The basics
THE USA: Visa Guides

Pakistani students applying for an American student visa

Practical advice for Pakistani students travelling to the USA


The United States welcomes foreign students from all over the world. With over 50 states and a booming economy, it’s hard not to be drawn to America where thousands of international students go every year to better their education. But before you apply for a student visa, and even before you take a look at any University courses, it’s important to first know what to expect from the application process.


What kind of visa’s can you apply for?

There are two main types of visas that a Pakistani student can apply for if they want to study in the United States of America. Whatever you apply for will appear on your I-20 form at a later date.


The most common type of student visa is the F-1 Visa. If you wish to apply for study at an accredited U.S college, university, private school or English language program then it is essential that you apply for an F-1 visa. You will also need an F-1 visa if your course of study is more than 18 hours a week.


You can also apply for an M-1 visa if you intend to enrol on a non-academic course or a vocational course at an American institution.


The best place to find out information about both the M-1 and the F-1 visas is the Education USA website.


Are you eligible for a student visa?

In order to qualify, applicants need to satisfy and prove several criteria during an F1- visa interview.  Before applying, ensure that the below apply to you:

  • F-1 applicants must be Pakistani nationals living in Pakistan and must come to the USA with the intention of returning back to their home country upon the completion of their studies.
  • You should only apply for a visa once you have chosen and been accepted on a course that is right for you. While you are on your F-1 visa in the US, you cannot under any circumstances, study at any institution other than the one that the visa applies to.
  • Applicants for an F-1 and M-1 visa must prove that they have sufficient financial backing to cover their costs while studying in the United States.
  • Finally, and perhaps most crucially, students should not apply unless they can prove they have ties to their own country. For example, as a Pakistani student, you must prove that once you have completed your education in the US you can go back to Pakistan with a job offer already secured. You must also prove you own assets in your home country, including a house, land and a vehicle. Bank accounts and a family are also a must.

It goes without saying that besides this, you must ensure that you have a valid passport and a colour digital photo that you can provide. Depending on the state you are applying to you might also be required to provide further information (the non-immigrant DS-160 visa form is usually required).



If you are applying for an F-1 visa then it is essential that you are financially secure. To apply for University in the United States you must first forward a $160 application fee that is non-refundable. This means that if your application is rejected you will not get your money back.  Besides this, there are several other costs that you must keep in mind. Will you have sufficient funds for clothes, food, travel and housing? Remember, the United States is a huge place and the cost of living in urban areas such as New York will be considerably more expensive than living in a smaller town or rural areas.


In the US tuition fees vary widely. State (publically-owned) universities are generally, but not always, far less expensive than the private institutions in the US. However if you apply to a private university (Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Yale, etc.) you stand a chance of securing a scholarship, which will reduce the price of the tuition considerably. State owned universities do not offer scholarships. If you cannot fund a course at either a state or a private university, then community colleges are often the least expensive option available to you. 


You also need to make sure that you have enough money to pay for health insurance, which can cost a minimum of $1000 per person, per year.


When should I apply?

Application processes vary from state to state and from university to university, but generally applying to universities in the States is complicated and time-consuming. Students who are serious about applying will give their application process the time it deserves. It is advised that students should apply up to 120 days before the school state date.



There are several steps to apply for a visa, but the order in which you complete these steps will again vary depending on your nearest U.S Embassy or Consulate (located in Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi, etc).


You must first complete the online visa application form, otherwise known as the DS-160. This form allows temporary travel to the United States and can only be submitted electronically via the internet.  Consular Officers will use the information in your DS-160 to see if you are eligible for travel to the USA. Alongside your DS-160 you will be asked for a photo of yourself. Once you have done this, if your application is successful you will be offered an interview to assess the likelihood of you being allowed entry to the US.


The next step is applying for your interview. You must schedule an appointment for a visa interview, which will take place at your closest U.S Embassy or Consulate. Waiting times for interviews vary from place to place so make sure you apply in good time.


Once you have been accepted to study in the United States your visa will be issued. The visa can be issued up to 120 days before your course starts, however you will not be allowed to travel to the States until 30 days commencement of your studies.

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About Author

Armani is a final year English Literature and Creative Writing student at Newcastle University with a passion for writing. A few of Armani's main interests include politics, reading, football and Chelsea FC.