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Q: What type of visa will I need to study in the USA?
The two most common visas for US study are the F-1 Student Visa and J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. Please note you will not have to choose which visa to apply for; your university or sponsoring organisation will dictate your visa type. More information on visa types can be found on our Visas webpage and on the website for the American Embassy in London.
Q: What are the steps to applying for an F-1 Student or J-1 Exchange Visitor visa?
To begin the student visa application process, you must first be accepted to a university in the USA. Once accepted, you will need to demonstrate you have the funds to be able to afford your first year of university. After you have shown that you have adequate funds, your university will issue an I-20 (for F-1 visa holders) or a DS-2019 (for J-1 visa holders). Once you have these documents you can complete the online visa application form, register with the international visitor database (SEVIS) and then schedule a visa interview at the American Embassy in the UK or in your home country. After you attend and pass your interview you will be issued a student visa. For in-depth information on the student visa application process please visit our Visas webpage and see the website for the American Embassy in London.
Q: I have heard it is difficult to get a visa to the USA. Is this true?
Most students find that obtaining a student visa is a straightforward process. For in-depth information on the student visa application process please visit our Visas webpage and on the website for the American Embassy in London.
Q: How do I prepare for the visa interview?
The visa interview is usually fairly short, but you should be prepared to answer some basic questions regarding your travel and plans while in the USA. Be prepared to discuss your reasons for studying in the USA, to describe your programme, to discuss why you selected the particular university/programme, what your long-term goals are, how studying in the US fits in with these goals and your plans after you leave the US.
Student visa applicants should be able to demonstrate three criteria to visa officers:
that you are completing a bona fide degree or study abroad programme in the US, that you have funds for the first year of your stay in the US, that your activities are in line with the purpose (and in particular the non-immigrant intent) of the visa you will travel on.
Although the interview is not a document review, you may also wish to take documentation to support these criteria, such as a letter of acceptance for your university or study abroad programme and the funding documentation you submitted to receive your I-20 or DS-2019. More information on the student visa process and the interview can be found on our Visas webpage and on the website for the American Embassy in London.
Q: Can my spouse or children accompany me to the USA?
Spouses and dependent children under the age of 21 may accompany F-1 and J-1 visa holders if they qualify for and apply for F-2 and J-2 visas respectively. Please be aware that you will be expected to demonstrate financial support for your dependents. Additionally, as described in the work section, F-2 visa holders may not take up any paid work in the US, unless they apply for their own work or study visa. J-2 visa holders may apply for work authorisation however. See our section on working in the US for more information.
Q: Can I work while on a student visa in the USA?
As an international student you will be permitted to work on-campus for up to 20-hours a week while university is in session and 40-hours a week during holidays. After one year you can apply to work for an off-campus internship related to your field of study through Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training. If you wish to work, check with your university’s career services office or student job webpage to see if there are any job openings that you can apply for. If you hold US citizenship, you can work where you please and for as many hours as you see fit. Please keep in mind that your main job is to be a student. Make sure you can balance your job and your academics. For more information on employment opportunities for international students in the US, please visit the working in the US page on our website.
Q: Will I be able to travel early or stay in the USA beyond my academic programme to travel or work?
The holder of an F-1 visa may remain in the United States for up to 60 days following the completion of the course or practical training stated on the I-20. A J-1 visa holder may remain for up to 30 days after the completion date on the DS-2019.
In addition, international students completing a degree programme in the USA may wish to pursue Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT allows international students to gain work experience in their field of study for up to 12 months after the completion of their academic programme. Students in the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields may apply for an additional 17 months beyond the initial 12 month OPT.
Students may also want to see if they are able to switch into another visa category upon completion of their degree.
Q: I have questions beyond what is on the Fulbright website. Where can I get further information?
Our staff are not able to handle specific enquiries related to visas beyond the information provided on this website. The US Embassy in London or your home country is the official source of information on visas.
Information is available on the US Embassy in London website. Alternatively you may call the US Embassy at 020 3608 6998 (Operator Assisted £1.20/minute) between the hours of 7 am - 7 pm Monday - Friday. You may also visit the Department of Homeland Security's Study in the States website.
Please note that the US university or sponsoring agency (for J-1 visas) should also be able to provide you with assistance on the paperwork and details of the visa application process upon your admittance to the programme. Therefore, you may wish to direct your enquiries to the appropriate member of staff, such as an international students advisor or programme coordinator.