How to Get a Student Visa for the United States: Comprehensive Guide

As an international student, choosing to study in the United States means exposure to a wide range of opportunities one cannot begin to imagine. But before students can study in the United States, there are a series of steps that could use a meticulous approach.

This article aims to explore the USA student Visa application and retrieval processes. In this article, we will be exploring:


Why Study In the USA?

Between 2019 and 2020, the United States witnessed a mass movement of international students immigrating. Over 1.1 million students came into the country to further their studies.

This intricate detail tells that the USA has one of the most suitable arrangements that would work perfectly for an international student. If you are looking to move to the country for further studies, here is a list of advantages you stand to gain:

1. World Class Tertiary Institutions

The United States often prides itself on owning the most credible and prestigious colleges, research institutes, and universities globally.

According to the QS World University Rankings 2021,  universities in the US made the cut and surpassed it to be among the top 10 tertiary institutions globally. Any international student choosing to study in the United States has the privilege to select from over 5000 universities.

2. Becoming A Global Citizen

Learning is a dynamic process that is not confined to the classroom. Becoming accustomed to other people’s cultures is another crucial way of becoming knowledgeable.

Because of the presence of a vast number of people from all walks of life, the United States of America helps international students to integrate with people of different continents, languages, ways of life, and ideologies.

3. A Wide Variety of Study Options

International students need not worry if there would be provision for their choice of study. Generally, colleges and universities in the United States offer a wide range of study options.

Students can benefit from over 2 million courses under its 2-year and 4-year institutions arrangement.

4. Improved Career Opportunities

Tom Kleber, the Director of Enrollment Management at Northeastern University, once shared that studying in the United States guarantees employability. He stated that whether an international student chooses to migrate to the United States or wishes to return to their home country, having the work and academic experience in the US helps them stand out.

The United States has several internship programs that international students can take advantage of to boost their level of employability and build strong ties in the corporate world.

5. Flexible Study System

The American schooling system offers flexibility in its systems and structures. International students can use these quirks in the system to their advantage.

For instance, the system permits students to attempt a range of courses before deciding on what to settle on. This opportunity usually comes in at the undergraduate level, and it helps students explore their choices without the need for urgency.

6. Network With People Globally

Studying in the United States affords students the opportunity for quality education, personal development, and broader horizons. The country owes this advantage mainly to a growing network of people from all over the world interacting with its various institutions.

Students can depend on this network to pick up skills, trades, and opportunities that may not be available in formal and professional settings.

7. Student Support

Moving to a new country can be exhausting physically and mentally. In the United States, international students can rest assured that their physical and mental wellbeing will be catered for.

American Universities equip themselves with student support and resources that international students will need through each stage of their academics.

8. Vibrant Student Life

While studying is a student’s primary obligation, it is not stringent. There are several attractions that students can indulge in to unwind.

Several campuses in the United States boast a vibrant campus that keeps students actively involved in extracurricular activities that foster the creation of beneficial relationships and the learning and exercising of practical skills. International students could join sports teams, sororities, fraternities, and clubs on campus, to improve their social life and help them make friends.


Does The USA’s Healthcare System cover international Students?

Having health care insurance is an essential part of obtaining a student visa for the United States, although health insurance varies according to the type of visa applied for.

An international student on an F-1 visa is not required by the US to have health insurance, but health insurance is paramount to a J-1 visa. That being said, F-1 visa holders still need to get health insurance because institutions have the F-1 visa as a mandatory requirement.

Health insurance for international students with F-1 visas varies according to the university. Sometimes institutions have health insurance that students have to obtain or recommend to health insurance companies.

Another important detail is that there is no universal health insurance policy in the United States, and there are no one-insurance-for-all provisions. When purchasing health insurance, it should contain the following:

  • · Medical expenses that have to do with emergencies. The US government often requests this, and it is a requirement for J-1 exchange students.
  • Medical benefits of USD 100,000, the least for illness or accident.
  • A deductible stipend of no less than USD 500 per illness or accident.
  • Return of remains coverage that sums up at USD 25,000.

As an international student, you should always prepare for health insurance. It is advisable to set aside USD 1,500 for this purpose, pending the duration of your stay in the United States. It is also necessary to state preexisting health conditions and make sure your choice of health insurance covers it.

Healthcare insurance is critical because health care expenses healthcare expenses can be excessive and intimidating


Can I Stay in the USA After I Graduate?

As an international student on an F-1 visa, after completing the duration of your study in the United States, you have the grace to stay back in the country for 6o days. You can always determine if you wish to stay back in the country or return to your home country within this period. If it’s the former, there are several options, which would guarantee your legal stay.

However, If the ultimate goal is to become a permanent US legal resident, whatever legal process you take would take years. However, your chances are better when you work in the US. Here are three employment-based ways to facilitate your stay:

Employment-based Stay and Citizenship

1. H-1B Visa

As an international student who has graduated, you can always update your student visa in the United States into an H-1B visa, also known as a non-immigrant visa. Individuals can acquire the H-1B status through the help and sponsorship of an employer.

This visa type can allow an international student to stay back in the United States for six years while working. After achieving this, your employer can further file for employment-based permanent residency after working in the company for five consecutive years.

To obtain the visa, as an international student, you have to prove to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) that you are exceptionally qualified for the position in the company according to your area of study.

2. Optional Practical Training (OPT)

The Optional Practical Training is another program undergraduates and graduates can apply for while studying or after completing their studies. OPT guarantees an international student’s stay for 12 months. For international students to qualify for this program, they must have completed a degree or taken a study course for a year in the United States.

However, the OPT program requires an applicant to know and qualify for the following:

  • A need to submit work authorization forms to the USCIS, making you eligible for the OPT program.
  • The basis of employment is that your field of study must correlate with the place and position of employment.
  • When vetted and accepted for OPT as an undergraduate, you must know that your work hours should exceed 20 hours. A week while school is in session.
  • What makes OPT stand out from other stay options is that it helps build your resume and employability and proves your work ethics to future employers.

3. Green Card

The green card visa is the ultimate goal when looking to stay back in the United States. The card gives immigrants access to becoming permanent residents in the United States. It also makes them qualified for all the benefits and obligations accorded to citizens.

However, the green card status is in high demand, and thus, it is tedious to obtain. Nonetheless, getting a green card is not impossible. Having the green card can either be employment-based or through self-petition.

When it is employment-based, you obtain a green card when an employer who recognizes your value pushes for your green. However, when a green card is obtained through self-petition, you must file form The visa I-485 – Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with USCIS, including all supporting documents and fees.

Non-employment-based Stay and Citizenship

There are other ways to stay in the United States without applying for an employment-based extension. These include:

1. Military Service

An international student who has had two years of study in the United States could sign up to join the military either as a medical assistant or interpreter. These options are not limited to the two positions mentioned.

Enlisting in the military does not guarantee a green card, but it helps skip the five-year requirement for residency in the country. It also helps accelerate the process of obtaining a green card.

2. Immediate Family Sponsorship

An immediate family member who has permanent residency in the United States has a green card or is a citizen can sponsor your green card status. However, the family member must either be a spouse, children above 21, parent, or sibling.

3. Asylum

When asylum is granted, an immigrant or international student can apply for a green card within one year of settling in the United States. During application for a green card, the asylee must prove their status under the original circumstances of being granted asylum.

It is also in an immigrant’s best interest to not travel or go back to their home country for an extended period pending the time they are granted permanent residency.

What is an F-1 Study Permit?

The F-1 study permit has made rounds through the parts of this article because it is the pass for an international tertiary student to travel to the United States of America.

An F-1 visa is granted to an international student enrolled in an academic or English program in the United States. As F-I visa holders, international students are required to enroll for and maintain the minimum course load rule for the duration of their status as students.

After the study is completed, an F-1 visa holder is automatically allowed to stay in the country for 60 days, pending their decision to either stay back or return to their home country. The student visa for the USA holders in the F-1 category is also expected to complete their studies according to the expiration date stated on their I-20 form, which is the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.

Other Visa Permit Types

The F-1 visa is one of the several visa types the United States of America issues regarding travel and immigration. It also covers a large percentage of the undergraduate level of study. The F-1 visa makes provisions for University or college, elementary school, high school, conservatory, and seminary. The other visa types are listed thus:

1. M-1 Visa

The M-1 visa is also known as the M visa type, and it covers vocational education and other nonacademic institutions, excluding language learning programs.

2. Visitor Visa

As the name implies, the visitor visa covers a visit, usually for a short period, probably for tourism or vacations. International students are not advised to apply for this visa type because it does not suit their study goals. This visa type is also called the B visa.

3. Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program is quite similar to the B visa, except it does not require a visa. The visa waiver program is designed for recreational or business purposes, and the traveler can stay 90 days in the United States. The program also has a list of countries within the travel access. Some of these countries include the United Kingdom, Iceland, Bulgaria, Andorra, Australia, Belgium, Chile, Estonia, Luxembourg, Malta, and Switzerland, among many others.

Instead of a visa, a visa waiver program traveler must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

F-1 vs. M-1 Visas: Explained

The F-1 or F1 visa and M-1 or M1 visa have been classified as study-related travel passes, but while the former is academic, the latter is nonacademic. Regardless, both need to apply for admissions in schools approved by the USCIS.

The F1 visa is classified into the F1 and F2, and while F1 is for the international student, the F2 visa is for the dependent or spouse.

The M1 and M2 also follow in this fashion wherein the M2 is the dependent.

The F2 and M2 holders are also obligated to meet all requirements and provide evidence that they can support themselves financially and leave the United States once the student has completed their studies.

The M1 visa allows students to take their vocational program for one year.

The F1 visa sees to it that a student can transfer to a University after completing a community vocational program.


What is the Eligibility Criteria for a US Student Visa?

This section centers on the intricate details of obtaining a student visa for the USA and everything you need to know as an aspiring international student. It also gives an idea on how to decide if you qualify for the F-1 visa or the documents you might have left out.

What English Exams Are Required for US Student VISA?

The United States is an English-speaking country predominantly, although it is rich in cultural diversity. So to immigrate as an international student, you must prove that you have a good command of the English language. Through certifications, you can prove that you have passed several exams approved by the authorities in charge.

These English Proficiency exams include SAT, PTE, TOEFL, GMAT or GRE, and IELTS. The standard exams serve as tools to facilitate international students’ eligibility. Here’s a breakdown of what they stand for.

1. TOEFL

TOEFL, which expands to Test of English as a Foreign Language, is one of the most common language tests used, and its pass PassMark ranges between 71 and 92 per the University and course of study. TOEFL might require a higher score if the study program is a Ph.D. degree. The application fee costs USD 185.

2. PTE

The Pearson English Test (PTE) became recently accepted in the United States, and up to 785 universities in the country recognize it. The PTE avengers pass score is 54, but it depends on the university and course of study. The PTE application fee is USD 176.16.

3. IELTS

The IELTS exam is another bonafide language test widely recognized in the United States. About 4000 universities and colleges in the States accept IELTS as a test for international students’ English language skills. Depending on the course of study and institution, IELTS pass marks range between 6 to 7. The IELTS fee costs USD 194.61.

4. SAT

The Scholastic Aptitude Test is one of the exams taken when an international student is enrolling for an undergrad course. It goes beyond the English test, as it shows the academic strength of the aspiring students. The minimum score for SAT is 1000, and the exam costs USD 101 to USD 117.

5. GRE

As the name implies, the Graduate Records Examination is the test taken when applying for graduate programs in the United States. The minimum score for GRE is 170. However, the scores are relative to the course of study. GRE costs USD 50.34.


United States Study Permit Requirements and Regulations for International Students

There is a list of rules one must adhere to while applying for a Student visa to the United States. Some requirements will facilitate the study permit. These requirements include:

  • Program enrollment: International students should enroll in full-time study programs ages of the academic session.
  • Proof of funds: The applicant or international student should have sufficient funds and tender proof of funds as requested. These funds are to see to the applicant’s finances in the United States.
  • English Proficiency: The international student must prove their English language skill level by showing results from certified English proficiency examinations.
  • Valid Passport: The passport must have a validation date that extends to at least six months after completing your education.
  • Home country residency: You must have a residence in your home country as an international student, where you would return to after your study.

Regulations For International Student

As an international scholar, getting your visa and studying your dream course is not enough when you arrive in the USA. An important aspect of living in the United States is that you have to maintain your F-1 visa status.

You can do so by following the regulations and codes of conduct:

  • As an international student, make sure you enter the United States 30 days ahead of your resumption. Note that this specification should not be more than 30 days.
  • When school is in session, make sure to attend all your classes and maintain a good academic performance.
  • When taking different academic steps like extending the study period or removing a course, always inform the DSO.
  • If you wish to take a break, or go on vacation between studies, make sure you have completed a full academic year.

Process and Procedure of Study Permit Application

After gathering the necessary documents with the help of the requirement section, the next step is to order your steps with the process and procedures that follow each stage of application. Here’s a list of what you need to know.

1. Apply For Admission

Before your F-1 or M-1 visa comes into the picture. The first step is to apply for admission at any SEVP-approved institution of choice. After the international students have confirmed that they got accepted at a SEVP-approved school, they will receive Form I-20, relevant for the Visa application process for F-1 and M-1 visas.

Form I-20 is also known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students. The form will contain the student’s SEVIS ID, the school’s address, and other information necessary during The visa processing.

2. Pay The SEVIS fee

The international student is obligated to pay their I-901 SEVIS fee after receiving the Form I-20. This fee cost USD 350, and it is not the same as the visa application fee.

3. Proceed to Apply For Visa

The visa application begins with a visit to the nearest US embassy, and it is essential to note that processes differ at the various US embassies. Some embassies in some regions may require the international student to bring additional documents.

4. Fill Out The Form DS-160 Online

Your visa application process requires you as an international student to fill Form Ds-160, also known as the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. At this stage, you will need your passport, passport-sized photograph, and your Form I-20.

5. Schedule Visa Interview

After filling Form DS-160 and printing out the confirmation page, the interview date comes in next. You must submit the form and then contact the Us Embassy or consulate to schedule your interview. Listing times for interviews often vary according to different embassies.

The waiting time for your visa application result usually spans over 120 days. You are advised to apply three or four months ahead of the date on Form I-20.

6. Visa Application Fee

The visa application fee is USD 160, and it is the same across countries and regions. Note that your visa fee payment should be paid when the US embassy you visit instructs you to pay.

More often than not, many embassies require applicants to pay ahead of the interview, and in other cases, the embassies might need to specify when. If you pay before the interview, be sure to take the receipt along with you for the interview.

7. Go For Interview

The interview is the last step, and it carries the weight of whether your visa will be granted or not. Therefore, you must follow the rules of the book and state your purpose of travel. The firms earlier mentioned include:

  • Your passport.
  • Receipts for the fees.
  • Transcripts from a former institution.
  • Test scores.
  • Diplomas from high school.
  • Proof of sufficient funds.
  • Proof of intent to leave the US after your study is complete.
  • Pay Visa Issuance Fee

After the verdict on your visa application which means your application may either be approved or declined. Be rest assured that visas are only declined in rare cases of document defaults. After receiving the student visa in the United States of America, some international students must pay the visa issuance fee depending on their country’s agreement with the United States.

8. Receive Visa

After approval, the embassy provides your passport with your new visa in it. While some embassies require personal pickup, others may mail it to your address.


Which American University is Right for You?

The United States has a large number of Universities that one can get caught up in confusion while trying to choose what University suits them best. 

On our website, we have reviewed US Universities in-depth. To learn more about the most prominent American Universities here is some reading material.

To avoid repetition, we wanted to mention some additional prominent universities, which we might have not mentioned on other lists.

1. Northeastern University

Northeastern University is a global research institution established in 1898, with an array of undergraduate and graduate study programs that students can take on-campus and online. The school offers over 195 majors in diverse disciplines, while its research-based learning method encourages students to make product researches that can be patented.

While the tuition and other fees cost USD 55,452, the university has various international students’ scholarship programs. The scholarship provision is designed such that international students can get micro-scholarships of USD 20,000

2. Wichita State University

Established in 1895, Wichita State University is well ingrained in research-based academics with over USD 164 million yearly funding. The school’s research method cuts across various careers and fields, including bioscience, physics, social sciences, chemistry, and mathematics.

The school’s brief dues and fees range from USD 27,500 to 35,700. The University’s scholarship program for international students includes a USD 1000 stipulation per session.

3. Texas A & M

Also, a public research institution, Texas A&M University, is the only institution in Texas that has been certified as a land, seas, and space grant institution. It has been a member of the Association of American Universities since 2001.

The university, which accepts over 64,000 students and over 5ooo international students, has over 113 programs of study. The school’s tuition and other fees have its minimum pay as USD 20,000 and over 40,000 at the maximum for undergraduate studies. Higher studies range between USD 55,000 and USD 70,000.

As registered university students, international students can apply through the University Scholarship Application page and be privy to scholarships programs like the Florence Terry Griswold Scholarship, Good Neighbor Scholarship, and International Education Fee, to mention a few.

4. Purdue University

Purdue University is a public research institution located in West Lafayette, Indiana. Founded in 1869, the University has evolved to accommodate over 200 majors for undergraduate studies and 69 courses for masters and doctorate degrees.

Purdue has a prominent reputation for accommodating international students, and the institution records statistics of over 10,000 international students admitted every year.

The university has the fourth-largest foreign student population of any university nationwide. The tuition and other fees sum up to USD 28,794. Purdue’s scholarship schemes include The Beck’s Hybrid Leadership Scholarship, Williamson Scholarship For Excellence in Agriculture, and Purdue Doctoral Fellowship.

5. University of Southern California

University of Southern California (USC) was founded in 1880, and it is one of the first private research institutes in the United States. The university is located in Los Angeles, and it is considered the global center for international business, the arts, and technology. USC enrolls over 12,000 international students each academic year into different programs numbering up to 95 majors, 147 minor, and 134 masters and professional degrees.

The school has 79 research institutions cutting across arts, humanities, natural and social sciences, and technology. USC gets USD 891 million to fund research from time to time. Attending USC will cost a tuition fee of USD 30,000 to USD 80,000. The school’s list of scholarship programs remits millions of dollars in academic fees.

6. Kent State University

Kent State University, founded in 1910, has eight regional campuses in Ohio. The institution offers over 300 graduate and undergraduate study programs, and it welcomes students globally, with a population topping 38,000. Kent University costs admission and tuition fees from USD 20,000 to USD 30,000. The institution offers a range of scholarships, from global categories to merit-based scholarships.


US Work Authorization For Students

As a student visa holder in the United States, there is provision for working while learning, but some rules are attached to how the arrangement works. The USCIS oversees the rules and restrictions attached to working part-time.

There are several categories of employment for international students, especially F-1 holders. The categories include:

1. On-campus Employment

This employment type is the most freely permitted by the USCIS, and it does not need approval from the regulatory body. However, on-campus employment is limited and does not carry the bulk of your finances as an international student.

2. Curricular Practical Training

This work authorization is a form of off-campus employment, and it requires that the student is employed in the practical aspect according to their study programs. Curricular Practical training translates to internships or cooperative education.

3. Severe Economic Hardship

The F-1 students who fall in this category have to declare and prove to the USCIS that they have an economic crisis. You should also show proof that on-campus employment is not sufficient. Apply for an employment authorization document (EAD), as this is the pass needed to work anywhere in the United States.

4, Employment with An International Organization

This category is certified by the USCIS besides the on-campus employment. However, the organizations must be on the Official state department list or international bodies like African and Asian Development banks, Red Cross, WHO, and WTO.

The Optional Practical Training (OPT), which this article earlier mentioned, is also an employment type for international students.


What is the Cost of Studying in the USA?

  • DISCLAIMER: The prices in this section are subject to change based on exchange rates and varying conditions. It also varies based on the university/college, specific program, and the city/town you choose.

1. Tuition

In the United States, higher institutions can be broadly categorized into Public/State or Private Universities. Studying in Private Universities is generally more expensive than public universities. Also, tuition fees may be influenced by the program and university you decide to attend.

Tuition fees may range from USD 10,000 to USD 55,000 annually. Typically, Arts and Humanities courses are cheaper than Science courses. Furthermore, studying at the postgraduate level is more expensive than studying at the undergraduate level. MBA programs are the most expensive, with the average cost coming in at around USD 60,000.

2. Accommodation

Several universities in the United States offer international students on-campus accommodation. Staying on campus is usually the most affordable option for students. Application for campus accommodation is separate from other applications. Moreso, there is competition for campus accommodations, so students should apply for spaces well ahead of time.

Where a student does not want to stay on campus, there are other available options. A student may opt for off-campus accommodation to stay alone or share an apartment with other students. They may also live in a homestay or live with relatives close to the university. Students may also visit Hostels and Guesthouses.

On average, Staying on-campus costs USD 800 to 900 monthly, Homestay costs USD 600 to 3000 monthly, and rentals can range from USD 450 to 3600 monthly. Visiting a guesthouse in the US costs about USD 45 to 100 per night.

3. Other Expenses

Other expenses that an international student will have will depend on certain factors like lifestyle, wellbeing, and the location of their school of choice.

Several American cities have an efficient transport system that allows students to get around quickly. Students may get around easily via bicycles, buses, rentals, trains, and taxis. Bikes are cheap, efficient, and an excellent means of exercise if the student lives within a considerable distance of the university.

Any student living on or off-campus may register for a meal plan. A meal plan is a plan that allows students to eat from the school cafeteria at a subsidized rate. Students living off-campus may choose to prepare their meals themselves. Cooking is an excellent way to reduce feeding costs and exercise more control over diet. Eating out is also a popular option among students, and deciding to eat out may cost USD 10 to 30 per head.

Health Insurance is mandatory for American students as a part of their visa application. American student visa application costs USD 160.


How Can You Avoid Common Problems and Pitfalls?

Mishaps can cause compilations that lead to loss of time and waste of resources. Therefore, an international student must take painstaking steps in ensuring that nothing goes wrong while applying, traveling, and studying in the US. Here are some common problems and how to avoid them.

1. Doing Research

At every stage of applying to a school and applying for your visa, you as an international student should not neglect thorough research methods before taking the next step. Carrying out proper research is crucial to a successful application process.

2. Being Honest

The United States prioritizes honesty and transparency during the application processes. Therefore, incomplete or dishonest information can lead to severe consequences such as disqualification and difficulty in applying later.

3. Avoiding Travelling Issues

When traveling, students should take proper care to not travel without equipping themselves with vital information such as information about prohibited substances, traveling conducts, and traveling procedures. This ensures that there is no improper delay or any other consequence that could be detrimental.

4. Avoiding Plagiarism

One prominent academic issue frowned upon in the US is plagiarism. International students should do away with it completely, get familiar with the anti-plagiarism guidelines and seek resources from their academic advisor from time to time.

5. Prioritizing Safety

International students must see to their safety, although the safest thing to do as a foreign scholar is staying on campus. However, you are not prohibited from having fun off-campus, but it is pertinent to keep safe and avoid troubles.


Additioanl FAQs — US Student Visa and Study Permit

How Long is a Student Visa in the USA?

International students must have a student visa to remain in the country during staying on campus legally is their stay. For this purpose, Student visas (F-1 visa and M-1 visa) last the entire duration of the students’ course.

However, students may have their Form I-20 renewed at the embassy if circumstances warrant such an application. Furthermore, students have a 60 day grace period upon the expiration of their F-1 visa to leave the country.

How Many Years is an F1 Visa Valid For?

An F-1 visa may be issued for the full time that a student is to remain in the United States or less. If the duration for the visa is lesser than the duration for the length of study, you may apply to renew it.

The steps to renew the visa are the exact steps when applying for the original visa. Thus, an F-1 visa could range from 6 months to more than 6.

Is it Hard to Get a Student Visa for the USA?

The US is one of the most popular destinations for international students. This means that many people are vying for limited spots. Therefore, the competition for the visa is quite intense.

Students should practice interview questions and avoid common problems and pitfalls to stand a chance.

How Can a Student Get an American Visa in the USA?

Applying for a student visa for the USA is usually done to study in the states. However, being on any other visa while applying for a student visa may suggest that the said visa was not gotten with clear intentions.

However, extending or renewing an F-1 visa in the United States is possible. Students may apply for an extension or renewal to remain in the country if they exceed the permitted duration prescribed on the F-1 or M-1 visa due to extenuating circumstances.


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