The United States is often referred to as the land of opportunities. It is no wonder many people want to immigrate to this vast country, whether for leisure, work, or studies. For those looking to study in the United States, you will be glad to know that there is a huge international student community, with almost a million international students enrolled at various US universities and colleges.

However, to be part of this community, there are several requirements you need to meet, the most important being the student visa. Depending on the type of institution and course of study, you will be required to obtain either an F, J, or M visa.

The paperwork and processes involved in obtaining a US student visa can seem daunting, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This essential guide will walk you through each step to getting your US student visa so you can turn your American dream into a reality.

Steps on Applying for a US Student Visa

Applying for a US student visa requires adequate preparation, including knowing which documents are needed and preparing for the visa interview. Let’s look at the step-by-step process of obtaining a US student visa.

Step 1. Obtain Admission into a US University

You must apply and get accepted into a SEVP-approved school in the US. This will help you to obtain either the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status (Form I-20) or the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (Form DS-2019). These forms are issued by the US school or exchange program you plan to attend. They confirm your acceptance and details of your course of study.

Step 2. Complete Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application

Then, you’ll fill out an online nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160. When completing the application, be very thorough and honest in providing the requested details about your identity, purpose of travel, course of study, proof of funds, etc. Any discrepancies or false information could lead to a denial of your student visa.

The online application process should take you around one and a half hours to complete. Once you’re done with the application, remember to print the confirmation page which will be required during your visa interview,

Step 3. Pay the Application and SEVIS Fee

Next, you’ll need to pay $185 for the visa application and the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System or SEVIS fee which is $200. The SEVIS fee covers the cost of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to maintain records of nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors. You can pay this fee online, by mail, or by Western Union. Be sure to have your I-20 or DS-2019 form handy, as you’ll need information from them to process your payment.

Step 4. Schedule Your Interview

Once you’ve submitted Form DS-160, you’ll need to schedule an appointment for a visa interview at your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. At the appointment, a consular officer will interview you to determine your eligibility for a student visa. Be prepared to provide documents like:

  • Your passport
  • I-20 or DS-2019 form
  • SEVIS fee payment receipt
  • Admission letter from your US school
  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous schools
  • Proof of financial support for your studies

You may be asked for more documents to support your application and prove that not only will you be able to support yourself during the study period, but you will also return to your home country after your studies.

Step 5. Prepare for and Attend Your Interview

It’s normal to feel nervous about your visa interview, but going in prepared will help you feel more at ease. Review the details of your educational plans, proof of funding, and other documents. Be ready to explain why you chose your school and course of study. Try to make eye contact, speak clearly, and keep your answers concise and honest.

Documents Needed for US Student Visa Applications

There are several documents required to support your US visa application. Let us look at them in detail below;

1. University Acceptance Letter

Your acceptance letter accompanied by Form I-20 from the school you plan to attend certifies your eligibility as a non-immigrant student. This proves you’ve been accepted into an approved program of study in the United States. Note that, the school or institution needs to be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

2. Proof of Financial Support

This shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during your studies in the United States. Documents including bank statements, affidavits of support, and scholarship letters are all acceptable.

3. Your Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your intended date of entry into the US. If not, you must renew your passport before applying for your student visa.

4. A Photo

Submit a front-facing photo of yourself measuring 2 inches by 2 inches with a plain white or off-white background. The photo must be no more than 6 months old to indicate your most current appearance. It should also be sized according to the US visa photo requirements.

5. An Application Form – DS-160

You need to access Form DS-160, the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. You must submit this form online and bring a printed copy to your visa interview.

6. Travel Documents

Ensure you have the required travel documents like ticket reservations and other study-related requirements like health insurance. Note that, you need to wait for your visa confirmation before paying for your travel ticket.

7. Additional Documentation (If Requested)

The embassy or consular officer reviewing your application may request additional documents, such as proof of English proficiency, academic documents like transcripts, and proof that you’ll leave the USA upon completion of your study program.

FAQs: Student Visa Applications for USA

What are the Different Categories of US Student Visas?

There are different types of student visas for international students planning to study in the US. They depend on the institution and program of study. Here are the three different categories of visas for international students in the US.

  • F or F-1 Visa – This visa allows international students to study at any accredited university or college in the US. It also allows students to study at any of the accredited Language Training Institutes.
  • M Visa – This visa allows international students to pursue studies at vocational institutes or recognized non-academic institutions in the US.
  • J Visa – This visa is for international students either in high school or university participating in an exchange program in the US.

How Much Money Do You Need for a US Student Visa?

Before applying for your US student visa, you need to understand the financial obligation associated with the visa application process.

First, there is a non-refundable fee of $185 for the visa application processing. You need to obtain a receipt after payment as this would be needed during your student visa interview.

There is also a SEVIS I-901 fee payable once you’ve been accepted into a SEVP-approved institution. The fee is $200 and takes care of your full registration into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).


In summary, to get a student visa in the United States, you must first be accepted to a SEVP-approved school. You will then ensure that you have all the required documentation and pay the necessary fees to move to the next stage. Finally, you must schedule and attend a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Following these essential steps carefully will set you on the path to obtaining your US student visa.


We hope that this article on How to Apply for a Student Visa in the US was helpful. If you’re interested in studying abroad, make sure to check out the Available Programs for International Students!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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