International Students Visa Categories

International students

There are two major categories of visas initial students should be educated about.

• Immigrant visas are for foreign nationals that want to permanently live or work in the U.S.A., and are usually sponsored either by a family member or by an employer.
• Non-immigrant visas are for foreign nationals who wish to enter the U.S.A. for a temporary basis, and include visas for: tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, study, etc. As a student and student-athlete trying to go study in the U.S.A. you will need a Nonimmigrant Student Visa.


*Please note that the visa process usually takes a few months, so it is important that the student starts the application process to both Universities and Visas 6-7 months before the beginning of the semester.


The visa you will need will depend on what course of study and type of school you intend to apply to. There are 2 kinds of student visas: F-1 and M-1.

• M-1 Nonimmigrant Student Visas are for students that are going to attend a vocational program like the ones described in ASAL’s Vocational and Technical Schools section.
• F-1 Nonimmigrant Student Visas are for all Students going to university or college (undergraduate or graduate studies) in the U.S.A.

Before applying for a Nonimmigrant F-1 Student Visa

Before being able to apply for an F-1 Visa to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, you must first be accepted into a SEVP-certified school. All schools ASAL deals with are SEVP-certified schools. To double check that your school is SEVP-certified you can use the U.S. Homeland Security’s Website at

Once you are accepted into a certified university/college, you will automatically be enrolled in the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Immigration System), for which you must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee.

All U.S. universities/colleges that accept you will provide you with an I-20 Form (a Certificate or Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status). You must decide which university or college you will attend before you pay your SEVIS Fee and you go to your interview, since you must use the I-20 Form from the school you decide to attend to pay your I-901 SEVIS Fee. ASAL can provide you with more information on how to pay this fee, since different countries have different rules regarding this process.

Applying for your Non-Immigrant F-1 Student Visa

There are several steps to apply for a visa and the order in which these steps need to be carried vary according to each consulate and/or embassy. Please contact ASAL for information and assistance during this process.

Some of the most important steps in a Non-Immigrant F-1 Student Visa Applications include:

• Completing the online visa application (DS-160 Form)
• Printing the DS-160 barcode page
• Scheduling a visa interview appointment
• Paying the visa application processing fee (about 160 U.S. dollars)

Basic requirements for F-1 Student Visa application & documents to bring to the interview:

It is essential that you bring all required documents to the interview. Each consular office has different requirements. Please check with ASAL concerning what documents you need to take with you. But they may include the following:

• A valid passport
• DS-160 confirmation page/form
• The visa application fee payment receipt
• The I-20 Form from school of choice (Note: You can have multiple I-20 from multiple universities, but you can apply for VISA for only ONE university)
• Affidavit of support from Parents or Sponsor that they will support you through entire period of study at the U.S.A.
• Academic transcripts and or academic certificates
• Original report/score sheets of all tests taken (Example: SAT, GRE, GMAT, TOEFL etc.)
• Supporting documents with a residence address abroad, indicating in this way that the student intends to leave U.S. and return to his/her home country after completion of his/her studies
• Evidence of financial means to sustain yourself while in the U.S.A. This must cover tuition and living expenses.
*If a student or student-athlete has received scholarship money, you must bring the documents that state the scholarship funds.

During the interview:

During the interview, a consular officer will determine if you are qualified to receive a visa or not, they will ask you questions, you will have to provide them with all the required documents at your specific consular office (check with ASAL what documents are required in your consular office), and they will scan your fingerprints, among other procedures.

Visa Approval

If your visa is approved you might have to pay an extra issuance fee depending on your country, and your passport will be returned to you.

*Please Note: Receiving a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States. The Customs and Border Protection Officer at the port-of-entry will conduct an inspection and will be the one that determines if you can enter the country or not.

Visa Denial

If your visa has been denied, you can always re-apply as long as the factors that made you ineligible for the visa are no longer a problem. Usually you are notified which sector of the law made you ineligible for the visa.
After receiving your Visa – Entering the U.S.A.

Bring your passport together with you I-20 Form, since you need to present it to the customs and border protection U.S. officer (you may arrive a maximum of 30 days before the start date listed in your I-20 Form).
You will be inspected by the Customs and Border Protection Officer, who will ask you for your documents and will determine if you can enter the country.

Right before entering the U.S.A., you will be given an I-94 Form (Arrival/Departure Record). This is a very important form and you must keep it safe since you need to present it every time you enter and leave the country.

You need to report to your school immediately after entering the country so there is no question about your arrival date.


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