We’re excited you’ve been accepted into the school of your dreams. Let’s get you there legally with a student visa.
As an international student, once you’ve been admitted to a degree program in the USA you’ll need a visa in order to legally enter, and to stay in, the country. And we want you here! There are numerous types of visas, but the most relevant to students are the F-1, M-1, and J-1 visas.
For all three of these visas, your spouse and dependents might also be eligible to join you in the USA with the F-2, M-2, and J-2 visas. But before you take them on fun adventures, talk to the experts.
How to apply for your visa
Specifically for the J-1 visa, you’ll first need to find a designated sponsor. That sponsor will then be in charge of the application process and will let you know what steps to take.
For F-1 and M-1 visas, the first thing you should do is to make sure you’ve received Form I-20 from your school. Once you have it, contact your local U.S. embassy or consulate. They’ll give you more detailed instructions, but in general the application process will include completing paperwork such as Form DS-160, providing a photo, and being interviewed. Plus, there will be visa fees (just like everything in life has a fee).
For the interview, the embassy or consular officer you’ll be speaking with will decide what to bring. But the list will most likely include documents such as your passport, transcripts and standardized test scores, proof that you intend to return to your home country after your program is completed, and financial proof that you can cover all your costs.
It’s really important to remember that your visa only allows you to travel to the USA legally – but it does not guarantee that you’ll be admitted. The odds are low that there will be a problem, but learn about the rules for customs before you head to the airport, just in case.
F-1 visa work guidelines
If you’re an F-1 student, you may be able to work in the USA during your education. Though there are lots of rules and regulations about it, in general, students with this visa can’t work off campus during their first academic year (but can work on campus).
For the most part, students with other visas can’t work. But they can volunteer, both on campus and in the local community. Which we highly suggest!