Student Visa 101: Attending College In The USA

If you have been considering attending college in the United States instead of your home country, one of the things you will have to do is obtain a student visa. However, this process isn't necessarily as simple as it might sound. The whole process has to happen in a very specific order, and there are details you will need to know along the way. Before you ruin your chances of attending school in the States, here's what you need to know.

You Can't Attend Just Any College

In order to attend college here in the States, you have to be accepted at a school that is part of the Student Exchange program. Not every college institution is a part of this program, so it's important that you research each potential school carefully and choose one that is participating. There is even an online database made available by the government for you to search and find participating schools.

You Must Be Accepted Before Applying For Your Visa

You might think it makes sense to apply for your visa at the same time that you apply for the school. After all, both applications will take time, right? Unfortunately, you can't do it this way. You have to be formally accepted to attend the school before you are actually eligible to apply for the visa. You'll have to show the school acceptance as part of your visa application.

Your Visa Type Matters

When you get ready to apply for your student visa, you'll find that there are a few different types. It does matter which one you request, so you need to understand the differences between them. If you will be attending a traditional university or a language learning program, you will need to apply for an F1 visa. If the program you applied to is a work-study program, you need to apply for a J1 visa, otherwise you won't be eligible to work as part of the program. If you are planning on attending a vocational school, you need to apply for an M1 visa.

If you're serious about the process, contact an immigration law attorney here in the States. An immigration attorney can help you to determine which visa you need as well as what work restrictions and other limitations apply during your stay. In addition, working with an immigration attorney throughout the process can also help you navigate the renewal process, because overstaying an expired student visa can result in deportation and a ban from entering the US for some time.