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Overview of a Student Visa

By Atty. James G. Beirne

If you or a family member is interested in studying in the United States, you might consider a student visa. Whether you are interested in attending an Ivy League college or beauty school, an international student can obtain a student or exchange visa and enjoy living and studying in the U.S. If you are interested in studying in the United States you will need to choose and be accepted at a college, and must also obtain permission from the U.S. government. You will also need to prove that you are able to support yourself during your time in the United States.

There are several types of student visas, and each has its own set of requirements. If you are interested in attending an accredited college or English language institute, you will be required to obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa. A J-1 visa is for students that are attending a government sponsored or exchange program. Students that are interested in attending a trade school or vocation program will require an M-1 visa. For each of these types of visas, the student will need to carry a full time course load.

Before you can start the paperwork, you will need to be formally accepted in the school or program you are planning on attending. It is a good idea to apply to more than one college, in case you aren’t accepted at one, you will have a back up choice. Once accepted, you will be asked to submit a financial guarantee that you are able to pay for your schooling. Some financial aid may be available, depending on what school you choose.

Regardless however, you must present a documented financial plan that exhibits your ability to pay for your schooling and living expense for the years you are living in the U.S. If the school accepts this, they will send you a Certificate of Eligibility, or I-20 form. This form shows that you have been accepted into a United States college and that you are able to afford to live and study in the U.S. This is a very important document, and you will have to have this to apply for your visa.

You will also be required to submit a visa application form and a contact/work history certificate. Along with this, there is a lengthy list of additional items you will need, such as previous school transcripts, a passport, and documentation that proves you are able to afford tuition, to name a few. Because the process can be quite complicated, it is important to secure the advice of an immigration lawyer to assist you. Mistakes in submitting documentation can mean a set back that will further delay the processing of your visa.

During this process you will be also required to attend an interview. You will be asked various questions such as why you are traveling to the United States, what you are planning on studying and how long you plan to be here. Usually these interviews do not last more than 30 minutes.

It is important to start this process very early, and obtain the services of a qualified immigration lawyer at the onset. In recent years the immigration process has been under close scrutiny, and the U.S. evaluates each and every application thoroughly. It is important to have a lawyer guiding you through this process, as there is a large amount of paperwork that needs to be submitted. The processing times for a student visa are long enough, but if you have failed to submit the proper documentation or have left something out, your processing times will be all the longer.

Contact the Law Offices of James G. Beirne to assist you with your visa. We have many years of experience in immigration law, and can ensure that your immigration process goes smoothly and quickly. We have assisted thousands of people obtain their immigration documents so that they can live the American dream. Whether you require a student visa, work visa, or plan to obtain an immigrant visa and live permanently in the United States, we can help. Contact our office for more information and see how we can help you too. We have three convenient locations to serve you, in Glendale (818) 552-4500, Cerritos (562) 865-4480 and West Covina (626) 262-4446.


An active member of the State Bar of California and the State Bar of Nevada, James G. Beirne is also a member of the highly respected American Immigration Lawyers Association and Los Angeles County Bar Association Immigration Section. He is admitted to practice before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, all federal district courts in California and Nevada, California state courts, and Nevada state courts. Mr. Beirne has represented clients in numerous immigration cases. His offices are located at 520 E. Wilson Ave., Suite 110, Glendale, CA 91206, and 17215 Studebaker Rd., Suite 380, Cerritos, CA 90703, with telephone numbers (818) 552-4500; (562) 865-4480; and (866) 903-4522. He also has offices at 2640 E. Garvey Ave., Suite 104, West Covina 91791, with tel. no. (626) 262-4446. His newest office is at Valencia Executive Plaza, Suite 200-E, 27201 Tourney Road, Valencia, CA 91355, tel. no. (661) 200-0644.

(Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Results may vary depending on the facts of a particular case. We make no prediction, warranty or guarantee about the results of any case, nor do we assume any legal liability for the completeness of any information and its impact on the results of any case. Each case is different and results depend on the facts of each case. Consult with and retain counsel of your own choice if you need legal advice.)

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