Student Visa


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View the video below for Application Process_F/M/J.


How to Apply for a Student Visa (F/M/J) by Mail



Important notice for Japanese citizens applying for student visas (F/ M), and academic J visas

Effective immediately until December 31, 2023, citizens of Japan applying for F, M, or academic J visas, may apply for a visa by mail without an in-person interview.  First-time and returning applicants are eligible if they meet the requirements listed below. 

  • You are a Japanese citizen and are currently in Japan
  • You are applying for an F, M, or academic J visa (includes secondary and university students,  professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, and specialists).
  • You have not been arrested in Japan, the United States, or any other country.
  • At least one of the following is true:
    • You have previously traveled to the United States on the Visa Waiver Program using ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) and have never had an application for ESTA denied, OR
    • You have previously been issued a U.S. visa of any type, and it was issued after your 14th birthday.
For instructions on how to apply by mail, please visit

The United States welcomes foreign citizens who come to the U.S. to study. Before applying for a visa, all student visa applicants are required to be accepted and approved by their school or program. Once accepted, educational institutions will provide each applicant the necessary approval documentation to be submitted when applying for a student visa.

Visa Descriptions and Qualifications

F-1 Visa
This is the most common type of student visa. If you wish to engage in academic studies in the United States at an approved school, such as an accredited U.S. college or university, private secondary school, or approved English language program then you will need an F-1 visa. You will also need an F-1 visa if your course of study is more than 18 hours a week.

M-1 Visa
If you plan to engage in non-academic or vocational study or training at a U.S. institution then you will need an M-1 visa.

More information about each of these visas and opportunities for studying in the United States can be found at the Education USA website.

U.S. Public Schools

U.S. Public School
U.S. law does not permit foreign students to attend public elementary school (kindergarten to 8th grade) or a publicly funded adult education program. Hence, F-1 visas cannot be issued for study at such schools.

An F-1 visa can be issued for attendance at a public secondary school (grades 9 to 12), but the student is limited to a maximum of 12 months at the school. The school must also indicate on the Form I-20 that the student has paid the unsubsidized cost of the education and the amount submitted by the student for that purpose.

For more information about F-1 legal requirements, visit the Department of State website.

Note: Holders of A, E, F-2, G, H-4, J-2, L-2, M-2 or other derivative nonimmigrant visas may enroll in public elementary and secondary schools.

Student Assistance, Finding a U.S. School
Students who hope to enroll in an American educational institution are encouraged to contact and visit the Japan-U.S. Educational Commission.

Application Items (required)

To apply for an F or M visa, you must submit the following:

  • A Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) Form. Visit the DS-160 web page for more information about the DS-160
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
  • Your expired passports issued within the past 10 years
  • One color photograph 2"x2" (5cmx5cm) taken within the past 6 months against a white background (Please attach your photo to the upper left corner of the DS-160 confirmation page).  Click here for more information about photos. Please note applicants are not permitted to wear eyeglasses in photos.
  • An interview appointment letter confirming that you booked an appointment through this service.
  • An approved Form I-20 from your U.S. school or program. Applicants must sign and date the form.
  • A Form I-901 SEVIS fee receipt indicating you paid the SEVIS fee.  Click here for more information. For quick reference, click here (PDF)!

NOTE: You should have your I-20 with you at your appointment. It is important that you schedule your appointment well in advance. Please select a date on which you expect to have your I-20. If your school starting date is a month or less away, you may come to your appointment without your I-20 and mail it directly to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate as soon as it arrives.



Non-Japanese applicants must also include:

  • Photocopy (both sides) of the Japanese Alien Registration Card or “Zairyu” card

In addition to these items, please also bring whatever supporting documents you believe support the information provided to the consular officer. If a visa is issued, there may be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, depending on your nationality. The Department of State's website can help you find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.

How to Apply

Application procedures vary between consular posts. Click here for complete details.

Supporting Documents (optional)

Supporting documents are only one of many factors a consular officer will consider in your interview. Consular officers look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors during adjudication. Consular officers may look at your specific intentions, family situation, and your long-range plans and prospects within your country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.

You are encouraged to bring the following documents to your interview. English translations must be attached to all documents.

  • Documents demonstrating strong financial, social, and family ties to your home country that will compel you to return to your country after your program of study in the U.S. ends.
  • Financial and any other documents you believe will support your application and which give credible evidence that you have enough readily-available funds to meet all expenses for the first year of study and that you have access to funds sufficient to cover all expenses while you remain in the United States. M-1 applicants must demonstrate the ability to pay all tuition and living costs for the entire period of their intended stay.
  • Photocopies of bank statements will not be accepted unless you can also show original copies of bank statements or original bank books.
  • If you are financially sponsored by another person, bring proof of your relationship to the sponsor (such as your birth certificate), the sponsor's most recent original tax forms and the sponsor's bankbooks and/or fixed deposit certificates.

Caution: Do not present false documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent visa ineligibility.


Spouses and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay require derivative F or M visas. There is no derivative visa for the parents of F or M holders.

Family members who do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but wish to visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas.

Spouses and dependents may not work in the United States on a derivative F or M visa. If your spouse/child seeks employment,  they must obtain the appropriate work visa. 

Supporting Documents for Dependents

Applicants with dependents must  provide the following materials. English translations must be attached to all documents:

  • Each spouse or child must have their own form I-20.
  • Proof of relationship to  the principal applicant (e.g. marriage/birth certificate, family register)
  • A copy of the principal applicant's visa if dependents apply for their visas at a later date.

Supporting Documents for Applicants Seeking Visas to Attend Science and Technology Courses

Non-Japanese applicants going to the U.S. to follow a science or technology-related course of study must bring the following documentation in addition to the documents listed above:

  • Complete CV or resume
  • Complete list of publications (if applicable)
  • Letter of acceptance/invitation to the school or program

Other Information

Optional Practical Training (OPT)
F-1 visa holders may be eligible for up to 12 months of optional practical training following completion of all course requirements for graduation (not including thesis or equivalent), or after completion of all requirements. OPT is separate from a student's academic work, and time for OPT will not normally be reflected during the student's academic program or in the completed study date. Students applying for an F visa to do OPT may present an I-20 with an original end of study date that may have passed. However, these I-20s must be annotated by the designated school official to reflect approval of an OPT program that extends beyond the end of the regular period of study. In addition, the student must have proof that USCIS has approved their practical training program or that an application is pending, either in the form of an approved Employment Authorization Card or a Form I-797 indicating that s/he has a pending application for an OPT program.

Validity of Student Visas after a Break in Studies
Current student visa holders who are outside the United States should consult with their Designated School Officials. More information is available on the SEVP website under Do Students Returning from Temporary Absences Need New Visas?