Most visitors who wish to study in the United States will seek an F-1 (non-immigrant) student visa, but there are other types that are sometimes authorized for those who study in the U.S. Here is a short description of the different visa types that involve study:
Student (F) Visa
This visa is for those who wish to engage in academic studies in the United States. It is for people who want to study at an accredited U.S. college or university or to study English at a university or intensive English language institute. This visa is also common for students under the age of 18 attending school in the U.S. Learn More.
Commuter Student (F3) Visa
This visa is for Canadian or Mexican citizens who maintain an actual residence outside the U.S. and commute to the United States temporarily in order to engage in academic studies.
Vocational Student (M) Visa
This visa is for those who will be engaged in non-academic or vocational study or training at an institution in the U.S. Learn More.
Exchange Visitor (J) Visa
This visa is for people who will be participating in an exchange visitor program in the U.S. The "J" visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs. Learn More.
Short Course of Study (less than 18 hours per week)
If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so under B-2 status. You should inquire at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find out which visa category is appropriate for you. If your course of study is more than 18 hours per week, you will need a student visa. For additional student-related information, visit the EducationUSA website to learn about educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate study, opportunities for scholars, financial aid, testing, admissions, and much more.
If you are planning to study in the U.S. under the F, J, or M visa categories, you must pay an initial fee to register with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Please visit the SEVIS fee webpage for information on paying the fee online, through Western Union or normal mail. All F, J, and M visa applicants must present their I-901 SEVIS fee receipt at the time of their visa interview.
Restrictions on Attending Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
Congress passed a law in 1996 that placed restrictions on foreign students in U.S. public elementary (kindergarten through eighth grades) and secondary (grades nine through twelve) schools. Secondary school is also called high school. The restrictions are given below:
- prohibits foreign students from attending public elementary schools or publicly-funded adult education programs
- limits secondary school attendance to twelve months
- requires secondary school students to pay the school the full, unsubsidized per capita cost (cost for each student) of education
Returning Student Information
Returning students will need to obtain a new visa if they leave the U.S. and their previous visa is expired. Returning students must be sure that they have a valid I-20 or that they have extended the validity of their current I-20 with the assistance of their school. Returning students must also appear for a visa interview like a first-time student above.
SPECIAL NOTE: In some cases, additional administrative processing is required, prior to the issuance of a visa. This process can occasionally last up to several months. As such, please apply as soon as possible after you have gathered all necessary documentation.
If you are in the U.S., and your visa has expired, you can stay in the U.S. as long as you have a valid I-20. You will only need to obtain a new visa after your departure from the U.S. should you need to return to school. If you elect to renew your visa in Mexico, please plan your visit accordingly, ensuring that you have sufficient personal belongings and finances to cover an extended stay. In some cases, you may require a visa and/or an extension of your authorized stay from Mexican authorities.