How to study In the United States
These five steps explain the process an international student can follow to study in a university or college in the U.S.:
Research Your Options. Postsecondary education includes six degree levels: associate, bachelor, first-professional, master, advanced intermediate, and research doctorate. The U.S. system does not offer a second or higher doctorate, but does offer postdoctoral research programs.
- Find an Educational Advising Center in Your Country - Worldwide centers give international students advice on higher education and study opportunities in the United States.
- College Navigator - Find and compare colleges by location, type of institution, programs, majors, and more.
- Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP)-Certified School Verify if the U.S. institution of higher education that you are interested in is certified.
- Stories by International Students - Learn about the experience of studying in the U.S. from other foreign students.
Finance Your Studies
The U.S. government does not provide loans, grants, or general scholarship assistance for international students. As an international student, you will have to find alternative sources of funding such as:
- Your Home Country Education Authorities - Many countries offer foreign study funding for their own nationals who are admitted to an approved program or institution abroad and who qualify for the assistance program.
- The International Admissions Office - Many U.S. academic institutions assist international students. Contact the international admissions office at the schools you are interested in to learn if you may be eligible for assistance.
- Scholarships and Grants - Private foundations, businesses, and nonprofit organizations offer scholarships and grants for study and research. Use the U.S. government’s free online scholarship search tool.
- Exchange Programs Administered by the U.S. Government - These exchange programs, including the Fulbright Program and others at all education levels, provide assistance to qualified international students.
Complete your application
In the U.S., colleges and universities establish their own admission requirements, including third-party standardized tests. Follow the application requirements set by the admissions office of the institution in which you are interested.
- Foreign Diploma and Credit Recognition - Higher educational institutions and licensing boards in individual states evaluate academic coursework, degrees, and professional licenses. The U.S. has no single authority to evaluate foreign credentials.
- Standardized Tests - As part of the application process, some programs require students to take one or more standardized tests. Plan to take your tests in advance so your scores are available when you submit your application.
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) - Many colleges and universities require this test to measure your English language skills.
Apply for your visa
Before you can apply for a student visa, you must first be accepted by a U.S. institution of higher education that is certified by the SEVP.
- Student Visas - Learn more about the types of student visas, how to apply, fees, and documentation requirements.
- How to Prepare for Your Visa Appointment - Read these recommendations before your appointment at a U.S. Embassy or consulate.
Prepare for departure
Consider exploring these resources while you plan your move to the U.S.
- How to Navigate the U.S. Immigration System - Find out how to get started, arrive, stay, and depart from the U.S.
- Life in the U.S. - Learn about American holidays, states, and other useful information about the country.
- Working While You Study in the U.S. - Find information for students and exchange visitors (F-1, and M-1 visa categories) pursuing employment in the United States.
- Training Opportunities in the U.S. - Eligible international students and new graduates have the opportunity to gain on-the-job learning that supplements knowledge gained in their academic studies.
- Foreign Visitors Driving in the U.S. - Get quick facts for short-term visitors, students, and residents about driving in the U.S.
- English as a Second Language - Learn English and improve basic reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.
- Taxes - Some international students may be subject to income tax.
How to Apply for an F1 Visa
Any international student wanting to study in the USA will need to obtain a student visa for the USA. Most students are issued with an F-1 visa, and the general outline/process flow for obtaining an F1 visa is as follows:
- Be Accepted at an SEVP Approved School
- Pay your SEVIS Fee and Receive your I-20
- Complete the Visa Application
- Schedule and Prepare for your Interview
- Attend your F-1 Visa Interview
Be Accepted at Ana G. Mendez University System
Before you can apply for your F-1 student visa for the USA, you must go through our application process.
Pay your SEVIS Fee and Receive your I-20
Once you’re accepted, you will be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee in order to be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Then, your school will provide you with a Form I-20. This form will be presented to the consular officer when you attend your F-1 visa interview. If your spouse and/or children plan to reside in the USA with you while you study, they will be required to have individual Form I-20s, but they will not need to be enrolled in the SEVIS.
Complete the Visa Application
Applying for the F-1 student visa may vary depending on the U.S. embassy or consulate you are dealing with. You will be required to pay a non-refundable visa application fee. There is an online visa application available, which allows you to complete and print the Form DS-160 to take to your F-1 visa interview.
Schedule and Prepare for your Interview
You can schedule your F-1 visa interview with the U.S. embassy or consulate. Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. An F-1 student visa for the USA can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date. You will only be able to enter the US with an F-1 visa 30 days before your start date.
The following documents are required for your F-1 visa interview:
- A valid passport
- The Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160
- The application fee payment receipt
- A passport photo
- A Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status (Form 1-20)
Additional documents may be requested to prove your eligibility for the F-1 student visa, including academic transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates. Test scores such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, or GMAT may also be requested, as well as proof of your intent to depart the U.S. after your program is complete and proof of your financial stability.
Documentation for Visa Interview
Student F1 Visa interviews will require the following documentation:
- Your Form I-20
- SEVIS I-901 receipt
- Signed passport (must be valid for 6 months after entry into the US)
- Transcripts or diplomas from current or previous institutions
- Program of study description
- Accommodation information
- Evidence of funds to cover tuition and living expenses for either the length of your study or one year, whichever is shorter.
- Your local US Embassy/Consulate might require additional forms such as
DS-156, DS-157A, DS-158A. They are available online or at your local embassy/consulate.Once you are granted a U.S. entrance visa , notify the school of your expected arrival date, and obtain a new I-20 if the dates have been deferred. Also, be sure to confirm your housing and transportation arrangements in advance of your departure from your home country. Keep in mind that you can enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before your program start date.
Maintaining Your F1 Visa Status
Congratulations! You’ve been issued your F-1 visa and you are an official student in the USA. With this victory comes big responsibility. Now that you are in the US, you must maintain your F-1 visa.
- Check in with your International Office
- Keep your passport valid
- Maintain full-time enrollment
- Extend your I-20 as needed
- Apply for a new I-20 as needed
- Obtain special permission to work
- Carry your passport and your I-94 card with you at all times
- Change your status or depart the US in a timely manner
Check in with your International Office within 30 days of your arrival
You will be required to provide your local address in order to keep your SEVIS records up-to-date. If you change your local address at any time during your stay, you will need to notify them.
Keep your passport valid
Your passport should be valid at least six months into the future. Passports can be renewed by your home country’s consulate or embassy.
Maintain full-time enrollment
"Full-time enrollment" may differ depending on your student status. Undergraduate programs require students to enroll in at least 12 credit hours each semester during the academic year. Graduate programs each define their own combination of credit hours with research time to be considered "full-time." To remain in legal F-1 visa status, you should check with your program to ensure that you are maintaining full-time enrollment if you are a graduate student.
Extend your I-20 as needed
If your program will require more time that originally granted, you will need to notify your International Office at least 30 days prior to the end date in Section 3 of your Form I-20, in order to allow enough time to obtain the necessary documentation to maintain your F-1 visa.
Apply for a new I-20 as needed
If you are beginning a new program, you must apply for a new I-20 at least 60 days before the completion of your first program. Evidence of funding may be required.
Obtain special permission to work
Your International Office and the Department of Homeland Security may need to provide authorization for you to work. Working off-campus without permission is a serious violation of your F-1 visa regulations and could result in your deportation. F-1 students are allowed to work part-time on-campus but are required to complete an Form I-9 with their International Office.
Carry your passport and your I-94 card with you at all times
Especially when you are traveling, you will need to be able to prove your legal F-1 visa status in the US.
Change your status or depart the US in a timely manner
F-1 students generally have 60 days to depart the US after the completion of their program. As long as you maintain your F-1 visa status, you may be eligible apply for Optional Practical Training, or you may be able to switch your immigration status. Be sure to apply for these changes prior to your program completion date.
By following these steps, you will be able to maintain your F-1 visa and prepare yourself for any changes that may occur during your academic program. Retaining your legal F-1 visa status is extremely important to remain in the United States as an international student.