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What Student Visa Do You Need to Study in America?

Each year, thousands of international students choose to continue their academic and athletic careers in America. However, before this dream can become a reality, there is one crucial step every student must complete: obtaining the right student visa. In this blog, you will learn all about student visas in America.

Written by

Lars Blenckers

The importance of choosing the right visa cannot be underestimated. The type of visa not only determines your legal status and duration of stay in the U.S. but also affects your study opportunities, eligibility to play sports, employment during and after your studies, and even your ability to travel and have family visit. Choosing the wrong visa can lead to complex legal issues, delays in your studies, or even deportation.

Today, you will learn more about:

  • The F-1 and J-1 visas
  • The application process
  • How we can support you

Different Student Visas for America

If you want to study in America, there are several visa options available. In short: An F-1 visa is for a full academic program, a J-1 visa is for an exchange program or high school, and an M-1 visa is for non-academic or vocational training.

The F-1 Visa

The F-1 visa is a "non-immigrant" visa specifically designed for international students who wish to come to the United States to pursue education at an accredited American school. This visa is intended for students who enroll in a full academic program leading to a degree such as a bachelor's or master's.

Our student-athletes primarily receive an F-1 visa, as they come to America to start a full academic program. It is essential for them to be eligible to compete for their university team, which is only possible with this type of visa. The F-1 visa not only facilitates their studies but also their participation in sports in competitions such as the NCAA or NAIA.

J-1 and M-1 Visa

While the J-1 visa is useful for exchange students and the M-1 visa is suitable for practical, non-academic training, they do not meet the needs of student-athletes who aspire to a complete academic education and sports career in the U.S.

The J-1 visa is limited to short-term programs and does not offer long-term sports opportunities, while the M-1 visa focuses on non-academic training and does not support participation in university sports.

For student-athletes who wish to compete and pursue a full education, such as in the NCAA or NAIA, the F-1 visa is, therefore, the only suitable choice.

How to Apply for a Student Visa?

To obtain a student visa, we follow this process:

  1. Admission to the university
    Before you can apply for a visa, you must first be admitted to an American university certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). This admission is the first and most crucial step, as you cannot proceed with the visa process without a university acceptance letter.
  2. Requesting the I-20 form
    Once admitted, the university will provide an I-20 form. This document is crucial for the visa application process, serving as proof of your admission and forming the basis of your visa application. Ensure all details are correct and match the information in your passport.
  3. Using the I-20 form to start the visa application process
    With the I-20 form, you can begin the visa application process by visiting the official website and following the necessary steps, including filling out an online application form, paying the visa fee, and scheduling an interview.
  4. Appointment at the consulate or submitting documents:Depending on the location and current procedures, you may need to schedule an appointment at the U.S. consulate or embassy for a personal interview. In some cases, you may need to submit certain documents or submit them online.
  5. Other important things to consider
    • Start the visa process well in time to account for any delays.
    • Ensure you have all necessary documentation ready for your interview, including your I-20 form, passport, financial proofs, and any other required documents.
    • Be mindful of the visa processing time; start this at least three months before your planned departure date.
    • After obtaining your visa, follow the guidelines for entering the U.S., usually allowing you to enter the country up to 30 days before your program starts.

By carefully following these steps, student-athletes can successfully complete their visa application and realize their dream of studying and playing sports in the U.S.

The student visa application at the U.S. embassy
The student visa application at the U.S. embassy

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