Foreign students who plan to study in USA must obtain a US student visa in order to attend US universities and colleges. Students should begin the student visa application process at least 3 to 5 months before the start date of their coursework in the US, as the student visa process takes time.

US student visas include F1 visas, M1 visas, and J1 visas, so the application process may vary depending on the types of student visa the applicant is eligible for.

In general, the US student visa application process consists of the following steps.

1. Apply to a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) Approved Institution

You must apply to an institution or university that is approved by the US Government's Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). After acceptance from a SEVP accredited institution, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Post enrollment, the institution will send you a SEVIS generated Form,

  • I-20, If you are eligible for F or M visa; or
  • DS- 2019 for J visa.

2. Pay the SEVIS Fees

To pay the SEVIS fees, you will need to file a SEVIS I-901 Form either online or offline through the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website. You must pay the fees at least 3 days prior to submitting the application for a US visa. The student visa fees are listed below.

  • F/M visa requires a fee of USD 200.
  • J visa requires a fee of USD 180.

After the payment is processed, you must take a printout of the payment to your US student visa interview as confirmation.

3. Complete US Visa Student Application DS-160

After receiving the SEVIS Form and paying SEVIS fees, make an appointment with a US consulate or embassy in your country of origin for your US student visa application. Complete the online Visa Application Form DS-160. You will need the following documents and information while filling the Form:

  • Digital Photograph
  • Passport details
  • Family Information
  • Address of where you be residing in the US
  • Date of most recent travel to US, if any
  • Name and address of your relatives in US
  • SEVIS ID and address of university or institution as printed they appear on Form I-20 or Form DS-2019

For the format of the digital photograph, refer to Photograph Requirements.

After you successfully complete the application, you must electronically sign Form DS-160 by clicking Sign Application. Print the confirmation page you receive after signing the application; it includes a 10-digit barcode and your application ID number, which you will need to make your visa interview appointment. Learn more about how to complete US Visa Application Form DS-160.

4. Pay Student Visa Application Fees

You can pay your fees electronically as a bank transfer or in cash at designated Citibank or Axis Bank branches throughout India. In order to ensure the proper amount is paid and activated in a timely manner, first create a profile at the US Visa Service website and choose “Schedule Appointment.” On the payment confirmation screen, you will be presented with payment options and further details of how to initiate payment. The fee is good for one year from the date of payment. You must make an appointment within a year for your visa interview.

The fee for F, J, and M student visas are each USD 160.

Once you have made your student visa interview appointment, you will need the MRV fee receipt, so be sure to print the payment receipt.

Read more about US Visa Fees.

5. Schedule a US Visa Interview

Schedule your interview at any US Consulate or Embassy in your country either online or by phone. In both cases, you will need your MRV fee number.

Your visa application process will remain incomplete until you appear for an interview with a consular officer.

Read more about making a US Visa appointment.

6. US Visa Fingerprinting at Visa Application Center (VAC)

After making an appointment with a US Consulate or Embassy for a personal interview, schedule a fingerprinting appointment at least a day or two before the interview at the consulate. Previously, the fingerprints were taken during the personal interview, but under the new rules you are required to provide your biometrics information at the VAC appointment. This measure has been introduced to reduce congestion at the US consular facilities and to speed up applicant processing. Schedule the visa interview appointment at the Consulate or Embassy prior to the VAC appointment.

Read more about US visa fingerprinting.

7. Attend Student Visa Interview

The final step in your application process will be to attend the US visa interview. On the day and time of your interview appointment, arrive at the consulate where your interview is scheduled. Be prepared to answer questions regarding ties to your home country, your English language skills, your academic background, and the program to which you have been admitted in the US. Carry all mandatory and supporting original documents.

Find out more information about how to prepare for your interview. You will need the following documents for the visa interview:

  • Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay
  • Signed SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • SEVIS fees receipt
  • DS-160 application confirmation page with barcode and application ID number
  • MRV fee payment confirmation receipt
  • Printed copy of visa interview appointment letter
  • 2 Photographs should be printed on the photo quality paper

You may also need these additional documents:

  • Financial evidences
  • Transcriptions from the previous institutes attended
  • Test scores from the required standardized test by the educational institute

You will be notified of how and when your passport containing your student visa will be delivered to you. It is usually delivered by courier within 3-4 business days to your India mailing address.

See the complete details about the US Visa Interview Process.

For specific information on applying for F1 visa, visit F1 Visa.