Documents Required for a US Visa: A Step-by-Step Guide for the Student F1 Visa Interview Process


If you are aspiring to pursue your education in the United States of America as an international student, you will need the F1 visa to realize your academic dreams.


Eligibility to Apply for F1 Visa

  1. As a first step, you need to ascertain that you are qualified for applying for a student visa. The following points can add as a guideline to help you understand your eligibility for visa application:
  2. You need to be enrolled as a full-time student at an academic institution in the USA, regardless of the academic level that you are applying to
  3. If you are admitted to a SEVP (Student Exchange Visitor Program)-accepted institution. The SEVP includes a list of approved academic institutions that accept international students. If your school is not part of the SEVP, applying to and being accepted by the same will also not make you eligible for the F1 student visa
  4. Financial support: You must have sufficient proof to show that you have sufficient funds to fund your travel, stay, and education in the USA
  5. English Proficiency Test: You must take a standardized English Proficiency Test such as TOEFL or IELTS to prove your English language skills as this is also a primary factor taken into consideration while granting F1 Visas
    Strong intent to return to your home country


Documents needed to apply for F1 Visa

To apply for the F1 Visa, make sure that you arrange for the following documents:

  1. Valid passport
  2. Two passport-sized photographs
  3. Form DS-160 (for non-immigrant visa applications)
  4. Form I-20 – As this form speaks to your financial status for meeting the cost of staying and studying in the USA, you can provide your bank statements for the last three years, pay slips for last three months, proof of scholarship if you have received one, proof of approved loan if you are applying for any education loan to fund your studies
  5. If you are being sponsored by someone staying in the USA, you will have to additionally submit a form I-134, an affidavit of support, and relevant bank statements of your sponsor
  6. Proof of payment of F1 Visa fee
  7. TOEFL/IELTS scores
  8. GMAT/GRE scores
  9. Other relevant academic transcripts
  10. Acceptance letters from the school that you had applied to
  11. Proof of purchased health insurance as an international student
  12. Visa SOP

How to Apply for F1 Visa: A Step-by-Step Guide

Once you have received the admit offer from a university or school of your choice, you will have to wait till you receive the form I-20 from your DSO (Designated School Officer). Usually, the process for releasing the I-20 commences from the moment you accept the admission offer from the school. You will also need this form if you plan on bringing dependents with you to the USA. However, the name on the form (for instance, academic and language students or vocational students) will define the kind of visa that you will receive and the status you will need to maintain during your time of stay in the USA. Moreover, if you are under 18 years old, your form I-20 will have to be signed by your parents.

Once you have received the form I-20, you can start with the usual application filling process. You can visit the Consular Electronic Application Center website or any verified third-party website for filling out your online visa application. This is your form DS-160, wherein you will have to include your personal information, your contact details, your passport and travel information, highlight any previous trips that you may have taken to the USA, your family information, and your academic & work experiences. You will also have to answer a few security questions to complete the process of background check and verification and upload your photo.

In the next step, you will have to pay the $160 F1 Visa application fee and download the receipt. You may need to furnish this receipt at the time of your visa interview. Depending on your home country and the US Embassy you are applying from, this application fee may slightly differ. Additionally, you will be registered to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) by the school you have accepted the admit letter from. To complete this process, as an F1 Visa applicant, you will have to pay the $200 SEVIS I-901 fee.

Once you have completed these basic steps, you need to apply for a visa interview. Try to send in the interview request at the earliest to get your visa in time to join your classes. Meanwhile, start preparing your visa sop. This is a document, addressed to the visa officer, and highlighting your previous academic achievements, your relevant work experiences, your ELP scores, your reasons for pursuing the program that you have selected from the school that you want to study in, your reasons for not availing of the same education in your home country, your career plans, a strong reason for returning to your home country upon completion of your education, and detailed proof of your financial status.


F1 Visa Interview

This is the determiner of your visa approval. Hence, be very careful while attending the interview. Do not delay or postpone your appointment to avoid the timely approval of your visa. Ensure wearing appropriate clothes and reaching your appointment ahead of time. Arrange all your documents in advance to avoid confusion. Ensure that your answers are in sync with your documents and the information you have put down in your visa sop. The officer will try to assess your reasons for pursuing your education in the USA and your intent to return to your home country. The latter is an extremely crucial part of the interview process; make sure that you give honest and convincing answers. Usually, the questions asked centre around the justification of your reasons for studying the given discipline and from the USA, your academic and career plans, your intent to return to your home country, your financial status and your choice of university. Prepare your answers in advance so that you do not feel nervous and can confidently & honestly answer the questions.


F1 Visa Approval

Your FI Visa is usually processed before your visa interview. The interview is the last step for the officer to assess your academic and career goals. Hence, usually by the end of the interview, your officer will congratulate you on being approved for an F1 visa or give you a document explaining the reasons for the denial. In some cases, you may need to wait for a few days to understand your F1 visa approval status. You will have to restart the application process if you receive a denial. Upon approval of your F1 visa, you can travel to USA 30 days before your program starts and not earlier than that.

F1 visas are typically valid for one year or the duration specified on your I-20. You may apply for a renewal or an extension if needed. For renewal, you need to follow the same procedure and may even request an interview waiver. In either case, you will have to show sufficient proof that you will be returning to your home country after the completion of your studies. Once your visa has expired, you will have a grace period of 60 days to plan your departure.


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Can I work on an F1 visa?

As an international student in the USA on an F1 visa, you can either work part-time during your school hours or full-time during your breaks.

Can I apply for permanent residency on a F1 visa?

You may, although it is a complicated process. You will have to self-petition to prove yourself as a person with extraordinary capabilities, marry in the USA, or provide ample proof of investment of $500,000 in the US economy. Alternatively, you can change your status to an H-1B visa if your employer sponsors you.

When should I apply for an F1 visa?

Typically you should start your visa application 120 days before the scheduled start of your academic semester.

How long will my F1 visa be valid?

It is usually valid for a year or the duration mentioned in your I-20. You can apply for renewal or extension of your student visa.

Are visa interviews mandatory?

Yes. Visa interviews are a crucial part of the visa approval process. These interviews decide if you are approved or denied the visa. Hence, prepare well in advance for your visa interviews.

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