Obtain a Student Visa to Study in the USA

Are you interested in knowing how to obtain a student visa in order to study at a university in the USA? If so then read about the steps I took in obtaining a student visa in order to study at the one of the largest public universities in America, The City University of New York (CUNY).

This post is a bit unusual in the sense that we typically don't cover non-tech related stuff on this blog but given my experience in this area I thought that this might benefit our readers. So, in this and upcoming posts I will walk you through the step by step process of applying for a student visa, entering into the USA, and give you some pointers on what to do during and after your studies are complete and you've earned a degree.

Part One:

Applying to Schools in the USA

The first step through this process is to apply to schools in the USA. According to the USCIS, you may enter in the F-1 or M-1 Visa category provided if you meet the following criteria:

  1. You must be enrolled in an "academic" educational program, a language-training program, or a vocational program.
  2. Your school must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  3. You must be enrolled as a full-time student at the institution.
  4. You mist be proficient in English or be enrolled in courses leading to English proficiency.
  5.  You must have sufficient funds available for self-support during the entire proposed course of study.
  6. You must maintain a residence abroad which you hav no intention of giving up.
Below are the minimum requirements to applying to a school if you already have an Associate or Bachelor degree and you wish to continue your higher education level:

  1. TOEFL or IELTS score
  2. Translated Transcript in English if it is in your native language
  3. At least 2 Letter of Recommendations(from former professors or employers)
  4. Application Fee

Important: Because this process might take anywhere from half to one year before you are permitted to enter the country, don't miss the deadline to apply and always check your school's website for program deadline applications.

Some schools require you to have a GRE, and a personal statement. Note! Personal Statements may take a while to write, so give yourself plenty of time! Once you have the required documents ready, create an account on the school's website you wish to attend, and upload your documents.

In your application they will there is a part that they will ask you whether you need a Student Visa which you need to select that item in order for that school to calculate the processing time for Student Visa.


  1. Contact your school and ask them to provide you with their school code in order to be able to submit your TOEFL score.
  2. On your application on the ETS website, enter the provided school code.
  3. Take the TOEFL exam.
  4. ETS will send your score to the school directly, at no additional cost.
  5. If you haven't entered the school code and have already taken the exam, don't worry. Go to your account at ETS and ask them to send your score to the school you want. This will cost you.
  6. Taking the test needs to be done at least 3-4 months before you start your application for the school because it takes time to get the test results back from ETS.
It is the same scenario for taking and submitting your GRE score. Remember that the TOEFL score is valid for only 2 years, and GRE for 5 years. The schools won't accept applications with expired exams.

For Submitting the Recommendation Letters:
  1. Ask your prior professor or employer who knows you well, if they are willing to write you a recommendation letter.
  2. Get their information such as, Name, Address and Email.
  3. Enter their information on your application for the school that you are applying to as your letter of recommendation providers.
  4. Schools will typically email them regarding the letter with instructions on how to submit it online.
Ok, once you are done uploading documents, pay the application fee which is something around $125-$150 depending on the school. You are done. So, you should expect a wait time of a few months to get your result back.
If you get accepted, the Student Advisor/DSO from international student office will contact you regarding your Student Visa. If not, you should contact them and let them know that you got accepted and what will be next. They are a big help.

Our second post in the series can be found here.

If you have any questions, please comment below. I would be happy to be a help.

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