The basics
THE USA: Visa Guides

European students applying for an American student visa

Practical advice for European students travelling to the USA

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In the US you'll find some of the world's top universities, and it is no wonder that so many overseas students choose to get their degree here. The application process can be a bit intimidating, but once you are there you will realise that is has been all worth it. Let us guide you through the stages of how to apply for a US student visa.


Student visa


To study in the US, you will need a student visa - and you can only apply to get a visa after you have received a place at a US university or college. Note that you have to apply for the visa outside of the US, normally in your home country.


After a college, university, or English language school has accepted you for admission to full-time study, the school will send you a document called an I-20 form, which is the application for an F-1 visa. You can apply for a visa 120 days in advance of your date of study. However, you can only enter the US up to 30 days before the beginning of your course.


Before the visa interview


The student visa is normally issued at the American Embassy in your country of residence. The website for the Embassy in your country can be located at: Make sure you gather all your paperwork before you go to your interview at the embassy, so that you will get your visa in time. You will need:


  • Passport: Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your study period in the US. 


  • Visa Application confirmation page: Read more here: Form DS-160


  • Application fee payment receipt: Sometimes you can pay the fee at the embassy.


  • Photo: You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If that fails, you can bring the photo to the embassy.


  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1): Your school will send you a SEVIS-generated Form I-20 once they have entered your information in the SEVIS database. You and your school official must sign the Form I-20.


- Additional Documentation May Be Required:  Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the embassy where you will apply. You might have to provide proof of academic preparation, such as transcripts, diplomas or certificates from schools you have attended.


At the visa interview


When you have made sure you have brought all the appropriate paperwork, the interview is next on the list. The embassy officer will ask you a list of questions about your objectives for studying in the US. You do not have to speak English to study in the US - many students travel here to learn English and you can therefore ask for an interpreter if you wish. State your educational plans and what career path you hope to embark one once you have completed your studies.


The visa officer also needs to see proof that you have sufficient funds to live and study in the US. Make sure you ask the bank for a letter that proves you or your family is financially stable. You will also have to make sure you state that you "intend to return home" after finishing your studies - see more here. If your application for a US student visa is not approved, you can  appeal against the decision, however, usually you will have to provide additional information to support your appeal.


Receiving your visa


Once your visa is approved, it should be with you in a couple of days. You can then remain in the United States for the period of time it will take to complete the course of study as indicated on the I-20M plus 30 days, or for one year. If you wish to remain longer, you will be required to apply for an adjustment of status or extension of stay.

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