Student visas in the U.S.: price, requirements, duration and how to apply for them

Are you thinking of studying abroad? The United States is one of the most sought-after destinations, welcoming thousands of students from around the world each year. In 2023 alone, just under 1 million international students were enrolled in educational institutions in the U.S., according to the Institute of International Education.

And while a large majority of those students came from Asian countries-China (317,299) and India (167,582)-some Latin American countries also made the list. For example, in 2023 there were 14,000 Canadian students 12,986 Mexicans, 7,107 Colombians and 6,122 Venezuelans.

In fact, California is home to the majority of international students, thanks to educational institutions such as the University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California system, which are home to a majority of international students.

If you have plans to study abroad, here's what you need to know about applying for a student visa in the United States.

Types of visas to study in the United States

The most common visa category to enter the United States as a student is the F-1, which allows the applicant to be a full-time student of a college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, or other institution, as well as a language program. In 2021, the U.S. issued 357,839 F-1 visas.

There is also the option of the M-1 visa, which is less common as it is intended for students in vocational or non-academic programs. In 2023, the U.S. issued 4,554 F-1 visas.

Finally, the J-1 category is exclusively for people who will participate in exchange programs such as au pairs, camp counselors, government or international visitors, short-term scholars, among others.

How to apply for the different visas

The first step is to apply to a school approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

Once the international student has been accepted, it is necessary to register with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and pay the corresponding fee.

The school will issue a Form I-20, once received the student can apply for a student visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

Students will need to complete the DS-160 form online, print the application confirmation page and attend the interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

For the interview, the applicant must bring: Form I-20, a valid passport, confirmation of the DS-160 form, receipt of the application fee, documentation showing that they meet the minimum education and/or work experience requirements, documentation showing how they will pay for all education and living costs during the program, and they must bring documentation supporting their intention to leave the U.S. upon completion of their studies.


New students under the F-1 and M-1 visas can be issued up to 120 days prior to the course start date, but the student may only enter the U.S. 30 days prior to the course start date.

And the duration of the visa depends on the length of the program they are about to attend. However, foreign students will have 60 days to leave the country once the program ends, which is the date listed on the Form I-20. Failure to depart by this date may make the individual ineligible for future visas.

Price of the U.S. student visa.

The visa application fee is US$160. However, there are additional costs that the international student must take into account, such as the I-901 SEVIS fee, which can be up to US$350.

Working as a student

Optional Practical Training (OPT) is an available benefit that is available to an F-1 student. Students may apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before and/or after completing their studies.

To do so, authorized students must have a Form I-20 endorsed for OPT and apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields may apply for a 24-month extension of their OPT employment authorization.