As an international student planning to study English in the USA, one of your first steps will be to get a US student visa. Anyone intending to come to the United States with the primary purpose of studying in a long-term, full-time (18 hours or more per week) program is required to have an F-1 US student visa. This can be a complicated process, so we’ve provided tips and a step-by-step guide here.
1. Select the school where you plan to study English in the USA.
English schools in the United States must be approved by the Department of Homeland Security to issue I-20s, the document needed to apply for an F-1 US student visa. Only schools certified by SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program)—such as LCI Language Centers—are authorized to enroll international students. Visit SEVP-Certified schools to find a list of approved English schools in the US (look for LCI under “Language Consultants International”).
2. Apply to the institution where you would like to study English in the USA.
Every school has its own application process and requirements. Contact the school of your choice for information on their procedures. Find information on how to apply to LCI here.
3. Receive your acceptance letter and I-20 form.
After you are accepted to an English school in the US, the institution will send you an I-20 form, which you will need to obtain a visa to study English in the USA. Most schools take up to two weeks to issue an I-20. LCI issues I-20s in 1-2 business days upon receiving an application.
4. Apply for your US student visa and pay the fee.
You’ll need to fill out a Form DS-160 to apply for a US visa. You can pay the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee for an F-1 US student visa at www.fmjfee.com. Students from most countries are able to pay online. If that is not available for your country, you will be provided with other payment options.
5. Make a US visa interview appointment.
An interview at your local American embassy is a required part of the US student visa application process for all applicants aged 14-79. After receiving a receipt for your fee payment, you can make a visa interview appointment at the nearest US embassy or consulate. Depending on your country, you can make an appointment online or by phone.
6. Prepare your documents for the US student visa interview.
You will need the following documents to apply for your visa to study in the USA:
- Passport (valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the US)
- I-20 and English school acceptance letter
- Documents verifying that you have the funds to pay for your educational and living expenses while studying English in the USA (bank statements, etc.)
It is also important to prove your intent to return to your home country upon completion of your studies in the USA. To help demonstrate ties to your home country, we recommend bringing documents such as the following:
- Proof of family in your home country (marriage certificates, birth certificate for children, spouse’s passport, etc.)
- Evidence of property ownership (house, office, store) in your own country
- A letter from an employer or school where you are enrolled, or evidence of business ownership
7. Review these tips for the US student visa interview.
- Prepare ahead for the interview. Think about how you will answer questions about why you want to study English in the USA and how learning English will help your future in your home country. Remember to demonstrate your intent to return home after your studies.
- Dress well and arrive on time. It’s important to make a good impression and let the interviewer know you take it seriously.
- Smile and be friendly. Try not to be nervous.
- Make sure to be honest. If you are caught lying you may never be given another opportunity to come to the United States.
8. Receive your US student visa to study English in the USA!
For more tips on obtaining your US student visa, visit LCI’s I-20 and Student Visa Information page.