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USA Student Visa (F1, M1, J1) Requirements for Indian Students in 2024

arivarasi

Author

Arivarasi

Updated on

07-02-2024

USA Student Visa (F1, M1, J1) Requirements for Indian Students in 2024

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Foreign citizens must obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence to enter the United States. Individuals planning to study must obtain a USA student visa. There are three main types of visas for international students to study in the US, F1 Visa, J1 Visa, and M1 Visa. The type of visa needed depends on the course of study and the type of school the individual intends to attend. If you're in need of visa assistance, our experts will help you.

It's important to note that studying in the US is not allowed on a visitor (B) visa or through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), except for recreational study as part of a tourist visit. Therefore, you must obtain a proper student visa in USA, and there are specific application processes, rules, and requirements for F-1 and M-1 visas. It is crucial for international students to understand these visa types and follow the appropriate application procedures to fulfill their dreams of studying in the US. Read the article completely to know the complete information.

Table of contents

Types of USA Student Visa

There are three types of USA student visas, F1, M1, and J1.

1. F1 Student Visa

The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows international students to enter the United States and study at accredited educational institutions. It is the most common type of student visa for those seeking to study in the US. To be eligible for an F-1 visa, students are required to be enrolled in a full-time program or course of study that leads to a degree (bachelor's or master's), diploma, or certificate. The duration of stay for F-1 students depends on the program in which they are enrolled. The expiration date of the program is indicated on the I-20 form provided by the university. Students must complete their degree requirements before the listed expiration date. 

During the first academic year, off-campus employment is not allowed, but students may engage in on-campus employment under certain conditions. After completing the first academic year, F-1 students have the opportunity to participate in three types of off-campus employment: Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), and STEM OPT extension. CPT and OPT allow students to work in a field related to their studies for a specified period. STEM OPT extension provides an additional two years of work authorization for graduates in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Know the difference between CPT and OPT here.

If F-1 students do not have any extensions or additional training, they are required to return to their home country within 60 days after their graduation. Spouses and children accompanying F-1 visa holders will travel on an F-2 visa, which does not permit employment for spouses but allows them to accompany or apply for their own visa for work or study in the US.

2. M1 Student Visa

The M-1 visa is a non-immigrant student visa category intended for students enrolling in vocational or non-academic programs, excluding language training. Applicants for the M-1 visa must provide evidence of sufficient funds to cover tuition fees and living expenses for the entire duration of their intended stay. Unlike F-1 visa holders, M-1 students are not allowed to work during their course of study.

Upon completion of their studies, M-1 students may engage in practical training related to their vocational program. Practical training is only permitted after the student has successfully finished their studies. It's important to note that M-1 visas are time-stamped upon entry, and students must adhere to the specified duration of stay. Overstaying the authorized period is not allowed.

3. J1 Exchange Visitor Visa

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is primarily intended for individuals participating in exchange programs, which can include vocational training, research fellowships, and other professional development opportunities. The J-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa category issued to students who require practical training not available in their home country to complete their academic program. 

Similar to the F-1 visa, J-1 student status allows for employment opportunities with similar restrictions, as long as permission is granted by the exchange visitor program sponsor. 

Spouses and children accompanying J-1 visa will travel on a J-2 visa. It's important to note that spouses with a J-2 visa may be eligible to work in the United States, provided they obtain advance permission to do so.

Cost of Student Visa USA

The cost of USA student visa is associated with two fees, SEVIS and Visa Application fee.

  • SEVIS fee: Currently $350, payable for F-1 and M-1 visa applications. This fee covers the cost of the SEVIS computer system, which records your stay in the United States.
  • Visa Application Fee (MRV Fee): Presently $160, payable for most visa applications, including F-1 student visas. The fee amount may vary, so it's essential to check the latest fee when applying.
Types of Student Visas F1 J1 M1
SEVIS fee $350 $220 $350
SEVIS fee payment mode Credit Card, Money Order/ Demand Draft
SEVIS fees payable in Dollars at the applicable exchange rate as determined by the bank
MRV Application Fee / Visa Application Fee $160 $160 $160
Visa Application Fee Payment mode NEFT Online Transfer, IMPS, By Cash at counters of Axis Bank/ Citibank
Visa Application Fee Payable in INR at the Exchange Rate Fixed by the Consular Office

Requirements to fulfill for F1 visa application

The common requirements to fulfill for an F1 visa application are,

  • Institution certification: Ensure that the college or university you plan to study at is approved by SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) under Immigration & Customs Enforcement.
  • Full-time enrollment: Be enrolled as a full-time student during the academic term.
  • English language proficiency: Meet the required English language proficiency score of the institution or enroll in courses to improve your English skills.
  • Sufficient funding: Provide proof of adequate funds to cover your educational and living expenses while in the US.
  • Valid passport: Have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your program completion date.
  • Home country residency: Demonstrate that you have a residence in your home country to return to after completing your degree.
  • Health insurance: Be prepared to provide proof of health insurance coverage to address any potential medical expenses during your stay.

F1 Visa Application Process

When applying for a study visa in the USA, you need to follow the below steps:

  • Get accepted by a SEVP-certified institution and receive Form I-20.
  • Pay the SEVIS fee and obtain the receipt.
  • Complete the DS-160 visa application online.
  • Print the confirmation page of the DS-160 application form.
  • Pay the visa fee through NEFT or at authorized AXIS Bank/Citi Bank locations.
  • Schedule a biometric and an interview appointment.
  • Attend the biometric appointment to have your photograph taken and your fingerprints scanned.
  • Attend the personal visa interview, where you will be asked questions about your course choice, college, finances, and intent to return.
  • If approved, the interviewer will retain your passport to stamp the visa.

How to apply for US visa (F1)?

You can apply for a US student visa by the following steps:

How to apply for US Visa F1

Step 1: Get accepted by a SEVP-certified institution and receive Form I-20

The process for obtaining an F-1 student visa begins with acceptance into a SEVP-certified US university, which signifies the institution's accreditation and resources for providing education. Upon acceptance, the university issues an I-20 form, documenting study plans and relevant information. This includes the SEVIS ID number, program start and end dates, intended program of study, funding sources, cost of attendance, and personal details. It is crucial to review the I-20 for accuracy and sign it upon receipt, as errors may affect entry into the country. The I-20 must be retained for travel to the US, work permissions, and various activities such as obtaining a US driver's license. If your family members intend to reside in the US, they must also enroll in SEVIS, obtain individual Form I-20s, and apply for their respective visas.

Step 2: Pay the SEVIS fee and obtain the receipt

To obtain an F-1 student visa, you will need to pay around $510 in total. This covers the visa cost, along with SEVIS processing and maintenance fees. The main requirement is your I-20 form provided by your university. The cost for the visa itself is $350. You can make the payment through the SEVIS fee payment portal. Remember to keep the I-901 SEVIS fee receipt as you will need it for your visa interview. 

Step 3: Complete the DS-160 visa application online

To apply for an F-1 visa, you need to complete the online visa application Form DS-160. This form is mandatory for all international students. Visit the application portal designated for DS-160 and fill out the form with accurate information. Make sure to upload a recent color photo of yourself that meets the specified requirements, such as being taken within the last 6 months, having a neutral facial expression, and being in front of a plain white or off-white background.

After successfully submitting the DS-160 form, you can see the confirmation page. This confirmation page will have a barcode on it. It is required to print this form as you will need to bring it with you to your visa interview. You need to pay the non-refundable visa application fee of $160 before the visa interview. Additionally, you need to bring the necessary documents for the interview, including your I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status), passport, and travel itinerary.

Step 4: Schedule a visa interview

To schedule your visa interview, locate the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and make an appointment. It is advisable to set up your interview as early as possible since wait times can vary by country and may take months. In general, visa interviews are required for applicants between the ages of 14 and 79, with some exceptions for renewals. If you are 13 years old or younger, an interview is generally not required, while applicants aged 80 and above may not need an interview. Once your interview is complete, the U.S. embassy will contact you to return your passport with the visa stamp. It is typically recommended to appear before the visa officer for an interview no earlier than 120 days before the start of your program.

Step 5: Attend the visa interview

During the F-1 visa application process, a consular officer will interview you to assess your eligibility for the visa. The officer will evaluate whether you meet the requirements outlined in U.S. law to receive the visa. You will need to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to cover your educational expenses and provide assurance that you intend to return to your home country upon completing your studies. As part of the application process, digital fingerprint scans are taken, usually during the interview, although this can vary by location. Following your visa interview, the consular officer may determine that your application requires additional administrative processing. If this is the case, you will be informed accordingly. Once your visa is approved, you may need to pay a visa issuance fee if applicable to your nationality. Additionally, you will need to make arrangements for the return of your passport with the visa to you. Upon successfully completing the visa interview and meeting all requirements, you will be granted an F-1 visa and obtain F-1 student status.

Documents required for F1 visa application

When applying for a student visa to study in the USA, it is essential to be aware of the required documentation. Along with the mandatory documents, you must also provide supporting evidence of your financial and academic records. It is crucial to refer to the below checklist before attending the visa interview at the consulate. 

The documents required for F1 visa interview are

  • Valid passport with a minimum validity of six months beyond your intended stay.
  • Printed copy of DS-160 online application form.
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt.
  • Original and copy of the interview appointment letter.
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status (Form I-20) sent by the college/university.
  • Confirmation receipt of visa fee payment.
  • Bank statement for at least three years demonstrating sufficient funds to cover the first year's expenses.
  • Pay/salary slips.
  • Original mark sheets/provisional certificates.
  • TOEFL or IELTS score sheet for English language proficiency.
  • ACT or SAT score for undergraduate admissions, or GMAT or GRE score for postgraduate admissions.
  • Application fee payment receipt.
  • Form DS-157 for males aged 16-45.
  • Digital photos meeting specific requirements like background, size, etc.
  • Additional documents as requested by the consular officer during the interview, such as academic records and evidence of intent to depart the US after completing the study program.

Proof of Finance for F1 Visa

  • Tax returns for the past 3 years (Form 16)
  • Bank statements or passbook covering the past 3 years
  • Original pay/salary slips and letters of employment
  • The statement provided by a certified Chartered Accountant (CA)
  • Scholarship letter (if applicable)
  • Loan approval letter from a bank or relevant authority

F1 Student Visa Interview

As an international student, it's quite important to be well-prepared for your upcoming F1 visa interview. Ensure you have all the necessary documents and receipts organized before the interview. It's also crucial to be prepared to answer personal questions regarding your decision to study in the United States. Familiarize yourself with common F1 visa interview questions in order to feel more at ease during the interview. Below are some of the sample questions for the US visa interview:

  • Why did you choose this university?
  • How will you fund your education?
  • Do you have relatives in the USA?
  • Do you plan to work while studying in the USA?
  • What are your post-graduation plans?
  • Why did you choose to study in the US?
  • What are your test scores and academic performance?
  • Do you plan to return home or stay in the United States after graduation?

Check all of the USA Visa Interview Questions here.

During the student visa interview, the visa officer asks questions like these to make you qualify for the F1 visa. Answering these questions honestly and sincerely is crucial. If your answers are satisfactory, the consular officer can approve your visa application. Once approved, you may need to pay a visa issuance fee and have your digital fingerprints taken. Remember that receiving a visa is not guaranteed, so it's important to not finalize your travel plans until your visa is approved. If your visa application is denied, you will be provided with a reason based on the relevant section of the law that applies to your ineligibility. In some cases, it may be possible to file a waiver of ineligibility.

F1 Visa Denials

There is a possibility of your F-1 visa application being denied, it is based on US immigration law, and if that happens, you will receive a detailed explanation of the paperwork including the specific section of the law that led to the denial. To avoid such a situation, it is crucial to carefully read and follow all instructions and thoroughly review your documents before submitting the application. During your F-1 visa interview, it is important to effectively convey that your purpose is to study in the US and that you intend to return to your home country upon completing your program.

Rejection may happen if necessary information or supporting documentation is not provided as required. Additionally, you can be found ineligible for various reasons. If you fail to demonstrate strong ties to your home country that would ensure your return, you may be denied under INA section 214(b), Visa Qualifications and Immigrant Intent. Other common reasons for denial include fraud or misrepresentation, unlawful presence in the United States, health-related grounds, criminal-related grounds, or security-related grounds. It is important to be aware of these potential issues and address them appropriately to increase the chances of a successful visa application.

Know more about US visa rejection

Entering the United States

It is important to understand that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. Instead, it permits a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry, typically an airport, and request permission to enter. The decision to grant or deny admission to the United States lies with the officials of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), specifically U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), at the port of entry.

Upon arrival at the port of entry, you need to present your passport, visa, and Form I-20 to a CBP official who will determine whether you can enter the United States. If granted entry, the CBP official will provide either an admission stamp or a paper Form I-94, known as the Arrival/Departure Record. It is essential to note that even if you have been granted a visa, admission to the United States is ultimately at the discretion of CBP. Additionally, the CBP officer will specify the duration of your stay in the United States. At the port of entry, the CBP official will validate your Form I-94, which serves as a record of your arrival and departure. It is crucial to keep this I-94 form as it serves as your permission to stay in the United States.

Upon your initial arrival in the U.S., it is necessary to contact your designated school official (DSO), no later than the program start date mentioned on your Form I-20.

Maintaining US Visa Status

Once you are approved for the F-1 visa and enter the United States as an international student, it is important to fulfill your obligations to maintain a valid F-1 visa status. This includes complying with university regulations, codes of conduct, and the requirements outlined in your F-1 visa. Failure to do so can result in the loss of re-entry privileges, ineligibility for practical training (OPT or CPT), and on-campus employment. If your plans change while in the US and you need to change your visa status, you can request a change of non-immigrant status through USCIS instead of applying for a new visa. It is advisable to inform your Designated School Official (DSO) about your intention to change, as they can provide guidance and ensure your school is aware of the status change. To remain in good standing, it's recommended to stay informed and follow these tips:

  • Enter the US no more than 30 days before your program begins.
  • Contact your designated school official (DSO) upon arrival.
  • Inform your DSO again before the start date on your I-20 form.
  • Attend all classes and maintain good academic standing.
  • Consult with your DSO for possible extensions if you require more time to complete your program.
  • Enroll for a full course load during the academic term.
  • Discuss any class changes or drops with your DSO beforehand.
  • Complete at least one full academic year before taking a break or going on vacation.
  • Keep your passport valid for at least 6 months and carry a copy along with your I-94 card for identification purposes.
  • Within 60 days of program completion, either leave the US, re-enroll in a higher program, transfer to another school with a new I-20 form, or apply to change your visa status.

Can International Students Work with F1 Student Visa?

Yes. International students are allowed to work in the US with an F1 student visa. However, you must adhere to specific rules and restrictions. These include,

  • Part-time on-campus employment while your academic term is limited to a maximum of 20 hours per week.
  • The possibility of off-campus work with the approval of your university.
  • Full-time employment during academic breaks, if permitted by your university.
  • Seeking approval from your Designated School Official (DSO) before searching for work as an international student.
  • During the first year of study, off-campus employment is generally not allowed for F-1 visa students. However, there may be on-campus work or curricular practical training options available.
  • It is important to comply with the authorized work hours and obtain proper authorization. Working without authorization can result in visa revocation and the need to leave the US.
  • After graduation, F-1 students may apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT) which allows them to work for up to 12 months in a field related to their study.

Related Resources

FAQ

1. Who is eligible for US student visa?

International students eligible for US study visa need to be enrolled in a program or course of study for a degree, diploma, or certificate at an institution that is authorized by the US Government.

2. How many years is F1 visa valid for?

F1 Visa is valid for the entire duration of the program (2 years - 4 years) in which students have enrolled.

3. Is getting a student visa for US easy?

It is not difficult to get a student visa for USA if you fulfill all the eligibility and student visa requirements for USA from India. Students need to submit all the required documents, book an appointment, and attend the visa interview.

4. How many attempts are there for F1 visa?

There is no limit to attempt the F1 visa application. However, it is not wiser to apply for the visa multiple times. Find out the reason behind the US visa rejection and rectify it before applying for the visa again.

5. Can I get a green card with a student visa?

Yes. Students with F1 visa will get a green card.

6. Is IELTS required for US visa?

Yes. To apply for a Student visa USA, you need to submit an English proficiency score like IELTS. The minimum IELTS score required for US student visa is 6.5.

 

About Author Arivarasi

Arivarasi is an experienced author with expertise in the study abroad industry and preparing test materials for exams like IELTS, TOEFL, GRE, SAT, PTE, etc. She stays up-to-date with university and college requirements for international students which allows her to provide guidance on course selection, documents like SOP, LOR, and scholarship opportunities. She has written numerous articles on study abroad exams, destinations, universities & colleges requirements, admission procedures, and the entire process of studying abroad. Collaborating with industry experts and counselors, she crafts informative articles that make students take the right decisions.

Kanan International is a study abroad consultancy that offers reliable services, products, and solutions for students and education institutions. We support students throughout their study abroad journey, ensuring a hassle-free experience. Our expertise and commitment to excellence make us the go-to partner for expanding global horizons. The company provides coaching for IELTS, GRE, TOEFL, and SAT exams and services like visa consultation, accommodation, scholarship assistance, and education loans.