Academics, Researchers & Students
Studying in the United States (F, J & M Visas)
Will you be working in the United States? If so, please review the online pamphlet regarding your rights as an employee
To study in the U.S. in an academic or vocational institution, or to participate in a research, cultural or other exchange program, applicants must first obtain documents from the U.S. before submitting their applications for visas. The documents are forms I-20, I-20M or DS-2019, and they are issued by a school or institution that has been approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The form will be sent to the sponsor, and is then forwarded on to the prospective student. The student submits the original form with a completed visa application to the Embassy or Consulate for consideration.
Applying for the Visa
See Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa for instructions on how and where to submit your application.
Your application must include the following:
- Original, complete and signed form I-20, I-20M or DS-2019;
- To complete your online visa application, you will need a digital photo. Please read carefully the requirements to upload your photo and the photo specifications before you begin completing your application. If the photo you upload is not a passport style photo, you may bring in an appropriate printed photo at your interview. Further details of photo requirements.
- Complete the Electronic Visa Application Form DS-160 online and print out the confirmation page with the barcode.
- Valid passport;
- Evidence of financial ability to cover tuition and living expenses in the U.S.;
- Receipt of payment of a non-refundable application fee, paid online or at Australia Post;
- Payment of visa issuance fee (see below).
- SEVIS I901 fee information
The spouse and unmarried children (under age 21) of students can apply for visas on the basis of the principal applicant's student status. Each person must submit a completed visa application and passport and each person must pay a separate processing fee. If family members are applying separately, they must present evidence (such as form I-20, page 4, properly endorsed) that the principal applicant has student status. Applicants may also be requested to present marriage and birth certificates to confirm their relationship to the student. Defacto relationships do not qualify an applicant for a derivative visa.
There are three parts to the nonimmigrant student visa fee: the application fee, the issuance fee and the Sevis fee.
Please note: J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa applicants who are participating in a Federal Government sponsored program beginning with the prefix G-1, G-2, G-3 or G-7 are exempt from the application fee, issuance fee and SEVIS fee.
See our fee information.
Also Keep In Mind
Applicants for nonimmigrant visas, including for student visas, must prove to the consular officer’s satisfaction that they have a permanent residence outside the U.S. All applicants may be asked to present evidence of their residence abroad; but, for applicants who are not permanent legal residents of Australia, there is a greater need to prepare evidence of their overseas residence and to provide evidence that they will return there after completing their planned studies in the U.S.
Students and their dependents may work only in certain situations. For example, on-campus employment provided by the school is generally allowed although employment may not exceed twenty hours a week while school is in session. Students may be allowed to work full-time during vacations and when the school is not in session. Spouses and children generally cannot work at all. When in doubt, check with the school’s international student advisor, and with local U.S.C.I.S. officials. Keep in mind that students are expected to have the financial means -- whether from scholarships, other income or a combination -- to complete a full course of study without working in the U.S.
All applicants must have sufficient scholastic preparation and knowledge of English (unless pursuing an English language training program) to undertake a full course of study. If the applicant's English skills are inadequate, then the school must show that it is equipped to offer, and has accepted the student expressly for, a full course of study in the student’s language or that special arrangements have been made to tutor the student in English. The consular officer must be satisfied that an applicant will be able, with the assistance of such tutoring, to undertake a full course of study in the U.S.
How long may I stay on my student visa?
When you enter the United States on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while you are in America. For a student who has completed the course of studies shown on the I-20, and any authorized practical training, the student is allowed the following additional time in the U.S. before departure:
- F-1 student - An additional 60 days, to prepare for departure from the U.S. or to transfer to another school.
- M-1 student - An additional 30 days to depart the U.S. (Fixed time period, in total not to exceed one year). The 30 days to prepare for departure is permitted as long as the student maintained a full course of study and maintained status. An M student may receive extensions up to three years for the total program.
Can I enter the United States for more than 30 days of tourism prior to the start of my program?
Travelers entering the United States with F, J or M visa status are generally permitted to enter up to 30 days before the start of their program and to remain in the U.S. for up to 30 days after the completion of their program (as evidenced on Forms I-20, I-20M and DS-2019). Visitors with F visa status may stay in the U.S. up to 60 days after the conclusion of their studies/practical training.
The grace period is to be used for domestic travel and/or to prepare for and depart from the U.S., and for no other purpose. You are not permitted to enter, exit and re-enter the U.S. during either grace period. For further information please refer to The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs website.
Applicants who wish to enter the United States earlier or remain after the grace period, and those who wish to use this time to visit Canada or Mexico, are advised to apply for a B-1/B-2 tourist visa prior to entering the U.S. You can apply for a B-1/B-2 visa at the same time as you apply for a student/exchange visa. A complete DS-160 application form, MRV application fee receipt and photograph are required for each visa application, plus supporting documentation.
To enter the United States under one visa and change to another visa type you may either:
- Adjust your status while in the United States; or
- Depart the United States and reenter on your student/exchange visitor visa.
Depending on which option you choose, different procedures apply as below:
Prior Entry on a B1/B-2 Visitor Visa
If you choose to enter the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visa prior to commencing your student/exchange program you must depart the United States at the conclusion of your holiday and reenter on your student/exchange visa no earlier than 30 days prior to the start of your program. You may have a one-way ticket when entering with a valid visa.
You may also make your initial entry on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if you qualify. Those entering on the VWP must have return or an onward ticket out of the U.S. and you must make your intentions to enter only as a tourist clear to the inspector at the Port of Entry. Under either option, you must depart the United States prior to the start of your program and reenter on the student/exchange visa no more than 30 days before the start of your program.
Adjusting Visa Status
If you choose to adjust your visa status while in the United States, you must have entered the U.S. on a valid B-1/B-2 Visitor visa. You cannot adjust your status if you entered on the Visa Waiver Program. To adjust status while in the U.S. you must apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change in status in the state in which you are based as soon as possible upon entry. To locate USCIS services in the area, you may refer to the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov or contact their National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283.
Entry and re-entry into the United States is always at the discretion of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official at the U.S. port of entry. For further information on the admission of students and exchange visitors at U.S. ports of entry, please refer to the Customs and Border Protection website.
If you change schools while in the U.S. and return to Australia or travel elsewhere abroad, you are advised to apply for a new visa prior to returning to the U.S. The information annotated on your visa must match your I-20, so if this information changes a new visa must be issued.
If you choose to travel with a visa that does not match your I-20, you may be refused entry on arrival by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials.
Academic Student (F-visa)
This category is provided for applicants who have been accepted by an approved college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution, or in a language training program in the United States. The applicant's acceptance is evidenced by a completed certificate of eligibility (form I-20) signed by the applicant and the designated school official.
Legal provisions prevent consular officers from issuing F-visas to applicants going to study at public elementary schools or publicly-funded adult education programs, regardless of their ability to pay. Students who apply for F-visas to attend public secondary schools (grades 7 through 12) must show proof of having paid the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of their education. Students are limited to no more than 12 months of public high school in F-status. Foreign students can no longer use the U.S residence of their relatives for the purpose of attending public high schools. These provisions do not apply to students attending private schools or to any student participating in a J-1 exchange visitor program. The provisions also do not affect the dependents of other categories of visas holders visiting the U.S, such as E, H, L, or J visa holders.
The school authority must have actually collected the student's reimbursement before a visa can be issued. As proof, the form I-20 must be endorsed to indicate that payment was made. Alternatively, school officials should provide the applicant a notarized statement on school district letterhead, signed by the school superintendent or someone authorized to sign I-20s, which states that reimbursement has been made.
Exchange Visitors (J-visa)
Applicants for this visa category include students, scholars, trainees, teachers, professors, research assistants, specialists, or leaders in a field of specialized knowledge. Graduates of foreign medical schools seeking graduate medical education or training may also qualify under this visa category. Applicants must be accepted into an approved program as evidenced by a properly endorsed certificate of eligibility (Form DS-2019). Please see the separate category on Exchange Visitors for more information on this visa.
Vocational Visa (M-visa)
This category allows applicants to attend established vocational or other recognized non-academic institutions. For example, students attending flight schools use this category. The approved institution indicates its acceptance of the applicant through a completed certificate of eligibility (form I-20M). The certificate must be signed by the applicant and the designated school official.
Our office can be contacted via email: AMVISA@state.gov