US Student Visa

The USA has evidently become one of the top study-abroad destinations for Indian students and the number of Indian students studying in the USA is only increasing every year. As per a report published by the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in India, as of March 2024, there are more than 2,50,000 Indian students studying in the US. The total population of Indian students who currently study in the USA constitutes 25% of the foreign students in the US. This surging demand to study in the USA has made it essential that the process for obtaining a US student visa remains clear to everyone. 

This guide here will serve as a one-stop solution for all Indian students willing to apply for a US student visa. It will discuss the process of obtaining a USA student visa in detail and documents required for a student visa application, along with a few common questions that students usually have during the application. 

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 US Student Visa for Indian Students 

While it is not very difficult to attain a USA student visa for Indian students, the process is definitely time-consuming. You need to start preparing for your visa application at least a year before you plan to study in the USA. This allows you enough time to gather all the necessary documents and submit them to the concerned authorities. 

Before we start discussing the student visa application process, you need to understand the different types of student visas that are available for Indian students. Let us understand the same in the next section. 

Types of USA Student Visa 

There are 3 different types of US student visas available for Indian students to study in the USA. These visas are then sub-categorised into their respective classifications based on the student visa application type. Here are a brief description of these visa types: 

F Visa

F visa is usually the type of USA student visa that Indian students seek to pursue academic programs in the US universities. 

  • F1 Student Visa: This is the visa you apply for when you’re seeking full-time education in the USA. 
  • F2 Student Visa: This F visa type is for dependents on F1 student visa holders. 
  • F3 Student Visa: This visa is particularly for Canadian and Mexican students and not for Indian students. 

M Visa 

This USA student visa is issued to students seeking a non-academic or vocational training program in the US universities. 

  • M1 Student Visa: This is for Indian students seeking non-academic or vocational programs in the US universities. M visa, however, does not allow for employment alongside the program and is hence not preferred much by the Indian students. 
  • M2 Student Visa: This M visa type is particularly for the dependents on M1 visa holders. 
  • M3 Student Visa: This visa, too, is not for Indian students, but for border commuters. 

J Visa 

J visa is a type of USA student visa that is issued to international visitors with a purpose of attending a cultural exchange program in the US. This is also suitable for ones with the requirement to pursue specialized courses in the US. 

  • J1 Student Visa: This student visa is issued to everyone mentioned above. 
  • J2 Student Visa: This visa is for the dependents on J1 visa holders. 

Since J-1 and F-1 visas are most suitable to the requirements of Indian students looking forward to studying in the US, we have prepared a detailed comparison between these two in a blog that you can read here

Eligibility for the US Student Visa 

If you are applying for a J1, M1, or an F1 student visa, you should be aware of the eligibility for applying for the same. Here are a few pointers on the required eligibility to apply for the USA student visa: 

  • You must have applied to one of the SEVP– approved US universities. 
  • You must have also received the offer letter for a full-time program in one of the US universities. 
  • It is also important to clear a language proficiency test like IELTS or TOEFL. In case you require help with IELTS as well, we at VIS, provide expert IELTS training to students aiming for a 8 or higher band score. 
  • The applicant must also present proof for sufficient financial funds. 
  • One specific requirement for an F1 student visa is that you must reside outside the USA when applying for the same. 

Educational Eligibility to Study in the USA 

It is also essential for a student looking forward to studying in the USA to fulfill the minimum educational requirements for a USA student visa. Here are the basic educational requirements required for to study in the USA: 

  • To Study Abroad After 10th: With VIS, it is now possible to study abroad after 10th in a premier high school in the USA. For this, you only need to pass your class 10th exams and then get in touch with us. 
  • To Pursue a Bachelor’s Program in US Universities: The minimum educational requirement to pursue a bachelor’s program in the USA is to complete 12 years of education with a minimum of 60%. You must also score an overall score of 6 in your English proficiency test with a 5.5 band score in each section. The minimum SAT score, on the other hand, for a bachelor’s in the USA is 1350/1600. 
  • To Pursue a Master’s Program in US Universities: Most US universities require the candidates to complete a 4-year bachelor’s degree. However, some US universities might also accept 3-year bachelor’s degrees to pursue a masters in the USA. 

Documents Required for Applying to the US Universities 

You need the following documents to apply for a USA student visa: 

  • DS-160 Confirmation page 
  • Form I-20
  • SEVIS application fee receipt 
  • Language proficiency (IELTS/PTE/TOEFL) certificate 
  • Non-immigrant application 
  • Educational transcripts 

Finally, if you are confident about a particular visa type and your eligibility for the same, let us now discuss the US student visa application process. 

US Student Visa Application Process 

Whether it is F1, J1, or M1, the USA student visa application process is almost the same for all visa types. Here are a few steps that are common for all. Please note that the order you complete these steps vary as per your visa type and embassy. 

Step 1: Acceptance at a SEVP-Approved School

The first step to your US student visa application process is to apply to one of the SEVP-approved US universities. After the school has accepted and confirmed your application, you will then be registered with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). For this, you also need to pay the I-901 fee. 

After you are done with that, your university will issue an I-20 form to you. You need to fill that and submit it for an application to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an M1, J1, or an F1 student visa. The I-20 form is a very important aspect when you attend your J1, M1, or F1 student visa interview with a consulate officer. 

If you’re wondering “can my spouse stay with me while I study in the USA”, the answer is yes. They would need to enroll in SEVIS separately, without paying the fee, and obtain an individual I-20 form. 

Step 2: Online Student Visa Application 

Begin with your online nonimmigrant-visa application by filling the form DS-160. Do not forget to bring a copy of this form for your F1 student visa interview. Also, it is extremely important to follow the stated photograph requirements when uploading the photo in your form. 

Step 3: Scheduling Your Interview 

The next step is to schedule a student visa interview with your US Embassy or Consulate in India. While it is possible to schedule your interview in a different country as well, it is rather difficult to get visa approval in a different country other than your residence. 

Note that the wait time for your interview varies significantly as per your city. For example, the wait time for M1, J1, or F1 student visa interview for New Delhi is 51 calendar days. This time may vary week by week. You can refer to the US Embassy or Consulate website to check the wait time for your city here

Also, note that you can get a USA visa issued to you 365 days in advance before your program starts. However, you can only enter the USA 30 days before the beginning of your program. You also need to pay $185 as the visa application fee (MRV fee). 

An F1 student visa is valid for 60 months post its issuance. The same is the case for J1 and M1 visa. 

Step 4: Gathering All Documents Before J1/M1/F1 Student Visa Interview 

Prior to your visa interview, gather and prepare the following necessary documentation: 

  • Passport that is valid for travel to the United States: Unless otherwise exempted by agreements unique to your nation, your passport must be valid for at least six months after the duration of your stay in the country. All the people who require a visa, including your family members mentioned in your passport, must apply separately. 
  • Application for Nonimmigrant Visa, Form DS-160 confirmation page. 
  • If you need to pay the application fee in advance of your interview, please provide a receipt
  • Photo: When filling out the online Form DS-160, you will add your photo. You must provide one printed photo in the format specified in the Photograph Requirements if the photo upload is unsuccessful. 
  • Nonimmigrant Eligibility (F-1) Student Status Certificate, Form I-20, Student Status for Vocational Students: After your information has been submitted into the SEVIS database, your school will issue you a Form I-20. Both you and an official from your school must sign Form I-20. The Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS) registration is required for all students. Each of your spouse and/or minor children need to obtain a separate Form I-20 if they plan to live with you in the United States.

In order to assess your eligibility for a student visa, a consular officer will interview you and may request further documentation such as proof of your academic preparation; and Standardized test results that your U.S. school requires; Your intention to leave the United States after the study program is over; and How you intend to cover all living, educational, and travel expenses.

Step 5: Attending the Interview 

The next and final step to your US student visa application is attending your interview. Here, the consulate officer will assess your qualification for a USA student visa. You need to convince them of your qualification under the US law to receive a student visa. 

In some cases, it so happens that the consulate officer requires more information and hence schedules an administrative processing. 

The Bottom Line 

We have tried to cover all details of the US student visa application process for Indian students. However, if you still have a query and need help, get in touch with our team to receive expert counseling. If you find yourself questioning whether it is difficult to get a USA student visa, be convinced that if you do everything as the US law requires, there should be no difficulty.

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