Visa Series: Student Visas F & M


Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to study in the United States must first obtain a visa. The United States supports international education and welcomes foreign students and exchange visitors. Before applying for a visa, students and exchange visitors must be accepted by their schools or program sponsors.

Your school will send you a Form I-20 once they have entered your information in the SEVIS database. You and your school official must sign the Form I-20. All students must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS). Your spouse and/or minor children, if they intend live in the United States with you, will each receive an individual Form I-20.

Your course of study and the type of school you plan to attend, whether academic or vocational, determine whether you need an F visa or an M visa, respectively.


There are several steps in the process and may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you will apply.

  1. Complete the Online Visa Application Form DS-160.
  2. Print the application form confirmation barcode page to bring to your interview.
  3. Upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160.
  4. Schedule an appointment for your visa interview, generally, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live.

Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. You can get the interview wait time for the location where you will apply.


Pay the non-refundable visa application fee, if you are required to pay it before your interview. When your visa is approved, you may also pay a visa issuance fee.


Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:

  • Passport valid for travel to the United States for at least six months beyond your period of stay.
  • Non immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation barcode page.
  • Printed photo if the photo upload to Form DS-160 fails.
  • Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview.
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Non immigrant Student Status, Form I-20.


Your spouse and unmarried, minor children who intend to reside with you during your study may apply for F-2 or M-2 visas. U.S. Embassies and Consulates recognize opposite gender spouses and same-sex marriages as the same. Your minor children are permitted to attend school in the United States while accompanying you.

Although SEVIS fee payment is not required, your school must issue them an individual Form I-20, which is required to apply for their visas. You must provide a copy of your F-1 or M-1 visa and provide proof of relationship.

For a complete procedure of these visa types, or other visa types not covered here, please visit the U.S. Department of State website for U.S. Visas.

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