If you are coming to the United States primarily to study and if your course of study is 18 hours or more per week, you will need a student visa, also known as an F-1 visa.
At LCI Language Centers, we receive many questions about the F-1 student visa process. For your convenience, this post provides the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions. For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on obtaining a visa to study English in the USA, we suggest that you also visit the US Department of State Student Visa official website before you apply for your visa.
1. What are the steps for obtaining a student visa?
Follow the steps below to apply for your F-1 student visa:
- Register with a school approved to enroll F-1 international students in the United States, such as LCI Language Centers. LCI issues I-20s and acceptance letters to our students within 1-2 business days after registration is complete.
- Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee online.
- Complete Form DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
- Schedule and attend a visa interview at the US embassy or consulate in your home country.
- If approved, you will receive your F-1 student visa to study in the United States!
2. Can the school I plan to attend help me get an F-1 student visa?
Schools that are approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), such as LCI Language Centers, can issue the Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, which is required to obtain an F-1 student visa.
However, schools cannot request or issue your student visa. All visas are issued by the US Department of State at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad.
For more information about the registration process at LCI Language Centers, including student visa application, please visit our How to Apply page.
3. How much money do I need to have in my bank account in order to be approved for an F-1 student visa?
The US government requires a bank statement as financial proof that you can cover the costs of studying English in the USA.
At LCI Language Centers, this amounts to about $2,000/month for our General English Program and $2,500/month for our Academic English Program. If you have dependents accompanying you who plan to apply for an F-2 dependent visa, you will need to show an additional $250 per month per dependent.
4. What documents do I need from my sponsor?
If you will not be financially responsible for your course of study, you will need someone to sponsor you. You will be required to show a bank statement AND an affidavit of support from your sponsor indicating that he/she is willing and able to support you financially while you study English in the USA.
5. Do F-2 dependent visa applicants need to pay the SEVIS fee?
No. All new F-1 student visa applicants must pay a one-time SEVIS I-901 Fee prior to applying for a US visa. However, F-2 dependents do not have to pay the SEVIS fee.
6. What documents should I bring to the F-1 student visa interview?
While specific requirements may vary by embassy or consulate, below is a list of documents you may need to bring to your student visa interview.
- Original completed Form I-20 signed by you and the institution where you plan to study. You should also bring your letter of acceptance from the institution.
- Confirmation of completed SEVIS I-901 Fee payment
- Confirmation of completed Form DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Passport valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements)
- Photograph that meets all photograph requirements for a US visa (only if you were not able to upload one with your Form DS-160)
- Financial documentation showing sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during your period of study in the US (Please see questions #2 and #3 of this blog above.)
- Copies of transcripts, degrees or certificates from previous institutions attended
- Documents showing your intent to depart the US after your course of studies. This is very important. You may be asked to show strong financial, professional or familial ties to your home country that indicate you do not plan to move permanently to the United States.
7. Do I need to have a hotel, host family or other US address for the F-1 student visa interview?
No. Your housing arrangements in the US can be finalized after your visa interview. At LCI Language Centers, we and our partners confirm host families for students only after they receive their visa.
8. What if my student visa interview is scheduled for a date after the class start date on the I-20?
You will need to inform the institution issuing your I-20 to postpone your class start date, update your I-20 and acceptance letter with the new start date, and mail you the updated documents before the visa interview.
9. What if my application for my student visa is rejected?
There are many different reasons for visa rejection, but based on the specific reasons your F-1 visa application was rejected, you may schedule and prepare for a second student visa interview. You will not need an updated I-20 and acceptance letter if your second visa interview is scheduled before the class start date listed on your I-20 and acceptance letter.
However, if the second visa interview is scheduled for after the class start date on your I-20 and acceptance letter, you will need to inform the institution that issued your I-20 to postpone your class start date, update your I-20 and acceptance letter with the new start date, and mail you the updated documents before the second visa interview.
10. How long is my F-1 student visa valid?
The validity period of the F-1 student visa varies for students from different countries. However, as long as your I-20 is valid while you study in the US, even if your student visa expires, you will be studying legally. Once you leave the US with an expired student visa, you will need to apply for a new one to come back to study again.
LCI provides general information from USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) and supplies the I-20 form and acceptance letter needed to apply for a student visa. However, we do not provide legal advice, cannot apply for the visa for you and are not responsible for decisions made by embassies, consulates or immigration officers regarding entry visas, visa extensions or change-of-status requests.
For more information about securing a US visa and/or maintaining your visa status, we recommend that you consult your local embassy or consulate, visit the UCIS website and/or contact an immigration attorney.