Student Visa

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FAQ 

Overview

The United States welcomes foreign citizens who come to the United States 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 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 engage in non-academic or vocational study or training at a U.S. institution then you 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. 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 a U.S.  educational institution are encouraged to contact and visit https://educationusa.state.gov/

SEVIS and SEVIS Fees

After the SEVP-approved school accepts your enrollment, you will be registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).  SEVIS is a web-based system that monitors schools and programs, students, exchange visitors, and their dependents throughout the duration of approved participation within the U.S. education system.  The SEVP-approved school will issue you a Form I-20.  Please double check your I-20 for accuracy. .  Contact your Designated School Official if you see an error.  Any errors must be corrected before your interview. 

All F-1, M-1 and most J-1 applicants must pay a separate I-901 SEVIS fee at www.fmjfee.com.  Applicants cannot be interviewed for a student visa until the SEVIS fee has been paid.  This fee is in addition to the visa application fee. For nonimmigrant students with Form I-20, the SEVIS fee is US$350. For most exchange visitors with Form DS-2019, the SEVIS fee is US$220. Payment cannot be made at the American Institute in Taiwan. Instructions for paying the SEVIS fee can be found here

SEVIS Fee Exception

J applicants participating in a U.S. Government sponsored program (programs whose codes begin with G-1, G-2, G-3, G-7) are not required to pay the SEVIS fee. Dependents of F, J or M visa applicants and certain continuing students or exchange visitors do not have to pay the SEVIS fee.  See SEVIS fee FAQs for more information.

Program Start Date

120-day rule: F and M visas can be issued to new students up to 120 days prior to their program start dates indicated on their I-20 forms.  Please do not wait until the last minute to apply for your visa.  Visas cannot be issued to new students who will arrive after their program start dates.

30-day rule: New students must arrive in the U.S. within 30 days prior to their program start dates.  New students on F or M visas are not permitted to enter the United States earlier than 30 days before the start date of their program..  Please consider this date carefully when making your travel plans to the United States.  If your program start date specified on the I-20 is already past or you will be unable to meet that date, you must request your school to change the program start date in the SEVIS system before a visa can be issued.  

Please note that the 120-day and 30-day rules do not apply to continuing students.  Continuing students may apply for a new visa at any time, as long as they have been maintaining status in the United States and their SEVIS records are current.  Continuing students may also enter the U.S. at any time before their classes/programs start.

How to Apply

Please follow the below steps to submit your application at AIT.  Watch this video to learn more about the process.  (best view in Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge)

Step 1

Double check your I-20 for accuracy

Contact your Designated School Official if you see an error.  Any errors must be corrected before your interview.

Step 2

Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.

Step 3

Create your profile and pay the visa fee.  Pay the SEVIS fee if required.

Step 4

Schedule an interview

Please note: Through December 31, 2022, if you are applying for an F (students/dependents) or M (non-academic students/dependents), please follow the instructions found here to see if you qualify for interview waiver.

You can log in to your profile to schedule your interview after your payment receipt has been activated. For more information about payment options and receipt activation times, click here

Step 5

Appear at AIT for an interview

Visit the American Institute in Taiwan on the date and time of your visa interview.  You must bring all the . application items. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.  You may also bring whatever supporting documents  you believe support the information provided to the consular officer.  

Access to AIT Consular Section waiting room is limited to the following:

  • Applicants;
  • Parents or legal guardians of applicants under 18 years old;
  • Aides of disabled applicants

Appointment holders must have an appointment confirmation page and may not be admitted more than 10 minutes before and after their appointment time.

Please review AIT’s security regulations prior to your visit.  In particular, please note the rules regarding Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs).

Step 6

Receive your documents

You can check your visa application status here.  If your visa application is approved, your passport and visa will be returned to you via courier service.  You can also track the status of your passport delivery using your passport number or the courier tracking number

Application Items

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

  • A Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) Form confirmation page. Anytime you make a new application, you must complete a new DS-160. Please print out and bring your DS-160 confirmation to your interview.  Please make sure the printed bar codes are clear.  Incomplete, incorrect, or unclear barcodes will NOT be accepted and will result in cancellation of your appointment.  Visit the DS-160 web page for more information about the DS-160.
  • A valid passport. Most visa applicants must have a passport valid for at least 6 months past the date of their anticipated departure from the United States.  Taiwan passport holders and passport holders from certain countries may enter the United States with passports that will expire in less than 6 months.  However, they will not be permitted to remain in the U.S. beyond the validity of their passports.
  • All previous passports - If your previous passports are lost or stolen, you must provide AIT with a Certificate of Entry and Exit Dates (from 1983 to present).  To obtain a Certificate of Entry and Exit Dates, please visit the Taiwan National Immigration Agency’s website for details.  If you have reported for passport lost, please also provide the police report.
  • One color photograph (5cmx5cm) taken within the last six months with a white or off-white background. Starting November 1, 2016, eyeglasses will no longer be allowed in visa photos. This web page has information about the required photo format.
  • A receipt showing payment of your US$160 non-refundable nonimmigrant visa application processing fee paid in local currency. This web page has more information about paying this fee. 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.( AIT strongly advises all customers to bring cash, as our system does not always accommodate credit card transactions. Thank you.)
  •  A printout of your appointment confirmation evidencing that you booked an appointment through this service.  Please make sure the printed bar codes are clear.  Incomplete, incorrect, or unclear barcodes will NOT be accepted and will result in cancellation of your appointment.
  • If you have legally changed your name, please bring your most recent Taiwan Household Registration Record (with detailed notes). If you are not a Taiwan resident, please bring your Taiwan Alien Resident Certificate or your Taiwan visa information.
  • Applicants in scientific fields, or with technical and scientific backgrounds, may be required to provide additional documents.  See the Administrative Processing webpage for details. 
  • If you have been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, please bring the police record or court documents to your interview.  (If the original record was not written in English, please also provide an English translation.)  Please also provide a Taiwan Police Criminal Record Certificate regardless of where you were arrested or convicted.
  • If you have abandoned your U.S. lawful permanent resident status (or green card), please provide proof of abandonment.
  • An approved Form I-20 from your U.S. school or program.
  • If a SEVIS fee payment is required, we highly recommend bringing your I-901 SEVIS Fee receipt to your visa interview to prove that the payment was processed correctly and to speed the payment verification process during your interview.

You may also bring whatever supporting documents you believe support the information provided to the consular officer.   

Supporting Documents

Supporting documents are only one of many factors a consular officer may 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.

Caution: Do not present false documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent visa ineligibility. If confidentiality is a concern, you should bring your documents to the American Institute in Taiwan in a sealed envelope. The American Institute in Taiwan will not make your information available to anyone and will respect the confidentiality of your information.

A consular officer will interview you to determine your qualifications for a student visa, and may request additional documents, such as: 

  • 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 United States 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.
  • Academic documents that show scholastic preparation. Useful documents include school transcripts (original copies are preferred) with grades, public examination certificates (A-levels, etc.), standardized test scores (SAT, TOEFL, etc.), research or study plans, publications, and diplomas.

Dependents

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 or her stay may apply for F-2 or M-2 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, the spouse/child must obtain the appropriate work visa. 

Supporting Documents for Dependents
Applicants with dependents must also provide:

  • Form I-20 for each dependent.  Although SEVIS fee payment is not required for dependents, your school must issue them an individual Form I-20, which is required to apply for their visas.
  • Proof of the student's relationship to his or her spouse and/or child (e.g., marriage and birth certificates, household registration record)
  • It is preferred that families apply for their visas at the same time, but if the spouse and/or child must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder's passport and visa, along with all other required documents.

Your minor children are permitted to attend school in the United States while accompanying you.

Consular officers will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that we adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses.

More 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.

Students Returning to the U.S. to Study at a Different School After a Temporary Absence

A student temporarily abroad who intends to return to study at a United States institution other than the one for which the original visa was issued may seek admission with the original visa, if still valid, and the Form I-20 from the new school. If the student wishes to apply for a new visa, however, they must present proof that the transfer has been completed and the student’s SEVIS record is in “initial” or “active” status at the new school.See SEVIS fee FAQs to determine if a new SEVIS fee is needed.

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? 

Useful links