Do I Need a Student Visa to Study in the USA?

By Brianna Burrows

Studying in the USA is a fantastic decision to further progress your education or career. For international students, many wonder if they need a student visa to study in the United States. There is no short answer to this question but in general, yes, you will need a visa to study in the USA.

Studying at a College, University or English Language Program:

If you plan to study full-time at a community college, college, university, or in an English language program you will need an F-1 student visa. If you are not studying full-time, you will not be eligible for an F-1 student visa. Once accepted, your school will give you a form called an I-20, which is the application for the F-1 visa. In addition to the F-1 student visa, you will need to complete a form called the DS-160 which is your Nonimmigrant Visa Application.

Vocational School or Other Recognized Non-Academic Institution:

If you plan to study full-time at a vocational school or other recognized non-academic institution you will need an M-1 student visa. If you are not studying full-time, you will not be eligible for an M-1 student visa. Once accepted, your school will give you a form, the I-20, which is the application for the M-1 visa. In addition to the M-1 student visa, you will need to complete a form called DS-160 which is your Nonimmigrant Visa Application.

Studying Short-Term or Part-Time at College, University, or English Language Program:

If you plan to study for a short period of time, six months or less, and your program is part-time and not for credit towards a degree, you can enter the U.S. with a B-2 Tourist visa. With a B-2 Tourist visa, you can enroll in any short-term recreational course, such as an ESL or IEP language course that is not for credit. When you are ready to visit the United States, you will need to complete a form called DS-160, which is required for the B-2 Tourist visa.

No matter which program you intend to complete, a visa is required to enter the United States. Many schools and language programs can assist you with the visa application process. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Brianna Burrows is a freelance marketing specialist and alumna of Northeastern University. She specializes in event management, social media management, and content branding. She can be reached at briannaburrows@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter here.

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