Applying for a US study visa? Know types, eligibility criteria, required documents and application process in detail - Hindustan Times
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Applying for a US study visa? Know types, eligibility criteria, required documents and application process in detail

By | Edited by Nilesh Mathur
Jun 27, 2024 08:53 AM IST

The popularity of studying in the US has surged over recent years, with Indian students forming the largest group of international students entering the US.

The United States remains a top destination for international students, particularly from India, who seek high-quality education, diverse cultural experiences, and extensive career opportunities. The popularity of studying in the US has surged over recent years, with Indian students forming the largest group of international students entering the US.

If you're planning to join this growing cohort, here's a detailed guide to help you navigate the step-by-step process of applying for a US study visa.(File)
If you're planning to join this growing cohort, here's a detailed guide to help you navigate the step-by-step process of applying for a US study visa.(File)

If you're planning to join this growing cohort, here's a detailed guide to help you navigate the step-by-step process of applying for a US study visa.

Types of US Study Visas

1. F-1 Visa: This visa is for students pursuing academic studies or language training programs at accredited US institutions. It covers study at universities, colleges, high schools, private elementary schools, seminaries, conservatories, and other academic institutions, as well as language training programs. This visa allows students to remain in the US for the duration of their study program and offers options for on-campus employment and, in some cases, off-campus work through Optional Practical Training (OPT).

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2. M-1 Visa: This visa is for students enrolling in vocational or non-academic programs, such as technical courses, culinary schools, and flight training programs. Unlike the F-1 visa, M-1 visa holders are not permitted to work during their studies. The M-1 visa is typically issued for the duration of the program, plus any practical training that may be required.

3. J-1 Visa: This visa is for exchange visitors participating in work-and-study-based exchange programs. It is commonly used for students in programs that promote cultural exchange, such as government-funded scholarship programs, fellowships, and other exchange opportunities. J-1 visa holders may engage in work or training related to their field of study.

Eligibility Criteria for a US student visa

To qualify for a US student visa, you must meet several critical criteria:

● Acceptance at a SEVP-Approved University: You must be accepted into a university recognised by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and obtain a Form I-20 (for F-1 and M-1 visas) or DS-2019 (for J-1 visas). This form serves as your certificate of eligibility for student status.

● Proficiency in English: You need to demonstrate your proficiency in English typically through standardised tests (TOEFL/ IELTS), while some institutions may require their own language proficiency requirements.

● Financial Stability: You must prove that you have sufficient funds to cover tuition and living expenses for your studies, including proofs such as bank statements, scholarship letters, and affidavits of support.

● Intent to Return: You must show strong ties to your home country and an intention to return after completing your studies. This can be proved through evidence such as family connections, property ownership, or a job offer in your home country.

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Required Documents when applying for a US student visa

When applying for a US student visa, ensure you have the following documents:

● Valid Passport: Ensure your passport remains valid for at least six months beyond your stay in the US.

● Form DS-160 Confirmation Page: Print and bring the confirmation page from your completed DS-160 form, which is the online nonimmigrant visa application form.

● Fee Receipt of Visa application: Proof of payment for the visa application fee, which is $185 (approximately INR 15,457).

● SEVIS Fee Receipt: Proof of payment for the SEVIS I-901 fee, which is $350 (approximately INR 29,243) for F and M visa applicants, and $220 for J visa applicants.

● Form I-20 or DS-2019: Issued by your SEVP-approved university, this form must be presented during your visa interview, so carry it along with the other documents.

● Passport Photo: Follow the specific photo requirements outlined by the US Department of State.

● Financial Documentation: Proof of sufficient funds for tuition and living expenses. This can include bank statements, scholarship award letters, or affidavits of support from sponsors.

● Academic Records: Transcripts, diplomas, and standardised test scores to demonstrate your academic qualifications.

● Visa Interview Appointment Confirmation: Proof of your scheduled visa interview appointment.

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Application Process

● Secure Admission and Obtain Form I-20 or DS-2019: After being accepted by a SEVP-approved university, you will receive this form, which is essential for your visa application.

● Pay the SEVIS Fee: The fee is $350 (approximately INR 29,243) for F and M visa applicants and $220 for J visa applicants. Payment can be made online; you must print and retain the receipt as proof.

● Fill the DS-160 Form: Make sure to complete the DS-160 form, which is the online nonimmigrant visa application form. Ensure all information is accurate and matches your Form I-20 or DS-2019 details.

● Schedule a Visa Interview: Book an appointment at the nearest US embassy or consulate. Wait times can vary, so it's advisable to apply early.

● Attend the Visa Interview: Bring all required documents and be prepared to answer questions about your study plans, financial stability, and future intentions. The visa interview is a crucial part of the application process; honesty and confidence are key.

Additional Information

● Early Application: You can apply for the visa up to 365 days before the start date of your course, but entry to the US is permitted no more than 30 days before the start date.

● Interview Waiver: If you have previously received a US student visa and i expired within the last 48 months, you may qualify for an interview waiver, simplifying the renewal process.

● Processing Times: Visa processing times vary by location. It's essential to check the US embassy or consulate website for the most current wait times and plan accordingly.

Always refer to the official US Department of State website and the website of the US embassy or consulate in India for the latest and most specific details.

(Author Vaibhav Gupta is CO-founder and CMO, iSchoolConnect. Views expressed are personal.)

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