The United States is one of the popular study abroad destinations for International students. Individuals wanting to study in US University or educational institution are required to obtain a visa before they can enter the US for their education. There are two main types of US student visas—F and M. International students cannot enter the US on a visitor visa (B), or on the visa waiver program, except to undertake recreational study as a part of a tourist visit. Another type of visa, the J visa, is issued to exchange visitors who are approved to participate in an exchange visitor program in the US. Generally, this does not apply for Indian citizens.

If you plan to study in US, you should know the type of student visa required which primarily depends on the type of institution you are seeking admission in and your course of study.

Type of Institute

Type of US student visa

University or College F
High School or Private Elementary School F
Other academic institutions including language training programs, seminaries, conservatories F
Vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution except language training institutes M


F Visa

F visa is of three types

  • F-1 visa – for international students intending to study full-time course in US. Indian students are required to apply for F-1 visas to study in US university or educational institutions.
  • F-2 visa – for dependents of F-1 visa holders. Spouse and unmarried children less than 21 years of age are eligible to apply for F-2 visas.
  • F-3 visa – for border commuters. Canadian and Mexican students living in their home country but travelling to US for studying part-time or full-time course in US universities are required to apply for F-3 visa.

Employment rules for Students with F-1 visas

F-1 visa holders are allowed on-campus employment for 20 hours or less per week during regular session without any prior authorization. If the F-1 visa holder wishes to work for more hours and desires to work off-campus, he/she is required to get authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

M visa

M visa is also of three types

M-1 visa– for students pursuing non-academic and vocational studies. Indian students wanting to join any non-academic or vocational course( other than language training institutes) are required to apply for M-1 visa.

M-2 visa – for dependents of M-1 visa holders. List of dependents can include spouse and unmarried children not more than 21 years of age.

M-3 visa– for border commuters. Mexican and Canadian students staying in their homeland but traveling to US for pursuing non-academic or vocational course need to apply for M-3 visa.

Employment rules for students with M-1 visas

M-1 visas holders are not permitted to work on-campus or off-campus. The average stay of M-1 holders in US is around one year. The period of stay cannot be extended for M-1 visa holders unless for health reasons. M-1 holders are only allowed to stay in US for period of their training course and optional practical training if any.

J visa

There are two types of J visas.

J-1 visa: for students participating in the exchange program

J-2 visa: for dependents of J-1 visas; similar to F-2 and M-2 visas.

The J-1 visas are specifically issued to international students who are participating in the programs in US that encourage cultural exchange between US and other countries. The program can be related to any field such as medical, training, or business. However, the applicants are required to meet eligibility requirements of the program in question. The program can be a government program or a program organized by private sector. J visa holders can live in US only for a short period of time which can be limited to one or two semesters.

US student visa requirements

  • Proof of admission i.e. admission letter and form I-20
  • Documents that show you have strong social, family and financial ties with your home country that will obligate you to return to your home country after completing your education in US.
  • Documents showing you have adequate funds for your education in US that includes your tuition fees and living expenses during stay in US for completing the course.
  • Academic documents such as school transcripts with grades, TOEFL/IELTS or any standardized English language proficiency certificate, public examination certificates, or diplomas
  • Photocopies of bank statements along with originals for authentication

How to apply for US student visa?

The primary step in applying for student visa is selecting the right type of US student visa that suits your stay and education in US. Once you choose the right type of visa, you need to approach US consulate in you city or nearby location and fill up the form. Alternatively, you can also apply online for US student visa through the link given below

You will be required to furnish all required documents along with the application to the officials at the US Consulate office. In majority of the cases, you will be required to attend a visa interview that will be scheduled by the US consulate.

Apply for US student visa online – http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/find-a-u-s–embassy-or-consulate.html

Important  steps in US Student Visa Process

Step 1:  Filling of  Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160)

The first step in applying for US Student Visa also includes determining the right type of visa for your purpose. The next step is filling “Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160)”.   The information in the DS-160 form cannot be modified after submission, so you need to be careful and attentive while filling up the form.  You need to keep all documents related to US travel with you while filling up the form as you will be required to enter information in the online form.  Inactivity of more than 20 minutes while filling up the DS-160 form will cause the session to expire and you will have to start over again unless you have noted down the “Application ID”. To be on safer side, use the “Print Application ID” given on the page to save Application ID and save your time in case you face unforeseen difficulty while filling up the form.

It is advised that you go through FAQ section related to “Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160)” which will clear all you doubts regarding the online application process. The FAQ section related to accessing DS-160 can be found at following link


Once you have understood the online application process, you can proceed to link to fill DS-160 form. Click on this link for Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160) –https://ceac.state.gov/GenNIV/Default.aspx.

Step 2 : Payment  of Visa fees

Once you have completed filling and submission of Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application form DS-160 online form , you need to pay the visa fees. The visa fees can be paid online or offline at designated Citibank and Axis bank branches.   To ensure fees are paid in a proper way, every visa applicant is required to create a profile online.    To create an online profile for payment of fees click on the link given below.


To know more details of fees, click on this link.


You will receive a receipt of payment which will be needed for visa interview process.

Step 3- Scheduling an interview

After payment of fees, you are required to schedule two appointments for US student visa. The first appointment is for the visa interview at US Embassy or Consulate. The second appointment is for Visa Application Center where your fingerprints and photo will be taken.  To schedule an interview you need to go to user profile account you have created while payment of fees.  After logging into your account, you will be required to choose the desired US Consulate(near your location) and also select the nearest Visa application Center for US visas.  You can also schedule an appointment by calling at call center number- Call +91 120 4844644 or +91 40 46258222.

You will be required to carry supporting documents such as  confirmation page of DS-160, passport, academic documents and all documents related to your stay in the US. Also carry the receipt of payment of fees.  You need to take an appointment  at US Visa Application center at least  one day prior your appointment with US consulate for the visa interview. If required, you reschedule both appointments online.  To know visa Application center near you, click on the following link.


Step 4: Pick-up/delivery  of your passport and US student visa

The  wait time for appointment  and the processing time at US consulate differs with location. To know exact wait time for the US Consulate office near you, click on the following link and enter your city name in the box.


For Mumbai, the wait time for appointment at US Consulate is 3 days while the processing time for student visas  is 2 working days. However, in some cases, additional time may be required to process the Study loan visa application. You can know about the visa application status online  through following link-  https://ceac.state.gov/ceacstattracker/status.aspx

You need to collect your passport from the pick-up location you selected while scheduling your interview appointment. You will get an email informing you about the passport ready for pick-up at  your selected location. The passport must be collected with 14 days otherwise it is sent back to US consulate. To know the status of your passport, click on the following link-http://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-passporttrack.asp

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