Studying in the US: How to get your visa
So, you’ve decided that you want to attend high school in the US. Now what? We understand that the preparations can all seem a little complicated. What even is a visa? Which kind of visa do you need anyway? How do you get one? If you have questions like these, we’re here to answer them and reassure you.
What is a visa?
Generally, any international person wanting to stay in the US for an extended period of time (whether to live, work or study) needs to get a visa. It’s something you keep with your passport or travel documents so that everyone knows what you’re in the US to do. While it can seem overwhelming, applying for a visa as an international student is actually quite straightforward. We’ll talk you through your options next:
Types of student visas
International students wanting to attend high school in the US will likely need an F1 visa or a J1 visa. But what’s the difference? If your goal is to study in the US for more than one year – perhaps completing a full secondary education and earning your diploma – you’ll need an F1. You’ll also need to choose a private high school, as public schools can only host international students for one year. If you’re only interested in one year of study, at a private or public school, then the exchange year J1 visa is the one for you.
How to get an F1 visa
The first step, of course, is to gain acceptance to a high school in the US. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, you’ll need this acceptance to apply for your F1. Secondly, your school will provide you with the guidance you need to make a successful application.
Next up, you’ll pay the SEVIS I-901 fee that will enroll you in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Your school will guide you through this and provide you with a Form I-20. This form is a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F1) student status.
You’ll apply and pay for your visa online, which will allow you to complete and print a Form DS-160 which you’ll need for the next step.
Now it’s time to schedule your F1 visa interview with the US embassy or consulate. Depending on location, season and visa category, the wait times can vary. It’s best to apply for your interview as early as possible. An F1 student visa can be issued up to 120 days before your study start date. The documents you’ll need to take to the interview are a valid passport, a passport photo, your visa application fee payment receipt, your DS-160 form, and your Form I-20.
If there are no problems, visa approved! You’ll be ready to start studying in the US.
How to get a J1 visa
While the process for getting a J1 is much the same as the F1 visa, there are a few different stages. The first is that you might need to contact a sponsor organization in the US. These are companies approved by the US government to place international students in American high schools and host families. You can find a list of these sponsors on the US Department of State J-1 Visa website. This step may vary if you’re interested in attending a private vs public school.
Your chosen sponsor will provide you with a DS-2019 form which proves you’re eligible to study high school as an exchange student.
You’ll need to apply and pay online for a J1 visa. You’ll be asked to fill out a DS-160 form (your application for a visa) and show your DS-2019 form (which you’ve already got from your sponsor).
Next, you’ll schedule an interview at the US consulate in your home country for an interview. During the interview, the officer will ask you a few questions in English and ensure you intend to return home after your time at school is completed. You’ll need to take your passport, a passport photo, your receipt of visa payment, your DS-2019 form and DS-160 form.
Once you’re accepted, you’re all set! You’ll be studying in the US in no time at all.
At EF Academy International Boarding Schools, we’re experienced in guiding our incoming students through the US visa process. Our admissions team will support you through each step and ensure you’re fully prepared before you travel.