A U.S. education is an excellent investment in your future, and international students are very welcome in the USA! For the very latest visa news, direct from the U.S. government: unitedstatesvisas.gov and travel.state.gov (where a new Visa Video is now available).
The Basics: The college, university or program you apply to will send you all the information you will need about securing a student visa that will allow you to study in the United States. You will be able to apply for a visa only after you have been accepted to study at a specific institution. (If more than one university or program accepts you, you must choose which school you will attend before you apply for a visa.)
The institution will send you a special form, called an I-20. This is not a visa. The I-20 is a visa application, and will be used together with your visa (if one is granted to you), passport and other documentation to enter the United States.
The United States Embassy or Consulate can provide you with detailed information regarding the visa requirements of your specific situation. For example, the F-1 visa is for students enrolled in full-time academic or language courses. The J-1 visa is issued to U.S.-bound students who need practical training that is not offered in their home country. Another example is the M-1 vocational student visa, which is for students that meet certain criteria while attending vocational colleges.
If a visa application is approved, students generally need to wait about four to five weeks to obtain a visa from a consulate or embassy. Educational advisors recommend that students apply during the early part of summer (May, June, July) in order to arrive at their U.S. academic destination in time for the fall semester, which typically begins in August. If the student wants or needs to apply for a visa during the late fall or early winter (November, December), please allow at least one month for your request to be processed.
The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service features forms, fees and fingerprint information, as well as a section on Teacher and Student Resources.
There will be a number of forms and documents you will be asked to provide with your final visa application, including proof that you have the financial means to support yourself during your stay in America. Another consideration is appropriate health insurance; for details, please see InternationalStudentInsurance.com.
The process may seem complicated, but remember, the professionals at your institution of choice and the officials representing the United States in your country help thousands of students complete the visa process each year.
Very Important: Know the law about your student visa. Obey all the rules which apply to your particular visa status. The immigration rules in the United States are very strict and specific; it is your responsibility to know and follow them. Consult legal experts if necessary.
Bobby C. Chung is a U.S. Immigration Attorney specializing in employment and family-based immigration law. His website includes immigration news, visa information, and government processing times.
The Law Office of Paul B. Christenson is a client-centered law practice, committed to providing legal services devoted exclusively to immigration law. The firm represents corporations, health care facilities and professionals, governmental organizations, universities, and individual clients from all points of the world.
The Law Offices of Lisa Scott deal with all aspects of immigration and nationality law, including educational visas, employment visas and family visas.
Siskind, Susser, Haas and Devine is another U.S.-based law firm that provides valuable information about current visa law and immigration regulations.
Korean students in particular may find it helpful to visit visas-usa.com. This web site, developed and maintained by the law office of Young H. Noh & Associates, is written in both Korean and English. It offers an overview of U.S. immigration and investment law and accurate, up-to-date information on most commonly-used visas to enter the U.S. to work, study or oversee one's investments.