When it comes to choosing a student visa for the USA, the decision can be tough.
Whether you wish to come to the United States for high school, university, or graduate school… opportunities to study in the United States are plentiful.
Perhaps the most asked question immigration lawyers receive is, “What is the best visa that will be benefit me the most?”
Here’s a breakdown of your options:
The F visa, by far, is the most common visa that students use when studying in the United States.
The F visa has great perks: you are not required to return to your home country after you finish, your length of stay is determined by your degree program, and you are eligible to work in the United States for at least one year after you graduate. If you wish to qualify for an F visa, however, there is a lot of work that must be done on your part.
Like most visas, you must be willing to disclose everything, in documentation, about your personal life.
The United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) will need your birth certificate, marriage certificate (if married), information about your work history, education, and family life.
In addition, you will need to prove to USCIS that you can afford to study in the United States. This means that you need to prove that you have either personal funds, a private scholarship, or other any other non-government means of ensuring that you will not be needing help to fund your education.
The second most common visa for students is the J visa.
J visas are most commonly used for those who receive at least half of the funding from a government (either from your home country or the United States government) or are enrolling in a cultural exchange program.
Personal funds, such as family or companies, cannot qualify you for a J visa. With a J visa, you can qualify for employment off-campus and obtain a work visa for your spouse or children.
One of the biggest differences between F visas and J visas is that J visas may require you to return to your home country for two years.
If you receive a J visa, you will be required to go back home for two years if you are studying a subject that your home country finds necessary (see if you could be subject to this two-year home residency requirement).
M visas are designed to host students enrolling in technical or vocational schools. These kinds of schools include community colleges and/or trade schools.
While M visas are often easier to obtain, the biggest catch with an M visa is that you are never allowed to change your degree of study, and can only work off-campus with permission from USCIS.
Also, your spouse and children, if with you, are also unable to work. You must show that you can provide for them financially throughout your entire stay.
Remember that student visas are non-immigrant visas.
Student visas are not designed for those who wish to use a student visa to live permanently in the United States. If you wish to study in the United States, you need to convince USCIS that you intend to return to your home country after you finish your education.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that your plans can’t change (you could qualify for work visa, get married, or find another visa for which you might be eligible). However, USCIS will not approve your visa if you cannot show that you either have family ties back home, job opportunities, or other reasons that show that you are not intending to stay.
Remember as well that the school you wish to attend must be approved by the United States government. You cannot just attend any school that accepts you.
Be sure to speak with your prospective school’s guidance counselor about opportunities to study before you apply. In addition, consulting with an immigration lawyer that can guide you through this process is incredibly important to make sure that you don’t make any mistakes that could delay or harm your chances to study in the United States.
While these student visas might sound similar, choosing the right visa can make a major difference in your future, and it all depends on what type of education you plan to receive.
Be very careful about who you speak with about your obtaining your visa, accepting offers to pay for your education, and any promises that a school or a person makes you when applying to USCIS.
With preparation, attention to detail, and a sincere desire to further your education, you can make your decision to study in the United States meaningful and rewarding.
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