How to Apply for a Student Visa to the USA

It is a requirement to apply for a student visa to the USA if you are an international student looking to study in the USA.

Many international students apply to USA colleges and universities every year to pursue a degree in the United States on a full-time basis. You will need more than good grades to study in the United States.

This guide will provide a detailed overview of how to apply for a student visa to the USA for international students. In addition, we will provide you with a few helpful hints to enable your USA student visa application process to proceed smoothly.

Do I need a student visa to study in the USA as an international student?

A student visa is required for international students who wish to study in the USA, but are not USA citizens. It can take a long time to apply for a student visa to the USA, so start planning as early as possible – at least six months before starting your course.

It is no secret that many international students aspire to pursue higher education in the USA. According to statistics, for example, Nigerians account for 31% of all African students studying in the United States, with over 100,000 enrolled in the USA. It is estimated that more than 900 colleges and universities in the USA have at least one Nigerian student.

To begin the visa application process, you must have a valid international passport. The international passport should contain at least two blank pages and be valid for at least six months after your stay in the USA.

What are the types of USA student visas for international students?

The United States issues two types of visas to prospective international students: the F-1 Visa and M-1 Visa.

F-1 Visa

The F-1 student visa which is the most often used in the USA is issued to full-time international students. If your course requires you to spend more than 18 hours per week, then you should apply for a student visa to the USA using the F-1 visa.

With the F-1 visa, you will be eligible to study in an approved college, university, private secondary school, or an English language programme in the USA.

There’s also the F-2 visa, also known as a dependent visa, which is issued to your spouse or child accompanying you. Holders of this visa are not allowed to work, but minors can attend public schools.

To acquire an F-1 visa, you should enroll in an institution that participates in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). High school students should also be part of a SEVP-certified institution.

However, you cannot join a public school if you are a secondary school student unless you start your studies from the 9th grade. In this case, you will only be allowed a maximum of 12 months in the institution.

There is a Form I-94 that is issued at the port of entry, and it states how long the student can stay in the USA. After completing the course of study, you will have a 60-day grace period to stay in the United States. You are allowed to depart and re-enter the United States during this grace period.

M-1 Visa

The M-1 Visa is issued to individuals who want to engage in non-academic learning in the United States. It is for technical and vocational training.

The M-1 Visa also has an M-2 Visa for dependents which unlike the F-2 Visa, allows you to enroll in public elementary and secondary schools. You are not allowed to work with the M-2 visa both on and off-campus so you must have enough funds to last you till the completion of your course.

You can only stay for a maximum of 12 months with an M-2 visa. After the one year stay, you enjoy a 30-day grace period after completing your course.

To acquire this visa, you must maintain at least 12 hours of study at a community college, 18 hours in a technical institution and 22 hours per week in a lab-based curriculum.

You are allowed to make a transfer in the first six months of your study neither can you change your M status to an F status.

Remember first impressions matter when attending a visa interview to apply for a student visa to the USA. Be punctual, avoid wearing too much jewelry, strong perfumes, and dress neatly.

Am I eligible to apply for a student visa to the USA?

You are eligible for the F-1 or M-1 visa if you meet the following requirements:

1. You are enrolled in a vocational course, a language-training program or an academic learning program
2. Your institution must be part of the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration & Customs Enforcement
3. You must be a full-time student
4. You should have a good command of the English language or be enrolled in a program taught in English
5. You must have enough funds to support you during your entire course of study
4. You must be ready to apply for citizenship abroad

Documents needed to apply for a student visa to the USA

Getting a student visa to the USA as an international student would also mean having some vital information ready such as an international passport, visa application fee.

The following are required:

  • International Passport: You must have an international passport valid for at least 6 months after your anticipated stay in the United States.
  • DS-160 Confirmation Page: The DS-160 document confirms that you submitted your visa application. It includes your confirmation number, personal details and the reason for your travel.
  • Photograph: You will be required to upload your photograph while filling out your DS-160 Confirmation Page. If the photo fails to upload, you must bring a photo while attending your visa interview.
  • Visa Application fee payment receipt: You may be required to bring your confirmation receipt for your visa application.

Once your desired institution enters your data in the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor System) system, you will receive a duly signed SEVIS Form I-20 by a school official. You are required to also sign the document as well and keep it for your interview.

Other documents needed to apply for a student visa to the USA include:

  • Certificate of Eligibility for (F-1) Nonimmigrant Academic and Language Students
  • Certificate of Eligibility for (M-1) Nonimmigrant Vocational Students.
  • Your spouse or children should each obtain a Form I-20 and must be registered in the SEVIS if they intend to reside with you.
  • Academic credentials such as degrees, diplomas, transcripts and other certificates from institutions you attended.
  • Proof that you intend to leave the US after you have completed your studies.
  • Proofs to show how your ability to pay for your education such as pay slips and bank statements.

What are the application requirements to apply for a student visa to the USA?

You will require to meet several requirements to obtain a USA student visa, such as an international passport, biometrics, and proof of admission. The list is as follows:

  • DS-160, i.e., an electronic application form filled and submitted online.
  • If your application includes other persons, make sure you submit an application for each of them.
  • A photo with a white background. The photo should be recent (not older than six months).
  • You fingerprints will be taken during your visa interview.
DS-160 form - apply for a student visa to the USA
DS-160 application form – Apply for a student visa to the USA (nonimmigrant visa)

Before applying for this visa, you must already be admitted into your institution of choice. Once accepted, your institution will issue you Form I-20, which you should bring along with other documents to your visa interview.

It important to ensure that you secure your interview in time. After doing so, a letter is sent, which you must carry with you for the interview.

You are required to pay all applicable fees to get your application processed.

You must show proof of your ties to your country and family (if you are not travelling with them). This will serve as a form of evidence and increase your chances of being granted a visa if you plan to return to Nigeria after completing your studies.

You must show that you can afford to pay all your academic expenses while in the USA.

You will need to submit your bank statements, scholarship award letters (if you have been granted one), or an affidavit from your sponsor to prove your financial status. Only original copies of scholarship award letters and bank statements will be accepted. Your bank statement should be signed and stamped by your issuing bank.

In addition to your graded transcripts and test scores from public certificate exams like WAEC and NECO, you should also submit your diplomas and results from standardised tests like the SAT and the TOEFL.

If you travel with a family member, you must show proof of your relationship with a birth or marriage certificate.

You will also be asked to provide these additional documents as financial evidence to apply for a student visa to the USA

Form I-20 – This is the document that shows the amount of money you need to cover your education and living expenses in the United States.

You must provide documentation demonstrating that you have the required funds. You can do this by submitting the following documents:

  • Bank statements processed in the last three years
  • Tax returns processed in the last three years
  • Your most recent pay slips
  • A copy of your scholarship award letter
  • Payment of a semester’s worth of tuition fee in advance is recommended but not compulsory
  • If you someone in the US is supporting you financially, you will need to submit Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, and bank statements from the last three years.
  • If you are taking out a loan to pay for your education in the USAs, you must also provide proof of the loan’s approval.

Which documents can I submit to prove my qualifications?

You can submit these documents that prove your educational qualifications:

1. Original transcripts
2. Approved test scores (TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, etc.). WAEC and NECO might be accepted in the USA, depending on the institution.
3. Letters of acceptance from the college or university that accepted you
4. Academic certificates
5. Proof of purchased health insurance.

Where can I apply for a student visa to the USA if I am abroad?

If you are overseas, you can apply through a USA embassy in your country of residence.

You can apply for a student visa to the USA in Abuja or Lagos if you are based in Nigeria, subject to appointment. Visit to make an appointment in Abuja. You will be asked to send the following documents when you apply for a student visa to the USA in Nigeria:

  • A receipt for your I-901 SEVIS fee 
  • A scan of your current valid international passport
  • Form I-20
  • DS-160 document
  • A scan of your passport photo

You can also contact the United States Embassy in Nigeria for further information about your student visa application via their official email address, [email protected] or visit their website,

How much does it cost to apply for a US student visa?

It costs approximately US$160 to apply for a USA student visa in processing fees. However, you may need to pay the visa issuance reciprocity fee depending on your nationality. Visit the Department of State’s website to check if you need to pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee.

Can I relocate with my family when I apply for a USA student visa?

You can bring your dependents with you as an international student in the United States. F-1 and M-1 students are allowed to bring their children if they are unmarried and under the age of 21.

You must first notify your designated school official (DSO) if you bring dependents to the US and provide them with the relevant identifying information.

You will receive a “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status” (Form I-20) from your DSO for each dependent. The dependent should apply for an F-2 or M-2 visa from the U.S. Department of State.

Once you enter the United States, your dependents should follow these guidelines:

  • Dependents may enter and reenter America with the proper documentation.
  • Dependents are not allowed to work and are not eligible for social security numbers.
  • Dependents may attend a primary or secondary school full-time to fulfil the state’s mandatory education requirements for minor citizens.
  • Dependents may enrol in a SEVP-certified school as long as it is not a full-time course of study.
  • Dependents can obtain an approved Form I-20 from the DSO for the F-1 or M-1 student visa.
  • If the adult dependent wishes to pursue full-time studies, they can apply for a change of F-1 or M-1 status.

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