Applying for a US student visa: A detailed guide for 2024

Toluwani Omotesho


The United States is a popular destination for international students for several reasons. Such reasons include the numerous financial aid and scholarships available, career prospects and opportunities, and the multicultural environment, which gives students opportunities to connect and network with people from all over the world.

Also read: Affordable European Universities for International Students in 2024

If you have plans to study in the U.S. in 2024, the best time to start your visa application process is now. In this post, we’ll be your one-stop guide for everything you need to know about the process, including the types of student visas available, the eligibility requirements, and the application steps.

But first, what is a student visa?

A student visa is a legal immigration document that allows students to study in a foreign country for some time. It’s not enough to get admitted into your school of choice; as an international student, you must apply for a student visa before you can study abroad.

Types of student visas

The U.S. has different types of student visas based on the course of study and type of institution. These include:

  • F-1 visa: this is the most common type of student visa, and it’s primarily for people with admission into a program in an accredited college or university, high school, private elementary school, seminary, conservatory, or other academic institution such as a language training program.
  • M-1 visa: this type of visa is for international students enrolled in technical, vocational, or non-academic institutions and programs such as culinary schools, flight schools, or cosmetology programs.
  • J-1 visa: this student visa is for applicants in specific programs such as a work-and-study exchange program like Fulbright or students who have more than half of their financial funding from sources such as scholarships and grants, fellowships, assistantships, home countries, international organizations or corporate sponsors.

It’s important that you choose the right visa type that matches your study program and goals to avoid rejection and unnecessary restrictions during your stay.

What are the eligibility criteria for a U.S. student visa?

  • Acceptance at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-approved institution: a SEVP-certified school is authorized to enroll international students. SEVP schools, through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), keep track of nonimmigrant students, exchange visitors, and their dependents.
  • Intent to return to your home country: You must convince the consular officer that you’ll return home after completing your studies. This is usually done by submitting documents that prove you have strong ties to your home country, such as your family, job prospects, or property.
  • English proficiency: you must demonstrate your ability to write and speak in English through language tests such as TOEFL or IELTS.
  • Sufficient financial support: you must also show that you have enough financial resources to cover your tuition fees, living expenses, and other costs. These documents include bank statements, scholarship awards, and grants or financial guarantee letters.

Step-by-Step Process for Applying for the U.S. Student Visa

  • Secure your admission and get your I-20 form: This form is issued by SEVP-certified schools and contains essential information about your study plans and eligibility information.
  • Pay the SEVIS fee: the SEVIS fee for F or M visa applicants is $350 and $220 for J visa applicants.
  • Complete your DS-160 visa application: this is an online nonimmigrant application form all prospective students must complete to get a student visa.
  • Schedule a visa interview: after completing your DS-160 form, you’ll need to schedule a visa interview with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your country.
  • Attend the visa interview: during the consultation, the consular officer will determine your eligibility and legitimacy as a student. Some common questions asked, especially during the F-1 student visa interview, are usually around the following:
  1. Your choice of institution
  2. Your plans after graduation
  3. Your plans to work while in the U.S.
  4. Your reasons behind studying in the U.S.
  5. Your test scores and overall performance as a student

Documents Required During the Visa Interview

Proper documentation can make or break your application process, so before your interview, make sure you have the following:

  • A valid passport with an expiry date of at least six months beyond your intended stay in the U.S.
  • Receipt of paid application fee, which is usually $185
  • Form I-20 issued by the SEVP-approved school
  • Print-out of form DS-160 confirmation page.
  • A copy of the visa interview appointment letter
  • SEVIS fee receipt.
  • Academic transcripts and test scores
  • Proof of funds such as original bank statements of sponsors and proof of income like payslips and appointment letters or financial guarantee letters.

What’s Next if Your Visa Application is Denied?

If your application gets rejected, you typically get a detailed reasoning behind this in writing. Some common reasons for visa rejections include missing documents, inadequate funding, ineligibility for the visa type, or failure to convince the consular officer of your intent.

However, you can either appeal this decision within 30 days, submit a reconsideration request, or reapply after addressing the reasons for the previous denial.

How does Grey Help with Your Application Process?

Applying for a U.S. student visa needs meticulous planning, and Grey helps make this process easier. With our globally accepted virtual USD card, you can pay your visa application fees and college tuition fees with no hassle.

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