarten; and
  • Not have previously participated in a secondary school student academic year or semester exchange program or attended school in the United States in either F-1 or J-1 status.

Issuance and renewal of visas

F-1 and M-1 student visas for new students can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date. However, you will not be allowed to enter the United States in F-1 or M-1 status earlier than 30 days before your start date.

Continuing student may renew their visas at any time, as long as they have maintained student status and their SEVIS records are current. Continuing students may enter the United States at any time before their classes start.

The responsible officer has the discretion to extend a participant's program (J-1 visa) to its maximum regulatory duration, that is, to the limit imposed by the regulations specific to a program category or to a program sponsor's designation. A new Form DS-2019 reflecting the extension is issued to the participant. Extensions beyond the maximum program duration are allowed in some program categories for exceptional or unusual circumstances, with approval from the Department of State.

To obtain approval for such extensions, the responsible officer must submit a written request that justifies the petition and provides supporting documentation to the Department of State on behalf of the participant. A nonrefundable fee of $246 is payable to the U.S. Department of State. Participants are referred to their responsible officers for additional information.

Remember that a visa is not a guarantee of entry to the United States.  The immigration officer at the port of entry determines whether or not you may enter and the authorized duration of stay.

Links to Related Information:

Embassy Contact Information:
Contact the nearest Embassy / Consulate for USA for the most up-to-date information on what documentation you specifically may require to enter USA.

Disclaimer: The contents of this page and other such web pages on this website are provided in good faith as a general information guide only, and the use of this website as an information resource or other is at the viewer/user’s sole risk. While every effort is made in presenting up-to-date and accurate information, no responsibility or liability is accepted by the owners to this website for any errors, omissions, outdated or misleading information on these pages or any other website to which these pages connect or are linked.

Source & Copyright: The source of the above visa and immigration information and copyright owner/s is the:

  • The U.S. Department of State – URL: www.travel.state.gov
  • The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs – URL: http://j1visa.state.gov/
  • Embassy of the United States, Israel– URL: https://il.usembassy.gov/

The viewer/user of this web page should use the above information as a guideline only, and should always contact the above sources or the user’s own government representatives for the most up-to-date information at that moment in time, before making a final decision to travel to that country or destination.

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