Study Visas for International Students in the United States
It is the American Embassy that issues student visas to the United States. As obtaining a visa to the USA can be a lengthy process, it is advisable to submit the application well ahead of the date by which you need entry for your education course in the USA. However, note that Embassies cannot issue your student visa more than 120 days in advance of the education course starting date. Students may not enter the country more than 30 days before their study start date.
To qualify for a student visa to the United States, you must have a residence abroad, and the intention to return to that residence upon completion of your education program. You must also have sufficient funds to support your course of study.
There are two types of student visa:
- F-1 (Student Visa) - The F-1 visa which is for full-time students who are enrolled in an academic or language program. F-1 students can stay in the US for the whole duration of their academic program plus 2 months. It is a prerequisite for F-1 students to maintain a full-time course load and complete their studies by the expiration date listed on the I-20 form.
- J-1 (Exchange Visitor Visa) - The J-1 visa is for students who need practical training that is not available in their home countries in order to complete their academic program. The training must be directly related to the academic program. The J-1 visa obligates the student to return to their home countries for a minimum of 2 years after the end of their studies in the US.
For more information about how to apply for a student visa in the United States, please contact the American Embassy in your country. Here you can also find useful information.
Student Work Permit in the United States
As an undergraduate or postgraduate international student in the United States, employment is possible on a part-time basis for up to 20 hours every week. During the first year of education, students may only work on-campus, such as at the school’s gym, cafeteria, bookstore, or library. Working for 10 to 15 hours per week may be enough to cover books and personal expenses, but will not cover the majority of education costs.
After the first year of education in the USA, you may apply for a position as a residential assistant (RA). An RA oversees student housing, acting as a point of contact for any questions or issues students may have. In return, the RA is paid with free accommodation, and possibly a meal plan and/or small salary. In addition to being an RA, students who have completed their first year may apply for Curricular Practical Training which allows students to work as an intern or in a work/study program off-campus for up to 20 hours every week. If you are married and studying in the US on a F-1 student visa, your spouse may not work; if you are studying on a J-1 student visa, your spouse may acquire a temporary work permit.
Upon graduation from your education course in the USA, you may apply for an Optional Practical Training (OPT), which gives you the opportunity to work in the United States for 1 year after your final examination in a field related to your major area of study. An OPT may be extended if the employer approves you to continue your work in the United States.