What does a student visa do?
Anyone coming to the U.S. with the sole intention of studying has to get a student visa. A visa allows you to travel to a Port of Entry of the United States (usually an airport); it does not grant you permission to enter the country or stay for any length of time.
How do I get a student visa?
- Send us your application, with the application fee and the tuition deposit.
- When you are accepted into an English program, we will mail you a SEVIS I-20.
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires F-1 applicants to pay a $200 fee for the SEVIS I-20. You must pay this before visa interview. You can do so on-line at https://www.fmjfee.com/index.jhtml. Print out a temporary receipt, but you will also receive an official one in the mail, which you will need to take with you to your visa interview.
- Make an appointment at the embassy or consulate in your country for a visa interview. It may take some months for them to schedule an interview, so apply early! Click on visa interview for more information about this interview.
- If you are approved you will receive a student visa after this interview.
Can I study with a B1, B2, or F2 visa?
The most important factor is what your intention is in coming to the U.S. Anyone coming here with the sole intention of studying has to get a student visa. A B1 visa is for business, a B2 visa is for tourists, and an F2 visa is for anyone accompanying a spouse or parent who is studying in the U.S. The visa issuance system is set up this way for visitors to let immigration know specifically what the purpose of their visit is, and immigration does not look favorably upon anyone who misrepresents that purpose. However, this communication is only between the student and immigration. Schools are not required to reject a student's application or even report him to immigration for wanting to study with the wrong type of visa.
If I enter the country with a B1, B2, or F2 visa can I change it to F1 later?
While it is possible to change your status after coming to the U.S. it is complicated, time-consuming and very difficult to get approved. If you plan to study in the U.S. your best recommendation is to come with a student visa.
What happens when I first arrive into the U.S.?
The Immigration Officer at the Port of Entry (usually the airport) is the one authorized to allow you to enter the U.S. The immigration officer will look at your I-94 (arrival/departure card you fill out on the airplane), your visa, passport and I-20. He or she will mark your I-94 with how long you can stay here.
How long can I stay in the U.S.?
The immigration officer at the Port of Entry will mark the I-94 with the length of time any non-immigrant can stay in the country. For students they will usually write D/S, which means you may stay in the country for the Duration of Status. This means you are legally allowed to stay here as long as you maintain a valid I-20, and you remain a full-time student making normal progress.
Can I go to the U.S. before my course starts?
You can enter the country up to 30 days before the date on your I-20, but not afterwards.
What if my visa expires in the middle of my term?
The visa is only used to get to the Port of Entry of the U.S.; it does not affect your status once you are in the country. You will be in legal status as long as you remain a full-time student making normal progress in your studies and your I-20 does not expire. However, if you plan to take a vacation from your studies and leave the country and then return, you will need to renew your visa if it has expired.
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