If you are a student in another country and you want to pursue a course of studies in the United States, you will first need to obtain a student visa.

The process normally takes several months, so pre-planning is essential. 

The first step actually takes place as much as a year in advance. That’s when a student should decide what course of study they follow and then find institutions who match those ambitions and interests. Additionally, you will need to find out which student visa is right for you.

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The most crucial component is making sure that the college, university or vocational school chosen is accredited by the government’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Accreditation is the key because it ensures a degree is recognizes by institutions and governments worldwide. SEVP accredited institutions are the only ones that can enroll students in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is the entity that gives students the documents they will need to apply for a student visa. Once you have been accepted at a college, you will be enrolled in the SEVIS and that will begin the process of generating documents you’ll need.

After you are enrolled, you’ll need to pay the SEVIS fee because you will need to show proof as part of your student visa application process. Fees can range up to $200 depending on your individual situation. 

Next, you must make an appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country for a U.S. student visa application. While some requirements may vary by country, in all cases you’ll need to complete a nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-160 prior to your interview. Because waiting times for interviews can take some time, you should attempt to schedule the interview four to six months before your anticipated travel to the United States. Also, as part of your application process, make sure you pay the visa application fee. You will need to show proof that you have paid it during your student visa interview.

Prior to your interview you should also gather any documents you will need to present. These will include:

  • a valid passport good for at least six months beyond your anticipated stay in the United States
  • a signed SEVIS Form I-20
  • a SEVIS receipt page showing you have paid the fee
  • a DS-160 confirmation page
  • a visa application receipt page
  • appropriate photographs if you did not already upload them as part of your student visa application process

You should also be prepared to show transcripts and diplomas from school you have already attended, scores from standardized tests and proof that you will be financially supported for your living and school expenses while in the United States.

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During your interview, the embassy official will ask questions about ties to your native country, your educational objectives, your educational background and your proficiency in English, among other things. You will need to show proof you have been admitted to a college or university and how you intend to pay for your schooling. You could also be asked what your plans will be after you finish your studies in the United States.