How To Apply For U.S Study Visa


The United States welcomes foreign citizens who come to the U.S. to study. Before applying for a visa, all student visa applicants must be accepted and approved by their school or program. Once accepted, educational institutions will provide each applicant with the necessary approval documentation to be submitted when applying for a student visa.

If you are among the few who aspire and have gotten admission into your aspired university, applying for Student Visa is the next important step to realizing your Study in the USA dream.

This Students Visa Guide briefly examines the various types of visas. It gives a detailed process of applying for the F1 Student Visa – applicable to students planning to take up their bachelor’s as well as master’s in the USA.


There are three types of student visas to the US:

F1 Student Visa

  • Students applying for a program requiring more than 18 hours of study per week require an F1 visa. This includes all undergraduate and graduate programs like MS, MBA, etc.
  • Spouses or children accompanying F-1 visa recipients will travel on an F-2 visa. Please note that spouses cannot work but may accompany and apply for their visa to the U.S. to work or study.

Exchange Visitor Visa

  • The J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa is for students, visiting scholars, or lecturers pursuing an exchange program. For example, Fulbright scholars and many students on short-term study abroad programs from Indian universities will travel to the U.S. on a J-1 visa.
  • A J1 visa is usually sought by a working professional who goes to America on an exchange program, hence the name Exchange Visitor Visa. These may include a 10-month vocational training or some research fellowship, etc. The applicants would be notified of the same, whichever the case, by the respective institutions. 
  • Spouses or children accompanying J-1 Visa recipients will travel on a J-2 Visa. Please note that spouses can work when permission is obtained in advance.

M-1 Vocational/ Non-Academic Student Visa

  • The M1 visa is a student visa reserved for vocational and technical schools. While the process remains similar to an F1 visa, the difference is that on entering, the M1 visas are time stamped, and students cannot overstay their visit.


  • Barcoded confirmation page for all applicants for the DS-160 online non-immigrant visa application form. The confirmation page can be obtained only after the applicant completes and submits the DS-160 online, where all questions should be answered and a digital signature made before submission. The DS-160 and complete instructions can be found on the Consular Electronic Application Centre.
  • Barcoded confirmation page for Endorsed valid I-20 for students
  • Certificate of Eligibility for non-immigrant (F-1) student status for academic and language students
  • DS-2019 for exchange visitors
  • International passport valid for at least six months
  • One colour passport photograph (5cm x 5cm) with full face forward against a white background taken within the last six months. Hair must not cover the ears, and no photos with dark glasses or non-religious, tribal, or chieftaincy head coverings are allowed.
  • The GT Bank receipt for the $160 visa application fee
  • CGI appointment service charge receipt
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • Any supporting documents to establish the applicant’s strong economic, social and other ties to Nigeria; additional documents may be requested during the interview.
  • Financial evidence of your or your sponsor’s ability to pay the tuition fees and cover living expenses.


1. Apply to a SEVP-approved institution

As an international student, you should ensure you choose an institution and program accredited by the US government’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

Accreditation is important as it ensures your degree is recognized by other universities, professional associations, employers, and government ministries worldwide. Only SEVP-approved institutions can enrol students in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and provide you with the documents necessary to apply for a US student visa. Use the government’s Study in the States website to identify accredited institutions.

Once an institution has accepted you, the university will enrol you in the SEVIS system. You will be sent a SEVIS-generated document called Form I-20 if you are eligible for an F or M visa or Form DS-2019 if you are eligible for a J visa.

The SEVP manages international students in the F and M visa classifications, while the Department of State (DoS) manages Exchange Visitor Programs and international students on J visa classifications. Both SEVP and DoS use SEVIS to track and monitor institutions and exchange visitor programs and international students.

2. Pay the SEVIS fee

You must pay the SEVIS fee three days before applying for a US visa. To pay the fee you’ll need to file either an online or paper form. Both can be accessed through the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) SEVP website. Take care to input the required details exactly as they appear on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.

At the time of writing, the I-901 fee is US$200 for F/M visa holders and $180 for J student visa holders. J visa holders working as camp counsellors, au pairs, or in summer work/travel pay $35 instead.

The website explains the procedure for different payment types, including debit or credit card, check international money order and Western Union Quick Pay.

Having paid the fee, you can return to the website to check on your payment status if desired. A third party (such as your sponsor) can also pay the fee for you. If the fee is paid on your behalf, you should receive a receipt from that third party.

You can obtain and print a payment confirmation from the website at any time after processing your payment. You’ll need this confirmation as proof of fee payment at your US student visa interview.

You may also be required to show the confirmation to the customs officer at your chosen US Port of Entry if you ever change your non-immigrant status or if you’re applying for any other US immigration benefits.

3. Complete a US student visa application

Once you have received your SEVIS form and paid the SEVIS fee, you can make an appointment with a US consulate or embassy in your country for a US student visa application.

It’s best to apply as early as possible, regardless of when your program is due to start, as visa processing times can vary. Your visa can be issued up to 120 days before you enter the US.

Most countries have their dedicated website for everything to do with making a US student visa application, which can be accessed from this main page.

If you cannot find your country in the list, you may still be able to find the US embassy or consulate in your country using the US embassy’s website.

4. Online visa application: DS-160

In all cases, you’ll need to complete the online visa application form DS-160. You’ll need to select the location from which you wish to apply and ensure you have all the documents and information you need to fill in the application. After selecting and answering a security question, you’ll be taken to the pages of the form. At the top, you’ll find your application ID. You’ll need this ID to retrieve your form if you need to exit the application and return to it later.

Personal details required to complete the DS-160 form include ;

  • Name and date of birth
  • Address and phone number
  • Passport details
  • Details of travel plans and travel companions
  • Details of previous US travel
  • Your point of contact in the US
  • Family, work, and education details
  • Security, background, and medical health information
  • SEVIS ID and address of the US school/program you intend to enrol in (as printed on the I-20 or DS-2019 form)

You’ll also need to upload a suitable recent photo of yourself in the format explained in the photograph requirements. If your photo upload fails, you’ll need to take a printed photograph – which meets the requirements – for your visa interview.

Take care to answer all the questions accurately and fully, as you may have to reschedule your visa interview appointment if you make any errors. If you get confused when filling in the application form, you may find answers to your questions on the website.

Once the visa application form is completed, you’ll need to electronically sign your DS-160 by clicking the “Sign Application” button at the end. After your application is uploaded, you’ll be sent a confirmation page with a barcode, barcode number, and your application ID number, which you’ll need to print out and take to your visa interview appointment. You do not need to print the full application.

5. Pay the visa application fee

The visa application fee is called the Machine Readable Visa Fee, or ‘MRV fee. Review the fee payment instructions available on your embassy or consulate website, as methods may vary. In general, however, there are three ways to pay the non-refundable, non-transferable visa application fee:

  • In person at an approved bank
  • By phone (you’ll receive a fee confirmation number)
  • Online (you’ll need to print your receipt)

During your research, don’t worry if you come across the term ‘visa issuance fee based on reciprocity’ – this does not apply for F1, F2, M1, M2, J1 and J2 visa applicants.

When you get your visa interview appointment, you’ll be asked for the MRV fee receipt. Some J visa applicants will not need to pay application processing fees if participating in a US Agency for International Development (USAID) program or a federally funded educational and cultural exchange program with a program serial number beginning G-1, G-2, G-3 or G-7.

6. Schedule and attend a US student visa interview

The final step in getting a US student visa is to arrange and attend a visa interview. You can do this online or by phone by calling your nearest US embassy or consulate. In either case, you should complete the MRV fee payment, as you may need to give your MRV fee number.

The visa application process cannot be completed until you appear for an interview with a consular officer. Don’t worry if you need to schedule your interview appointment at a different US embassy or consulate than the one you used to apply for your visa. The barcode from your DS-160 can be used to retrieve your information in any US embassy or consulate. However,

be aware that it may be difficult to qualify for a visa if you apply outside your place of permanent residence. Wait times for visa interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category.

Documents for the visa interview

Check the embassy website or consulate where you will apply to ensure you have all the required documents for your interview. These documents may include:

  • Passport valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the US. If more than one person is included in your passport, each person who needs a visa must submit a separate application. You may also need to bring all your current and old passports.
  • Signed SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019 (including individual forms for spouse/children)
  • Form DS-7002 (for J-1 Trainee and Intern visa applicants only)
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • DS-160 application confirmation page with barcode and application ID number
  • MRV fee payment confirmation receipt
  • A printed copy of the visa interview appointment letter
  • 1-2 photographs in the format explained in the photograph requirements. It should be printed on photo-quality paper.
  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended
  • Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution, such as the TOEFL, LSAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.
  • Financial evidence showing you or your sponsor (i.e., parents or a government sponsor) has sufficient funds to cover your tuition, travel, and living expenses during your stay in the US.

You can also bring a separate written list of all your previous employers and schools you have attended for reference.

Any derivative visa applicants will need to take the:

  • A copy of the marriage and birth certificate for proof of relationship
  • A copy of the principal applicant’s visa (i.e. F-1, M-1, J-1) or official documentation from the USCIS confirming the applicant’s status.
  • A copy of the personal data page from the principal applicant’s passports.

Attending the visa interview

It’s important to be on time for your visa interview – late applicants may be asked to reschedule for another day. In most cases, only applicants with a scheduled appointment will be admitted inside the US embassy or consulate.

Exceptions include a parent for children under 18, translators, and assistants for the disabled – you’ll need to contact your chosen embassy or consulate to give them the name of the parent, translator or assistant who will accompany you.

The purpose of the visa interview is for the consular officer to determine whether you are qualified to receive a US student visa and, if so, which visa category is appropriate for you.

Be prepared to answer questions regarding ties to your home country, your English language skills, your academic background, the program in the US to which you have been admitted, and proof of your financial resources. You may also be asked to explain your plans for finishing your studies.

Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be part of your application process. This usually happens during your visa interview.

After your interview, the consular officer will tell you if your application requires further administrative processing – this can mean additional time for you to wait to receive your visa. Wait times will vary depending on the country.

You will also be informed how and when your passport with the visa will be returned to you (usually pick-up or delivery by courier). In some countries, the courier company will send you an email with a tracking number that you can use to track the delivery of your passport.

F-1 and M-1 visas can be issued up to 120 days before your study start date, but you will not be allowed to enter the US earlier than 30 days before your start date. J-1 visas can be issued at any time. To enter the US before these 30 days, you must qualify for and obtain a visitor visa.

The 30-day limitation does not apply to students returning to resume studies – they may enter the US at any time, provided they have a valid visa.


The U.S study visa is one of the best ways to pursue higher education, especially when it comes to international students. The F1 student visa has several advantages: flexibility, less restriction towards employment opportunities, no need for employer sponsorship, and affordable cost.

This list clarifies which programs are eligible under the F1 petition and which are not.