You are currently viewing How to apply for US student visa

If you want to study full-time in the United States you should know how to apply for a US student visa. 

Every year, a large number of international students apply to study in an American educational institution. Unfortunately, this process can be complex and not everyone becomes eligible. For this reason, our Los Angeles immigration lawyers at Lluis Law are here to help you.

The firm has the prestige of having more than 50 years of combined experience helping foreign students obtain one of the study visas available for the United States. Contact us today and we will discuss your possibilities to study in the USA.


Tell Us Your Case

How to apply for a US student visa In 2024

In this section you will learn the requirements to get a student visa in the United States from Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Spain or any other country. In general, you may be eligible for an F-1 or M-1 visa if you meet the following criteria:

  1. You are enrolled in an academic educational program, language training program, or vocational program;
  2. Your school is approved by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP);
  3. Enrolled as a full-time student at that institution;
  4. Fluent in English or are enrolled in an English proficiency course;
  5. You have sufficient funds to cover your expenses for the entire course of study;
  6. You maintain a residence abroad that you have no desire to abandon;
  7. Have a valid passport to travel to the US with a validity of at least 6 months;
  8. You have Form I-20 or DS-2019 (depending on your visa).

In the following link you can find the qualified American institutions.

students with f1 and m1 visa in the united states

What Are Forms I-20 And DS-2019?

Form I-20 is a document that your school, college or university sends to you once you have been admitted. This document is key for the application of the F-1 and M-1 visa in the USA.

On the other hand, the DS-2019 form is a document that your sponsoring organization or agency sends you so that you can become an exchange student in the US and obtain the J-1 visa.

What Types Of Student Visa Exist For The United States?

There are two types of student visas for the United States and one meant for exchange purposes, these are:

  • F-1 visa for academic students: Allows international students to enter the US for full-time study at an academic high school, college, university, conservatory, seminary, or other language training institution or program. You must be enrolled in a program or curriculum of study that awards a degree, diploma, or certificate upon completion.
  • M-1 visa for vocational students: Includes all international students who are in vocational or non-academic programs. For example, a pilot course, cooking, drawing and others.
  • J-1 exchange visitor visa: Issued to alien nationals who intend to participate in an approved program for the purpose of study, instruction, lecturing, teaching, observing, consulting, conduct research, or receive postgraduate medical education or training.
J-1 visa

Although the J-1 visa is mentioned in this article, we have a specific blog for those most interested in learning more about the J-1 visa for exchange visitors.

Who Can Get A Student Visa For The United States?

All aliens who wish to study in the US and are eligible can apply for a student visa. However, US immigration law does not allow F-1 visas to be issued to students attending US public elementary schools, such as Kindergarten through 8th grade, between the ages of approximately 5 and 14. 

Alien students between the ages of 14 and 18 may apply for a student visa to the United States for public high schools (grades 9-12). However, these students are limited to a maximum of 12 months of attendance in public high schools.

Note: Students attending private primary and secondary schools are not affected by this regulation.

Can You Work With A Student Visa In The United States?

Student visas in the United States have their limitations regarding employment. For example, students on F-1 visas may not work during their first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain restrictions and conditions.

After the first academic year, students with an F-1 visa will be able to work in 3 types of jobs off campus:

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students;
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT);
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT).
foreign student with F-1 visa

In case of special situations, such as severe economic hardship or special student relief, students on an F-1 visa will be able to work off campus. M-1 students can participate in practical training only after completing their studies.

Keep in mind that any off-campus training employment for both F-1 and M-1 visa students must be related to their field of study. In addition, you must be authorized before starting any type of work. 

How To Apply For And Obtain A Student Visa For The United States?

So how do you really get a student visa for the United States? The process usually consists of several steps:

  1. Apply for admission to an American school. Once you have been accepted by the SEVP-approved US school, college or university, they will send you an I-20 (for F-1 and M-1 visas) or DS-2019 (for J-1 visa);
  2. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. It costs $350 for F-1/M-1 students and $220 for J-1 students;
  3. Find a US embassy or consulate. You can locate the US embassy or consulate closest to you. Use this link for it;
  4. Complete Form DS-160 online. While filling in the required data, you must submit a photo that meets the requirements;
  5. Pay the visa application fee. Either the F-1, M-1 or J-1 visa;
  6. Schedule the interview with the US embassy or consulate;
  7. Gather all the necessary documents;
  8. Attend the interview. It is important that you respect the scheduled date.

What Is Needed For A Student Visa In The United States?

You need the following documents to apply for a US visa:

  • Valid passport;
  • SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019 signed;
  • Form DS-7002 (for J-1 Trainee and Intern visa applicants only);
  • Confirmation page of the DS-160 application with its respective code;
  • Receipt of confirmation of payment of the MRV fee;
  • SEVIS payment receipt;
  • Printed copy of your appointment letter for a student visa in the United States with the American embassy or consulate;
  • Photograph that meets the established requirements;
  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
  • Financial evidence showing that you or your sponsor (parents or a US sponsor) have sufficient funds to cover your tuition, travel, and living expenses for the duration of your stay in the US;
  • Standardized test scores required by the educational institution, such as LSAT, TOEFL, GMAT, GRE and others;
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Status (F-1) or Certificate of Eligibility for Status (M-1).

How Much Does A Student Visa Cost For The United States in 2024?

The cost of student visas for the United States is:

  • $350 for an F-1 or M-1 visa;
  • $220 for the J-1 visa.

In addition, you must pay the DS-160 form fee of around $160. In short, the total cost for the F-1 or M-1 visa is $510 and $380 for the J-1 visa.

How Much Money Is Required For A Student Visa In The United States?

If you are going to apply for a student visa to the United States, your financial resources must be able to cover an academic period of 12 months. In addition, you have to show that you can cover any additional years of study. 

The US government does not expect you to be able to pay for all your years of study immediately, but it does expect you to be able to show where the money to cover your studies will come from.

How Long Does The Student Visa For The United States Last?

The validity time of these visas vary depending on their category:

  • F-1: The duration will be equal to the estimated time it takes to complete the study program;
  • M-1: Authorized for a maximum of one year;
  • J-1: Its duration depends on the exchange purposes. It usually varies between 4 months and 36 months.

How Long Do I Have To Start Studying With The Student Visa?

For new students, their F-1 or M-1 visas can be issued up to 120 days before the start date of the course of study. However, they are not allowed to enter the United States on a student visa more than 30 days before the start date.

For continuing students, their F-1 or M-1 visas can be issued at any time, as long as the student is currently enrolled in a SEVP-approved school or institution and in SEVIS. 

How Long Does It Take To Get A US Student Visa?

Successful applications for student visas typically take 3-5 business days to process before the passport is delivered to the courier. Also, allow at least 2 more business days for delivery.

If you received notification at the interview that a waiver of ineligibility is required before the visa is issued, it may take up to 8 months for your application to be processed from the date of the interview.

What Happens If I Was Denied A Student Visa For The United States?

When a visa is denied, it is generally because the necessary requirements for obtaining it are not met. If your US student visa is denied, you will need to go through the entire process again. To avoid your denial, contact our immigration attorneys. 

Below you will find some of the main reasons as to why your application for this visa may be rejected:

  • You do not provide proof of sufficient funds. This is one of the main reasons aliens are often denied US student visas. You do not necessarily need to have enough money to cover the entire program, but you must at least have enough funds for one academic year;
  • You apply for the visa too late. If you apply for your visa soon after starting your study program, you will most likely be ineligible for one of the student visas to the United States;
  • Have not provide sufficient evidence that you will be leaving the US You must demonstrate that you intend to leave the United States after your program of study is complete and will not overstay the visa;
  • You do not submit all the necessary documents for the interview. If you do not submit all the required documentation, such as payment receipts, official documents, passport and others, your visa application may be rejected;
  • Not showing up for the interview. If you are late for your interview or simply do not show up, your application may be rejected;
  • The application didn’t pass the security check. Committing crimes may make you ineligible for this visa.
how to clean a criminal record

Our immigration attorneys are also criminal lawyers in Los Angeles, so they can determine your crimes or even help you clear your record.

Tips For Applying For The United States Student Visa

Is it easy to get a US student visa? This is what many applicants ask. The reality is that, like with the other types of American visas, it can be complex if you do not have the proper advice. The slightest mistake can cause your application to be rejected. 

To avoid your visa being denied, here you have some tips to increase your chances of obtaining it:

  • Start your process well in advance. As we saw before, applying for a visa with very little time can lead to its denial. To avoid this, as soon as you are accepted by a US school and have received the I-20 form, start applying for your student visa;
  • Do not buy a plane ticket until you have your visa. It is not advisable to buy any airline tickets until after you have obtained your visa, as there is no guarantee that your application will be accepted. If you buy a ticket well in advance and then your visa is denied, you may not get a refund for it;
  • Contact your embassy or legal advisor if you have questions. This application process can be complicated and confusing, so if you have questions, doubts or concerns, the US Embassy or our immigration attorneys will be able to help you.

Tips When Attending The Interview

  • Go well dressed;
  • Be specific about the questions;
  • Bring your bank statements or proof of employment;
  • Keep calm and be professional;
  • Always answer truthfully;
  • Please provide details of your study plans. 

What Questions Will I Be Asked At The Student Visa Interview?

At your student visa interview, an officer in charge may ask you the following questions:

  • What do you currently do?
  • Why are you traveling to the US?
  • Why did you choose to study in the US and not another country?
  • Why do you plan to continue your education?
  • What school did you go to before?
  • What do you want to specialize in?
  • Unable to continue your education in your home country?
  • What are your study plans?
  • What university will you attend?
  • Have you previously visited the US?
  • Who will pay for your studies and support?
  • When do you plan to return to your home country?
  • How long is your study program?

Can I Get A Green Card As A Student Visa Holder?

Although it is a non-immigrant visa, holders of a student visa could obtain a Green Card. Although it is a somewhat complicated process, by filling out the application requirements and with legal advice, it is possible to do it. 

There are certain options for F-1 visa holders to opt for the immigration option. One is to apply for an immigrant visa as a person of extraordinary ability.

Similarly, there are other adjustment of immigration status options for student visa holders. For example, marrying a US citizen and obtaining US residency by family petition.

After two years of legal residence, you can obtain United States citizenship through naturalization. Another option is to apply for an investor visa (E-2 or EB-5 visa). Although for students who finish their studies in the United States, a good option is to be hired by an employer. To do this, you must apply to USCIS for an H-1B visa.

Frequently Asked Questions About Student Visas

students from foreign countries
Can I Study With a Tourist Visa in the United States?

Although you can study in the country on a US tourist visa, only short-term, non-academic courses are allowed. If you wish to study in academic institutions, then you must apply for a student visa. Violating the conditions of your visa will have immigration consequences. This also applies to those who benefit from the Visa Waiver Program.

Can I Enter the US More Than 30 Days in Advance?

Students on F or M visas may not enter the US prior 30 days from their program start date.

Can I Extend My Stay In The US With A Student Visa?

Student visa holders must leave the US within 60 days of the end date of their program of study. However, they can request an extension of their stay through USCIS. Please note that if you do not leave the US on time, you will lose your status and your eligibility for future visas will be affected.

What is the Student Visa Renewal Process?

Whether you are applying for a renewal of your visa or applying for the first time, you will use the same application process.

Can I Change Status If I Have A Student Visa?

If your plans change while you are in the US (for example, you marry a US citizen or receive a job offer), you can apply to change your status from nonimmigrant to another category through USCIS.

Can my relatives accompany me while I study in the US?

Your spouse and unmarried minor children who intend to travel with you during your period of study in the US may be eligible to apply for an M-2 visa or F-2 visa to the United States. Although payment of the SEVIS fee is not required, the college must issue an individual I-20 form to apply for the visa. In addition, your minor children can attend school while accompanying you.

Can I Pause My Studies in the United States?

International students can take breaks in their studies but care must be taken with the deadlines made. Study breaks longer than 5 months will cause the individuals to lose their student status. If a student loses the status, their F or M visas may be invalid for future travel back to the US.

If I have a derivative visa, can I study?

Certain visa categories such as H-4, L-2 allow study if the person is single and under 21 years of age. Although you also have the option to request a change. If your marital status changes or you reach the age of majority, you must apply for an F-1 visa. 

Why Do You Need The Services Of Lluis Law To Apply for The US Student Visa?

The requirements to obtain a student visa in the United States can be complex, especially if you do not have experience in processing American visas.

The law firm of Lluis Law has something that very few law firms have, more than 50 years of combined experience in the US immigration area. If you require legal advice, have doubts, questions or have not been very clear about what you can and cannot do with the student visa, contact us.

Whether you need help applying for an F-1, M-1 or J-1 student visa, don’t hesitate to ask for our services. Our immigration attorneys in Los Angeles, California can help and advise you on any visa for the United States. Contact us through our phone, email or directly in our office located in Los Angeles.


Tell Us Your Case