A visa is a grant of permission to enter the country. The US entrance requirements are as follows:
- You must be healthy. No inoculations are required to enter the US, unless you were recently in a country with epidemics such as cholera and yellow fever. HIV-positive people are not allowed to enter the US.
- You must be law-abiding. Criminal behavior is grounds for deportation.
- You must be able to support yourself financially during your stay.
- You intend to leave the US after you complete your studies.
There are three types of student visas:
- F-1 (Student Visa). The F-1 visa is for full-time students enrolled in an academic or language program. F-1 students may stay in the US for the full length of their academic program plus 60 days. F-1 students must maintain a full-time course load and complete their studies by the expiration date listed on the I-20 form.
- J-1 (Exchange Visitor Visa). The J-1 visa is issued for students needing practical training that is not available in their home country to complete their academic program. The training must be directly related to the academic program. The J-1 visa obligates the student to return to their home country for a minimum of two years after the end of their studies in the US before being eligible to apply for an immigrant (permanent residence) visa.
- M-1 (Vocational Student Visa). The M-1 visa is issued for students attending non-academic trade and vocational schools. The M-1 visa is valid for at most one year. Recipients of an M-1 visa may not change fields of study. Switching from an M-1 visa to a F-1 visa is not permitted.
Of these, the F-1 and the J-1 are the most common for international students.
If the foreign student advisor believes you have the resources necessary for study in the US, he or she will send you a Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant [F-1] Student Status). You will need to submit this form with your application for a student visa to the American embassy or consulate. You will also have to provide proof of proficiency in English (unless you are enrolling in a language program). You will also need Form OF-156 (Non-Immigrant Visa form available from US consular offices), a valid passport, a 1-1/2 inch square photograph (37 mm x 37 mm) showing full face against a light background, and the visa processing fee.