As globalization continues to redefine educational landscapes, more Indian students are seizing the opportunity to pursue higher education in international destinations. However, with this pursuit comes the pivotal step of obtaining the requisite visa—a gateway to realizing academic aspirations overseas. Understanding the nuances of visa application processes, requirements, and nuances can be daunting, which is why we’ve crafted this comprehensive resource to demystify the complexities and empower you to navigate the visa application journey with confidence.

Visas are indispensable travel documents, allowing lawful entry into foreign countries for a variety of purposes, including educational. For Indian students, securing the appropriate visa is not only a regulatory necessity, but a crucial prerequisite for studying abroad. Whether you’re dreaming of pursuing a degree program, engaging in cultural exchange initiatives, or participating in research collaborations, the visa application process stands as the pivotal bridge between aspiration and realization. In this guide, we’ll delve into the various types of visas, explain the application procedure, and equip you with invaluable insights and tips to streamline your journey towards obtaining a visa as an Indian student aspiring to study abroad.

Group of Indian students sit around a laptop on a their college campus.

Types of visas

Indian students pursuing education abroad may encounter several visa types depending on the country they intend to study in and the nature of their academic pursuits. For the sake of this guide, we will dive into visas for entering the US. Indian students seeking to study in the US should know about five different types of visas They are:

  1. F-1 Student Visa
  2. J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa
  3. M-1 Student Visa
  4. F-2 and J-2 Dependent Visas
  5. Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
F-1 Student Visa

The one students are most likely to want is the F-1 visa. This one is designed for individuals enrolled in academic programs or English language programs at accredited institutions in the United States. It also allows students to study full-time and may offer opportunities for part-time on-campus employment. F-1 visa holders are generally permitted to o remain in the United States for the duration of their academic program, with the option to apply for practical training extensions after graduation.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

The J-1 visa is what students should be looking into if there intention is studying abroad on an exchange programs, research scholar programs, and other cultural exchange initiatives. It often involves sponsored exchange programs or agreements between institutions and J-1 visa holders are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement upon completion of their program, meaning they’ll need to leave the US after.

M-1 Student Visa

M-1 Student Visas are reserved for students enrolling in vocational or non-academic programs at accredited institutions, such as technical or vocational training programs. These visa holders can generally remain in the United States for the duration of their program, but have limited opportunities for employment.

F-2 and J-2 Dependent Visas

The F-2 and J-2 Dependent Visas are intended for dependents traveling into the US with F-1 or J-1 visa holders. Dependents can include spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. These visa holders may be eligible for study, but typically do not have work authorization.

Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) isn’t truly for Indian students coming to the US for studies, but is still something that is good to know about. It allows citizens of certain countries, including India, to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for stays of up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. In order to travel under the VWP, travelers must apply for authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before their trip.

Close up of the header of a student visa application.

Application process for visas

*Disclaimer: Again, this guide will be dedicated specifically to the process of getting visas to enter the US. Other countries may have similar guidelines and processes, but if you’re looking to go elsewhere you should conduct further research.*

Indian students can initiate the visa application process by completing the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160) on the US Department of State website. This form requires providing both personal and academic information. After completing the form, applicants must schedule a visa interview at the nearest US Embassy or Consulate in India. Appointment scheduling is typically done through the US Visa Information and Appointment Services website.

Prior to the interview, applicants should gather all necessary documents together (continue reading for more info on that) and should prepare to arrive to their interview on time and ready to answer questions regarding their academic plans as well as their current finances.

Upon successful completion of the interview and verification of documents, eligible applicants receive their visas, allowing them entry into the United States for the duration of their academic program. It’s essential to review the visa stamp for accuracy and comply with any specified conditions or restrictions.

Documents required for your application

Applicants must gather and organize a comprehensive set of documents, including a valid passport, Form DS-160 confirmation page, SEVIS fee receipt, form issued by the US educational institution (varies depending on which visa is being applied for), financial documentation, academic transcripts, standardized test scores, and any additional documents requested by the consular officer. F-1 visa applicants will need a Form I-20. J-1 visa applicants will need a DS-2019. M-1 visa applicants require a Form I-20M-N.

All of these documents should be gathered and prepared ahead of the interview process. Applicants will need to bring all forms with them to their interview. The purpose of all these forms is to prove three things: who you are, what you will be doing in the US, and how you’ll be able to be success while in the US financially. The financial documentation is further explained just below.

Applicant handing in documents for visa application at the embassy office, including their passport and all needed documents.

Application’s financial requirements

For financial documentation, applicants need proof of sufficient funds and proof of financial stability. For proof of sufficient funds, one can gather bank statements, scholarship offer letters, and/or affidavits of support from a relative or other individual (Form I-134). If going the affidavit route, applicants also need supporting financial documents from the sponsor, such as bank statements, tax returns, and employment verification. To prove financial stability, applicants can provide employment verification letters or pay stubs to demonstrate stable income (if applicable), as well as property deeds or titles.

In addition, visa applicants will also need to pay the visa application fees. Click here to get right to that information, or just continue reading on to that section.

Health insurance

Health insurance is a critical aspect of the visa application process for international students planning to study in the United States. It is essential to understand the health insurance requirements set forth by the US government for visa applicants, as well as the regulations imposed by educational institutions. International students are typically required to have health insurance coverage that meets certain criteria, including specific minimum coverage amounts for medical expenses, emergency care, and repatriation. To fulfill these requirements, students must obtain health insurance coverage that aligns with the visa regulations and the policies of their respective universities or colleges.

Obtaining suitable health insurance can often be facilitated through the educational institution, which may offer comprehensive health insurance plans tailored for international students. Alternatively, students may opt to purchase health insurance independently through private insurers or international student insurance providers. It is important to carefully review the coverage details, benefits, and limitations of the health insurance plan to ensure it meets the visa requirements. Adequate health insurance coverage is not only a visa requirement, but also essential for ensuring access to quality healthcare services during the study period. Health insurance will provide peace of mind and security in the event of illness or injury.

Language proficiency

Many universities and visa authorities require applicants to demonstrate proficiency in the English language through standardized exams such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). These exams assess various language skills, including reading, writing, listening, and speaking, and provide a standardized measure of English proficiency. Universities and visa authorities typically set minimum score requirements for these language proficiency exams, which applicants must meet to be eligible for admission or visa approval. Specific score requirements vary by institution and program of study, with some universities having higher standards for certain disciplines or academic levels.

In addition to standardized language proficiency exams, there may be alternative options available for meeting language proficiency requirements. Some universities accept scores from alternative exams, such as the Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic or the Cambridge English exams, as substitutes for IELTS or TOEFL scores. Additionally, applicants who have completed previous academic coursework in English-speaking institutions or who are native English speakers may be exempt from language proficiency exams, depending on the policies of the university or visa authority.

Biometrics and interviews

Biometrics for indentification

The biometrics appointment process is an essential step in the visa application process for individuals applying for a student visa to come to the United States. Biometrics include fingerprints and facial features and are used for identity verification purposes. After the interview is scheduled, applicants receive a Biometrics Appointment Notice, providing details such as the date, time, and location of the biometrics appointment.

Fingerprinting is part of biometrics when filing a visa application to come to the US.

On the day of the biometrics appointment, applicants must bring certain documents to the designated application support center (ASC). These typically include the Biometrics Appointment Notice, a valid passport, and any other documents specified in the appointment notice. At the ASC appointment, applicants will be fingerprinting, have their photo taken, and may be required to provide a digital signature.

Once the biometrics collection is complete, the collected data is processed and verified by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This information is then used to conduct background checks and verify the applicant’s identity and eligibility for a student visa.

Interview for visa application approval

During a student visa application interview, consular officers aim to assess the applicant’s eligibility, intentions, and suitability for studying in the United States. To be best prepared, applicants should be familiar with popular questions asked, that way they are not surprised and can easily answer questions satisfactorily. Some common questions are listed here, but you should do additional research to make sure you know everything you need to.

  1. What is your primary purpose for traveling to the United States?
  2. Can you tell me about the academic program you have been admitted to in the US?
  3. Why did you choose this particular university or college?
  4. How will this academic program contribute to your career goals or personal development?
  5. What do you plan to do after completing your studies in the US?
  6. Can you provide details about your academic background, including your previous educational institutions and qualifications?
  7. Do you have any family members or relatives currently residing in the United States?
  8. Have you made any travel arrangements or accommodations for your stay in the US?
  9. How do you plan to finance your education and living expenses in the US?
  10. Have you received any scholarships or financial aid for your studies?
  11. Have you ever been denied a visa to the United States or any other country?
  12. Do you have any ties to your home country that would compel you to return after completing your studies?
  13. What do you know about the cultural and social environment in the United States?
  14. Are you aware of the rules and regulations governing international students in the US, including restrictions on employment?
  15. Do you have any questions or concerns about the visa application process or studying in the United States?

Processing times and visa application fees

Processing times for visa applications to the US and vary from a week to a few months. It depends a lot on how many others are also applying and needing to be processed. The best way to see the current processing times is to check the US government website. Applicants should be prepared for longer processing wait times and apply for their visa as soon as they are able. This preparedness will ensure no delays in travel plans and starting a school semester.

Currently, US visa application processing fee (also known as the MRV) is $185 and is nonrefundable. Applicants who are applying for a J visa and are participating in official U.S. Government-sponsored educational and cultural exchanges will have no processing fee. Upon approval of the visa, some nations will also have a reciprocity fee to pay. However, India is not one of those, meaning Indian students will not have to pay that fee in the process. For details on all the fees that can be involved when filing for a visa to the US, you can check here. The fees involved can most easily be paid online.

Approved F1 student visa application to seek education in the US.

More tips

Navigating the visa application process can be a daunting endeavor for prospective students, but adhering to certain dos and don’ts can greatly enhance the chances of success. Firstly, it’s crucial to meticulously review and accurately complete all required forms and documentation, ensuring consistency and truthfulness throughout the application. Additionally, applicants should prepare thoroughly for the visa interview by familiarizing themselves with their academic program, financial circumstances, and future plans in the United States. Dos also include dressing appropriately for the interview, maintaining professionalism, and answering questions confidently and truthfully. Conversely, applicants should avoid providing false information, withholding relevant details, or displaying any signs of dishonesty or lack of preparedness during the interview, as this can jeopardize the visa application.

Effective communication with the embassy or consulate is essential for staying informed and addressing any concerns or inquiries that may arise during the visa application process. Applicants should regularly check for updates on their application status and follow any instructions provided by the embassy or consulate promptly. In cases of visa rejections or delays, it’s essential to remain patient and composed while exploring avenues for resolution. Seeking guidance from immigration professionals or legal advisors can offer valuable insights and assistance in understanding the reasons for visa rejections and navigating potential appeals or reconsideration processes. By maintaining open and proactive communication channels and seeking appropriate support when needed, applicants can navigate visa-related challenges with resilience and determination.


The following are links to some resources that Indian students going through the US visa application process may find useful to have easy access to:

Frequently asked questions about getting visas as in Indian student

What documents are required for a US student visa interview?

Required documents typically include a valid passport, Form DS-160 confirmation page, SEVIS fee receipt, Form I-20 or DS-2019 issued by the educational institution, financial documentation, academic transcripts, and standardized test scores.

How long does it take to process a US student visa application?

Visa processing times vary, but it generally takes a few weeks to a few months from the date of the visa interview. Applicants can check the estimated processing times on the US Embassy or Consulate website for their location.

What is the visa interview process like at the US Embassy or Consulate?

The visa interview typically involves providing biometric data, such as fingerprints and a photograph, followed by an interview with a consular officer. During the interview, the officer asks questions about the applicant’s background, academic plans, financial situation, and ties to their home country.

Are there any common reasons for visa rejections for Indian students?

Common reasons for visa rejections include insufficient financial documentation, inability to demonstrate strong ties to India, inconsistencies in the application, lack of preparedness for the interview, and concerns about the applicant’s intentions or credibility.

Can Indian students work part-time while studying in the US on a student visa?

Yes, Indian students on F-1 visas are generally allowed to work part-time on campus during the academic year and may be eligible for optional practical training (OPT) or curricular practical training (CPT) opportunities related to their field of study.

What are the SEVIS fees and how do I pay them?

SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fees are required for F, J, and M visa applicants to cover the costs of maintaining the SEVIS database. The fees vary depending on the visa category and are paid online through the SEVIS fee payment system before scheduling the visa interview.