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How to Obtain a Visa to Study in the United States

Of all the visa programs made available by the U.S. Department of State, the various programs for academic study and exchange enjoy the most support. The visas obtained for the purpose of studying in the U.S. are all in the non-immigrant category, and there are four different types.

F Student Visas

Any learning activity undertaken for the purpose of obtaining academic credit that can be applied to a degree program will fall under the F visa, which includes studying at the following institutions:

  • Universities
  • Secondary schools that allow foreign admissions
  • Private elementary institutions
  • Conservatories of the arts
  • Religious schools that provide seminary formation
  • Language academies

It should be noted that American public elementary schools do not allow foreign admissions. Children of foreign diplomats may attend under programs other than the F visa.

The F visa application process starts with obtaining an I-20 from the qualified institute. Then, the applicant will prepare the Form DS-160, which is completed online. There are several methods of application. In many cases, the schools offering foreign admissions will help prospective students. Applicants may also contact a San Diego immigration lawyer to help them complete and file the form. The documents that applicants must refer to when completing this form include passport, curriculum vitae, and record of prior international travel dating back five years. A digital photo must be uploaded and the filing fee of $160 must be paid online. If the application is a petition, the fee is $190.

Upon filing the DS-160, the applicant is expected to contact the U.S. Embassy or consulate office. In many cases, an interview may be conducted prior to approval.

M Student Visa

Whenever the intended course of study does not grant academic credit, the M student visa should be obtained. The application process is essentially the same as for the F visa. A form I-20 needs to be initiated by the school and must also be completed by relatives who enter the U.S. to stay with the student. Schools are expected to register foreigners and their relatives in the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS). Examples of students who may qualify for M visas include automobile service technicians who come to the U.S. to attend certification courses from automakers such as Ford, Tesla, and General Motors.

J Exchange Visa

Interns, specialists, doctors, researchers, au pairs, teachers, aircraft pilots, and foreign government visitors on special education missions that include exchange programs should apply for the J visa. The application process is similar to the F and M visas. However, applicants should first enroll in the J-1 program and become participants. The eligibility requirements are more extensive. Applicants are expected to have a certain level of English language proficiency, and they must also provide evidence of insurance for all dependents traveling with them. The J exchange visa also includes filing of a DS-2019 form and payment of the I-901 SEVIS fee, which as of 2018 is $200 for students, $180 for exchange program visitors, and $235 for au pair applicants.

Get in touch with a trusted immigration law firm if you want to learn more about obtaining a student visa or need information on U.S. citizenship and immigration services. San Diego is home to KS Visa Law, one of the top immigration firms in the city. Give us a call today at 858-874-0711 if you’d like to schedule an appointment.

November 2018
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