How to apply for a student visa for America?

America continues to be ranked at the very top of the most desirable destinations for young people by offering the chance for international students to study at world-class education institutions on almost any study programme that they might want. However, bearing in mind the rigorous visa policy and very strict immigration laws, applying for a student visa is as difficult as it is stressful for international students. However, there is no need for concern because thousands of students every year successfully go through this process. We will attempt briefly to familiarise you with the process and explain each step individually. 


What type of visa will you need?

The nature of the study programme determines the type of visa that you will need. The application process for each type of visa is identical, but in some cases you will be asked to provide additional documents or information about your study programme depending on the specific circumstances. SAT Agency, in communication with your desired university, can let you know in what format to submit additional documentation if this is required of you


After the end of your studies you are allowed to stay for 60 days, during which time you must either leave the country, submit an application for a change of visa status, or request a transfer onto another study programme.



Most international students will submit an application for an F-1 visa. This visa is intended for international students who have been accepted onto a regular academic study programme at an accredited American college or university for undergraduate, postgraduate or PhD studies. Students who are on a study exchange programme or who study full-time for 18 hours or more per week also apply for an F-1 visa. 



This visa is intended for students who are finishing a non-academic or professional study programme at an American college or university. 



The J-1 visa is intended for students who are enrolled in an educational exchange programme, where their study programme is part of their home university in the country they come from. Students who come to the USA on this type of visa remain enrolled at their own university for the entirety of their student stay in America and return home in order to complete their study programme and obtain an appropriate qualification after the completion of the agreed time period. 



After you have applied and been accepted by the host institution, your information is entered into the US Government’s database under the “Student and Exchange Visitor Information System” (SEVIS). When you are accepted, the Government uses this data to fill in a so-called I-20 form as proof of your suitability for the US student visa. Your I-20 will have a SEVIS identification number which you will use when filling in the DS-160 and SEVIS I-901 online forms. The host institution, the university to which you have applied, will send you the I-20 by post to your stated address.


After you have received the I-20, there are three step in the visa application process:


1. filling in the DS-160 non-immigrant visa electronic application form 

2. filling in the SEVIS I-901 form and paying the appropriate fees

3. the interview, which will be held at an American embassy or consulate (bring the appropriate documentation).

DS-160 non-immigrant visa electronic application form 

You must fill in the DS-160 online and send it before you can schedule an interview at the local embassy or consulate. Right at the top of this form, you will be asked to select the nearest diplomatic representation from a drop-down list. This must be the same diplomatic representation where you are planning to go for the interview. 


It is important that you have all the documentation and information that you will need to hand before you begin, because the session expires after 20 minutes. When you start you should write down the identification number of the application shown in the top-right corner of the application. If your session expires you will need that number in order to start again and finish the application. With this number you can launch the same application as many times as you need in order to successfully finish the application. 


After you fill in all the sections with questions you will need to sign the document electronically by clicking on the "Sign Application" icon at the very bottom of the form. This electronic signature produces legal authorisation and once you click on it you will not be able to change any details. After this, the application takes you to a confirmation page which you will have to print off and take with you to the scheduled interview at the embassy. After printing off this page, click on the ‘back’ button on the browser and send a copy of the form to yourself via email. The application will automatically send it in PDF format to your email address. Then you should contact the nearest US embassy or consulate and schedule an interview. When you schedule the interview you will need to pay the application fee, after which you will receive a confirmation email which you will also have to take with you when you go to the interview.


SEVIS I-901 and fees

In between filling in the DS-160 form and the date of your interview you need to fill in the I-901 form and to pay two fees – the fee for the I-901 form and the visa fee, the so-called MRV Fee. YOU MUST PAY BOTH FEES BEFORE THE INTERVIEW. 


You can fill in the SEVIS I-901 form and pay the fee for it online. You pay the charge after you have filled in the form. The proof of payment will be electronically recorded and saved via your identification number, so ensure that your I-20 form is to hand when filling in the I-901 form. You can pay with Visa, MasterCard or American Express cards. 


The SEVIS I-901 charge for the F-1 and M-1 visa types is $350, while J-2 students pay $220. As soon as the proof of payment is processed and sent to you, print it out. A paper copy of the payment confirmation will be sent to the postal address used in the I-901 form. You will also have to the MRV Fee. This charge is paid directly to the embassy via the internet after you have scheduled an interview. Along with this, you need to pay the visa issuance fee of $160 which you pay in your own country directly when you pick it up.


You can schedule an interview with your local US embassy via their website and for that you will need all the application documentation and the I-20 form. After paying the MRV Fee, you need to take the proof of payment with you to the interview.



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