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How to get a student visa for USA: Requirements and step-by-step process

How to get a student visa for USAJust received your Admit Letter for a Masters in the US? Congratulations! You’re on your way to your dream school.

No matter how much time you put into your application, that admit letter is only the beginning. There are several more steps you need to take including getting your U.S. study visa.

If you’re planning an international grad school education, there are tons of logistical decisions ahead.

How will you finance your degree and manage your expenses? Where will you live? How will you get there?

And, on top of it all, you must be able to enter US in the first place – and that requires an international student visa.

Applying for an international student visa isn’t hard, but it’s a lengthy process that necessitates, among other things, proof of funding for the entire duration of your degree course. You must demonstrate the ability to finance the entire Cost of Attendance (CoA). This includes tuition and academic fees plus living expenses during your course of study.

To simplify your visa application, we’ve put together a step-by-step list to secure your study visa for the US.

Getting a Student Visa for USA

US Study Visa Application Requirements & Process


1. Get your I-20 form

Once you accept a position in a US college or university, you’ll receive an I-20 form from the school. It’s an official US government document issued by certified institutions that international (non US citizens or residents) students must have to obtain an F-1 student visa. The I-20 form officially defines your relationship with the university and outlines your tuition fees and estimated living expenses.
You will need to present your I-20 form at the US Embassy (or Consulate) when applying for your F-1 visa. You’ll also need your I-20 form to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee and upon entry into the United States.

2. Get your funding

Once you’ve received your I-20 form, you’ll need to secure funding for the entire CoA. There are multiple ways for students to finance their Masters degree including bursaries, scholarships, gifts from family or friends, and personal savings. The majority of students also require educational loans, either from banks or independent lenders.

Unfortunately, international students are not eligible for majority of the available educational loans in the United States, as lenders typically require local co-signors. However, there are a few options available in the US, depending on the programme and institution. And, international students may receive offers from banks in their home country or through borderless lenders.

To compare available student loan products, look at the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) rather than simple interest rates, as it provides the total cost of financing (including the effects of fees and compounding interest over time). Also study other loan features such as grace periods, repayment schedules, and funding model for a better overall loan experience.

3. Complete the online application

Once you’ve secured your funding, you’ll need to complete an online application. You’ll be required to upload a photograph and pay a fee to complete your application.
Be sure to include the US Consulate or Embassy where you wish to be interviewed on this form. It’s important that you choose the right one as you cannot change locations once the form has been submitted. If you’re unsure of your options, please check the US government’s student visa page.

4. Supporting documents and interview.

Once you’ve scheduled your appointment, you’ll have to gather supporting documents for presentation at your interview, including a valid passport, your admit letter and I-20 form. You may also need your past academic transcripts, standardized test results and more. Check with the consulate or embassy before arrival as you will only have one shot to demonstrate your reliability to the American government.
During your interview, your consular officer will try to determine if you are a suitable candidate for an F-1 student visa. Applicants that cannot demonstrate significant ties to their home country will be denied, as the American government issues student visas to those that show intent to leave the country at the end of their studies. Read more about the US visa interview questions you may encounter.

This does not mean that your plans cannot change if you are offered a position with an American company during your course of study; it means that you can and will be able to return home, rather than become a financial dependent of the US government.
Finally, you will also be fingerprinted as further proof of identification (though, occasionally, this is done at an external centre; your interviewer will inform you if this is the case).
If all goes as planned, you’ll be receiving your US student visa a few weeks later.

5. Off you go!

Once you have your visa, you’ll be on your way to pastures anew. Just remember that you cannot leave it to chance. International study visas are a privilege, not a right (Read What circumstances can lead to your Student Visa being cancelled and how can you get it reinstated?). And, a little foresight goes a long way. By planning in advance and ensuring that you have your documents and funding in order, you’re giving yourself a better chance of success. Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Learn more about Prodigy Finance.

Rishabh GoelAuthor Bio: Rishabh Goel is an Associate Relationship Manager at Prodigy Finance. He studied Economics & Engineering at BITS & Masters at London Business School. He has helped Indians excel at GMAT/GRE and mentored students to attend top schools globally. Rishabh is passionate about borderless FinTech, previously working at TransferWise. He is a Sachin Tendulkar fan and would do (literally!) anything to have a coffee chat with him.

This article is part of CrystalConnect, an outreach initiative by MBA Crystal Ball.

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About Prodigy Finance
Prodigy Finance is the pioneer of community-based student financing. To date, the company has funded students from 115 countries with repayment rates in excess of 99%.

11 thoughts on “How to get a student visa for USA: Requirements and step-by-step process”

  1. Hi Rishabh

    I am planning to apply to following programs for the 2017 intake :
    *Northwestern – MS in Analytics
    *CMU – MSIS
    *Purdue – MS in Business Analytics
    *Indiana Kelley – MSIS
    *Georgia Tech – MS in Analytics

    I am looking to fund my MS through a Prodigy Loan and all of these courses have tie-ups with Prodigy . What are the likelihood of getting a loan from Prodigy and how much time does it take for Prodigy to process the loan after applying? Does Prodigy provide any sort of document that can be shown to the college as acceptable proof of fund for them to process the I-20?


  2. Hi ,

    I have done Bsc Biotechnology and have 12 yrs experience in various fields like customer care, BPO and currently into software testing,

    Like to pursue some higher education in US. I have already done MCA and MBA in Correspondence.

    I like to get a student visa, then planning for work permit visa, pls help me.

  3. Hi Rishabh,

    My daughter has applied to UCSD, SJSU, SDSU & NCSU Universities for an MS in Computer Engineering. None of these colleges appear in you website list of engineering colleges in the US.

    Does it mean, Prodigy can’t finance MS at these universities ?



    • Hi Rajeev,

      Thank you for your interest in Prodigy Finance.

      Prodigy Finance is a community-lender which means that we source our funding from Alumni of schools. We are currently securing funding for the top 100 MS Engineering schools in US according US News. That means we will be looking to support UCSD and NCSU.

      Hope this helps. Keep watching our website – we are going to make major update soon!

  4. Hi this naveen , I completed my bsc at 2010 , now I want to do MBA at USA , am I eligible for doing that. I want to know is 15 yrs education enough for USA

    • Hi Naveen,

      Thank you for your interest in Prodigy Finance.

      Great question! Most Business schools in the US ask for a 16-year education. Some schools make an exception on a case by case basis. There is no ‘list’ of schools as such for 15 years education per say. I would recommend inquiring with schools you are interested.

      Rishabh Goel

  5. Hello Sameer, Sudiksha here. I want to pursue a career in MBA. After Trump being elected President, would it be a good choice to pursue the course from USA? Sometime in the future he will create problems for the immigrants. USA has great job prospects and some world class universities and one of the best places to settle down. but this is now a problem for the students. need your advice. Please email me.It would be greta if you could help me out here.


  6. Hi,

    I have admit for MSSE for SJSU.

    I am looking to fund my MS through a Prodigy Loan and all of these courses have tie-ups with Prodigy . What are the likelihood of getting a loan from Prodigy and how much time does it take for Prodigy to process the loan after applying? Does Prodigy provide any sort of document that can be shown to the college as acceptable proof of fund for them to process the I-20?


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