Shorelight helps international students attend top universities in the U.S.
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USA Student Visa Guide for India Students

India
student visa
By Shorelight Team
Last updated on April 15, 2021

If you are wondering how to apply for a US visa from India, read our guide for Indian students and start the process to get your F-1 visa.

A female Indian student sitting with her arms folded on a stack of books in a library.

If you are an Indian student who also hopes to attend college in America, our one-stop guide will go over how to apply for a student visa for the USA from India, documents required for a US student visa, where you can conduct your interview, what you need to know before you leave India, and what is required after you arrive in the United States. 

US Visas for Students from India

It is not difficult to get a student visa for the USA from India, but you must follow all student visa requirements for the USA from India and give yourself plenty of time to complete and submit your paperwork. Before you can apply for your F-1 student visa for the USA from India, you have to be accepted into a degree program at an accredited US institution of higher education. (Read our guide to studying in the USA for more information about the college research and application process.)

Once you have been accepted at a US university, it is time to start the USA student visa process from India.

F-1 Visa

There are two types of student visas for exchange students from India to the USA, F-1 visa and M-1 visa. Students enrolling in vocational or nonacademic classes must apply for a M-1 visa.  Students enrolling in academic courses from an accredited institution for a degree will require a F-1 visa. The following program types require a F-1 student visa:

  • University or college

  • High school

  • Private elementary school

  • Seminary

  • Language training institute

  • Conservatory

Shorelight education counselors can help take the guesswork out of applying for your student visa. See a complete list of F-1 visa and pre-arrival services our advisors are available to help you with before leaving for the USA from India.

How to Apply for a Student Visa for the USA in India? 

If you are looking for more information on how to apply for a student visa for the USA from India, including the documents required for US student visas and other F-1 visa requirements, be sure to read our step-by-step guide to the visa process, as well as our F-1 visa interview questions, including interview preparation tips and advice.

Here is a quick review of the visa application steps for students from India: 

  1. Get accepted and get your I-20: Once an accredited US university accepts you, it will grant you an I-20 form. This form documents your study plans and provides supporting information about your stay.

  2. Pay your SEVIS fee: The $350 SEVIS fee is a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) processing and maintenance charge.

  3. Complete your DS-160 visa application: All prospective international students must complete a DS-160 to receive a F-1 visa.

  4. Schedule your visa interview: Wait times vary by country and can take several months. Schedule your appointment as early as possible to allow for delays.

  5. Attend your visa interview: In this step of the F-1 visa application process, the US consulate or embassy confirms you are coming to study as a legitimate, serious student.

US Student Visa Eligibility

India is the second-most popular country of origin for international students and exchange visitors in the US. (China is the first.) Most applicants for a student visa for the USA from India — about 94,000 — plan to study at the graduate level. The next-highest group is students with an internship on OPT (Optional Practical Training) qualifications; these students may still be enrolled at their US university or have recently finished their studies. 

Approximately 80% of all students from India travel to the US to pursue a course of science, technology, graduate or undergraduate engineering degree programs, or math (STEM), while 10% come to study in graduate or undergraduate business degree programs. The most popular states for international students are California, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Texas, and Pennsylvania, each hosting more than 50,000 students from different countries. 

Learn more about Shorelight’s bachelor’s programs for international students and master’s programs for international students

While the US Department of State does not release the number of applications requested and the number denied, they do say that more than 816,000 total visas were granted from US embassies and consulates in India in 2019, a 6% drop from 2018. 

Requirements

For the visa interview requirement, the current wait time is between 12 calendar days (Chennai/Madras) and 36 calendar days (Hyderabad). Wait times fluctuate, so be sure to schedule your US visa appointment as soon as possible. You can check the projected wait times at the US Department of State website. 

Documents to bring to your student visa interview:

  • Passport

  • A copy of the photo you will use for your visa

  • DS-160 and I-901 SEVIS payment confirmation pages

  • I-20

  • School transcript and official test scores you used on your university application

  • Diploma (if applicable)

  • Bank statements you used to fill out your college application

Cost

While there are no rules requiring a minimum bank balance to apply for a student visa for the USA from India, it costs approximately $500 USD to obtain your F-1 student visa. The cost is broken down into two fees: the I-901 SEVIS fee ($350) and the DS-160 form fees ($160). You must apply for your student, nonimmigrant visa within 120 days of your program start date, but you should not wait too long after you receive your acceptance letter, because it can take several months to complete your USA student visa process from India. 

What if I Am Too Late to Schedule My Visa Interview?

If you are late to the student visa for the USA from India application process, do not worry — US consulates and embassies have an expedited interview appointment option for students who are about to start their university programs. But first, you must go through the regular process and pay the visa fees.

To start, complete the online written portion of your application (DS-160), pay the application fee, and schedule your appointment for the first available time, even if it is too late for your program start date. Once this initial paperwork is complete, the consulate will consider your request for a closer appointment date. 

To submit an expedited request, the US Bureau of Consular Affairs recommends you reach out to the embassy or consulate where you will conduct your interview to make an appointment for an expedited meeting. You can email the embassy your request for an expedited interview or get in touch with the India call center by phone. The embassy will email you with further instructions after you submit your request, generally within two days. 

Where to Apply? 

If you are wondering how to apply for a student visa to the USA from India, there are several US consulates and embassies in India where you can schedule your interview. To find your nearest US embassy location, see the links below:

What if My Visa Application Is Denied?

If you do not meet the student visa requirements for the USA from India and your visa application has been denied, that decision is final, and you cannot appeal. The good news is that you can reapply, and you can apply for a waiver of ineligibility. 

If you are denied a student visa for the USA from India, it is essential to find out why. For instance, if you are denied because you cannot prove you have the means to finance your education, you know what you have to fix the next time around. Many visas are denied because the documents required for a US student visa were missing or incomplete. When you find out why you were denied, you can fix the problem before your next interview.

What Else Do Students from India Need to Know Before They Apply for a Visa?

International F-1 visa holders are not required by law to have an international medical or health insurance plan; however, having health insurance is always a good idea for peace of mind. Further, most universities in the US require an active insurance plan before you enroll in classes.

The following Shorelight universities require mandatory active health insurance plans for their students:

Most universities offer health insurance plans, and some even automatically enroll international students in the school plan. You have the option to waive the school plan in favor of another acceptable plan based on the requirements of the university you attend. For instance, some schools require a minimum coverage amount of $100,000. Adelphi University’s school-sponsored insurance program for the 2020-21 academic year costs each student $2,991 and is billed in your tuition statement. 

Students are required to enroll in health insurance before the start of classes, usually in August for the fall semester. 

How Long Is My F-1 Visa Good For?

If you wonder how many years your student visa for the USA from India is valid, it depends on your program. Students on F-1 visas are allowed a 60-day period of stay in the United States after their university program ends, according to the Department of State. Authorized exceptions for work, internships, or continued learning are available. If work or another reason has you staying in the US for longer than authorized on your form I-20, you may apply for an extension through the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) form I-539. The fee for extending your stay is $370, plus an $85 biometric services fee (e.g., the cost to take and process your fingerprints). 

Can I Transfer to Another College in the United States?

International students on F-1 visas may transfer to different schools within the United States. To do so, talk with your designated school officer (DSO) before applying. To successfully transfer, you must maintain your F-1 student status without interruption. You are technically considered a student of your first university until your transfer release date — or the day when your DSO officially moves you to the new college. Students can also apply for a change of status if they need a different visa type for continued schooling or an accepted work program.

Can I Travel Internationally on a F-1 Visa? 

Yes, you are permitted to leave and re-enter the United States on your F-1 visa, but you must have a valid passport for at least six months into the future. (To see if India is excepted from this rule, check the latest regulations on the DHS website.) If your passport is set to expire, be sure to contact your closest embassy for renewal information.

In addition to your passport, your visa must be valid at the time of re-entry. Your visa stamp does not have to be valid for six months after re-entry like your passport does. 

In addition to your passport with valid visa stamp, you should also bring the following documents if you intend on leaving and re-entering the United States:

  • Your I-20: make sure your DSO endorses your I-20 for travel and signs it before you leave.

  • Financial documentation: you may have to prove again your ability to support yourself while studying.

Remember, you cannot travel outside the United States for more than five months on your visa. You are permitted to travel within the United States as you wish. 

Can I Work While I Study in the United States?

A F-1 visa is for full-time students. It is not a work visa, and, as a student, you are not permitted to work in the United States for most forms of employment. There are exceptions to the rule, most of which cover internships and work related to your studies. 

Here is a complete list of employment paths for international students:

  1. Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

  2. On-campus employment

  3. Severe economic hardship

The first step to working on a F-1 visa is to talk with your DSO. Your DSO will have to approve and register any employment you take, so it is a good idea to communicate regularly with them throughout your search for work. In addition, your DSO can help answer questions and find eligible positions. For most work, you will have to be enrolled and active in your university program for more than 12 months. Your Shorelight advisor can help you navigate F-1 visa employment restrictions as well, so be sure to reach out with any questions you may have. 

Shorelight Can Help

There are a lot of steps to studying overseas. In addition to applying for a visa, you have to find the right school for your interests and complete all your paperwork before the deadline. Do not worry if you feel overwhelmed. Your Shorelight advisor is experienced — and can share success stories of Indian students excelling at US universities. Reach out to receive help navigating the visa process and the application process, as well as all other aspects of studying in the United States. Schedule an appointment and take the first step to secure your spot at a university in the US.

For more information about how to apply for a US student visa in India, contact a Shorelight education counselor >