Student Visa Overview

Student Visa Overview

The U.S. provides several nonimmigrant visa categories for persons wishing to study in the United States.

B Visa—Visitation for Short Course of Study

If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study of less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so with a visitor visa (B Visa), which is easier to obtain than a student visa.  You should inquire at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  However, if your course of study is more than 18 hours a week, you will need a student visa.

For more information about the B Visa for temporary visitation, click here.

There are four main types of student visas:

F Visa—Academic Studies

The F-1 Visa is for nonimmigrants wishing to pursue academic studies and/or language training programs and enrolled in a school in the U.S.  F-2 Visas are available for family members of F-1 Visa holders.

For more information, click on F Visa on the left.

M Visa—Vocational Studies

The M-1 Visa is for nonimmigrants wishing to pursue nonacademic or vocational studies.  M-2 Visas are for family members of M-1 Visa holders.

For more information, click on M Visa on the left.

H-3 Visa—Training and Special Education Exchange

The H-3 Visa is for individuals seeking non-medical education and non-graduate training not available in their country and individuals participating in a special education exchange program.  H-4 Visas are available for family members of H-3 Visa holders.

For more information, click on H-3 Visa on the left.

J Visa—Exchange Visitor Program

The J-1 Visa is for individuals who wish to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program designated by the U.S. Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.  J-2 Visas are for family members of J-1 Visa holders.

For more information, click on J Visa on the left.

Apply Early

In most countries, first time student visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview.  However, each embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas.  Students should consult Embassy web sites or call for specific application instructions.

 Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period.  Students need to plan ahead to avoid having to make repeat visits to the Embassy.  To the extent possible, students should bring the documents suggested below, as well as any other documents that might help establish their ties to the local community.

Changes introduced shortly after September 11, 2001, involve extensive and ongoing review of visa issuing practices as they relate to our national security. It is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.

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