US student visa application details
Roshna Mohan

Roshna Mohan is a Content Writer at Hotcourses India - an IDP company. A post-graduate in Biotechnology, she chose content writing as her career out of sheer interest. Reading and cooking are her stress-busters. Talk about these to take the introvert out of the ambivert. Her all-time favourite authors are Paulo Coelho, Yuval Noah Harari and Robin Cook.

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28 days ago 2.8K Book icon 6 mins Share

Steps to apply for a U.S. student visa

Learn the steps to apply for a U.S. visa, the U.S. student visa requirements, the costs involved and more.

28 days ago 2.8K Book icon 6 mins Share
US student visa application details

A lot of Indian and South Asian students plan for higher education in the US, as the country lodges many top-ranking universities and colleges. But making it to the US involves more than being accepted academically as a student; it involves dealing with the legal and governmental hurdles.

As an Indian student planning to study in the US, you need to obtain a student visa from the U.S. embassy near you. The visa approved to you will be an F-class student visa which covers your plan to pursue full-time education at the undergraduate or graduate level.

The process of obtaining a U.S. student visa from the embassy may seem extensive and difficult, but the more you are equipped and the sooner you put together your documents, the earlier you will leave to the U.S. for higher education.

Before we get into the details of applying for an U.S. Student Visa, let’s explain a few details about the U.S. student visa system. You can also reach out to our counsellors to help you with your plans to study abroad.

Student visas to the U.S.

There are 2 types of U.S. Student Visas; F visa is to enter the United States of America, to attend university or college. For attending vocational or other nonacademic institutions, students should have an M visa.

Note that a visa is not your entry pass into the United States. The State Department is involved in issuing the visa. You can travel only up to a U.S. port-of-entry and request permission to enter the country. The port-of-entry in most cases in the airport. At the port-of-entry, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials take over. They can check the documents and decide whether to allow you into the United States or not.

You should keep your visa, passport and Form I-20 handy, for the authorities to check. Once you are deemed eligible to enter the country, the CBP officials will give an admission stamp or Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.

Visas can be issued 120 days before the course start date. However, you can move to the U.S. only up to 30 days before the course start date.

Here are the steps for procuring a U.S. student visa.

1.Getting enrolled in an institution in the U.S.

Student visa to the USA

  • The first step before applying for a U.S. student visa is to get accepted by an institution in the U.S., which is approved by SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Programme). It is the SEVP that administers the SEVIS or the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. The system is in place to ensure that the foreign students entering the U.S. maintains their status while in the country.
  • Once you get enrolled in an SEVP-approved institution, a Form I-20 will be issued to you. If your spouse or children intend to live in the U.S. with you, they will also receive a Form I-20.
  • With the details in the Form I-20, you should fill the Form I-901. You can fill out the form online at www.fmjfee.com. It is the official website of the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee.  For F1 student visa and M visa applications, the fee is $350. This is not the same as the visa processing fee. Contact our counsellors who will be able to guide you with your applications to universities in the USA.

2.Applying for the U.S. Student Visa online

  • To apply for a student visa to the U.S., you should complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS 160) Form. Print the confirmation page that appears on completing the form. You’ll need this later.
  • Next step is to pay the visa application fee which is currently $160. You and your dependents will have to pay the visa application fee whether eventually the visa gets issued or not. Make sure you save the visa application fee receipt.

The official U.S. Department of State Visa Appointment Service states an important information that the visa fees are not refundable. Hence, if in case you encounter an error while making the payment or if you think that your payment didn’t go through, please do not try again as the amount will not be refunded even if it is accidently made twice. You will have to email to support-india@ustraveldocs.com and raise your concerns.

Read more on procedures before the interview

Next step is to schedule your appointment for the visa interview.

3.Scheduling your appointment

You must schedule 2 appointments for the visa.

  1. For the VAC or the Visa Application Centre: Your biometrics, which include your fingerprints and photograph will be collected at the VAC. It is important to schedule the VAC appointment first followed by the appointment at the embassy or consulate.
  2. For the visa interview which will take place at the U.S. Consulate or the Embassy.

To schedule these appointments, you need:

  • Your passport number
  • The receipt number from your visa application fee receipt
  • The barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page.

Once you schedule your appointments, take a printout of the appointment confirmation page. You will need this during the interview.

4.Attending your visa interview

Biometrics are collected during the visa interview at the VAC. Digital fingerprints and photograph will be collected.

When interviewing for your U.S. student visa, make sure that you are present on time carrying the following documents with you:

  • A valid undamaged passport and previously issued passports if any. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States.
  • Latest passport size photo. It is imperative that the photograph meets the criteria in terms of the size and content. It is advisable to opt for a professional visa photo service.
  • DS-160 confirmation page with barcode
  • Bank receipts (visa application fee)
  • VFS appointment letter
  • Original education, identity, and address proofs
  • I-20 Form

Always cross check with your nearest American embassy for updates and changes.

As part of the visa interview, a consular officer will interview you to assess your eligibility. In some cases, they might request for additional documents such as:

  • Documents related to your academics: diplomas, degrees, certificates etc..
  • Scores of any standardised tests as required by your institution and course.
  • Proof of your intent to return from the U.S. after completing the course
  • Proof of your finances.

The interviews happen Monday through Friday and majority of successful applicants usually get their student visas within two business days. Progressive travel planning and early visa application are important, as visa applications are subject to a greater degree of inspection than in the past. It is essential that your passport is in good condition for an F1 Visa to be placed. Read more on procedures during the interview 

5.Steps after visa approval

Once your U.S. student visa is approved, you will be informed of it in email. You will also receive a notification that your passport and visa are ‘Ready for Pick Up’ from the pickup location chosen by you.

6.After landing in the U.S

Just a visa alone does not guarantee entry into the US. The Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials permit or deny admission to the US. You should have your Form I-20 and in advance of travel, you should review important information about Admissions/Entry requirements, as well as information related to restrictions on food, agricultural products or other restricted/prohibited goods explained on the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website. 

Upon arrival, you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program and when allowed to enter the US, the CBP official will decide the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record Form I-94. Read more on procedures after landing in the US.

7.Points to remember while in the U.S.

Points to remember if you are going to the USA on a student visa.

When you enter the US on a student visa, you will be allowed for the duration of your student status i.e. you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even though the F-1 visa expires while you are in the U.S. If you have completed the course of studies shown on the I-20 and any authorized practical training is to be taken, you will be allowed additional time before departure. As an F-1 student you will get additional 60 days to prepare to leave the US or to transfer to another school. Read more on procedures to extend a visa.

You can try our Course Matcher tool to find an institution and course that is best fit for you. Alternatively, you can talk to our counsellors who can guide you in the right direction.

All the Best.

List of U.S. Embassies and Consulates

New Delhi

US Embassy

Shantipath, Chanakyapuri

New Delhi - 110021

Tel: 011-91-11-2419-8000

Fax: 011-91-11-2419-0017

Kolkata

Consulate General

5/1, Ho Chi Minh Sarani

Kolkata- 700071

Tel: 011-91-33-3984-2400

Chennai

Consulate General

No. 220, Gemini Circle

Chennai - 600006

Tel: 011-91-44-2857-4000

Fax: (91 44) 2811-2020

Mumbai

Consulate General

C-49, G-Block, Bandra Kurla Complex

Bandra East, Mumbai - 400051

Tel: 011-91-22-2672-4000

Hyderabad

Consulate General

Paigah Palace 1-8-323

Chiran Fort Lane, Begumpet

Secunderabad - 500003

Andhra Pradesh

Tel: 011-91-40-40338300

Sri Lanka

US Embassy

210 Galle Main Road, Colombo 03,

Sri Lanka

Tel: +94(11)249-8500

Bangladesh

US Embassy

Madani Avenue, Baridhara, Dhaka -1212, 

Tel: (880) (2) 5566-2000

Nepal

US Embassy

Maharajgunj Road, Kathmandu 44600, Nepal

Tel.: 977-1-423-4000 

Fax: 977-1-400-7272

Pakistan

US Embassy

Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5

Islamabad, Pakistan

Tel: (+92) 51-201-4000

Fax: (+92) 51-2338071

Editor's note: This article was originally published in January 2015. We have included up-to-date information and made it comprehensive.

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