In 2019, there were more than 7,000 students from Pakistan in the US—and the majority of these students were pursuing undergraduate programs. In order to come to the US for college, they each needed to apply for an F-1 visa.
This one-stop guide goes over everything Pakistani students need to start the application process to study in the USA, including documents required for the F-1 visa and the visa application fee.
What is an F-1 visa and why do I need one?
An F-1 visa is a type of student visa issued for nonimmigrants planning to study in the US at an accredited US university or college. Generally, an F-1 visa is valid for the course of your degree program, which can range from two to five years. Once your degree program is completed, you can stay in the US for up to sixty days.
Before you can apply for an F-1 visa as an international student from Pakistan, you first need to get accepted to a US college or university that is certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Using School Search, you can identify whether your university or college is eligible for the F-1 visa.
If you are still unsure about which university and degree programs are right for you, do not worry. Reach out to a Shorelight advisor to discuss potential colleges and majors that align with your long-term goals. You can also learn more about studying in the US through EducationUSA’s advising centers in Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore.
Once you have received your acceptance to a US college or university and confirmed that you will enroll, you can start the F-1 visa application process.
How to apply for a US student visa from Pakistan
Here is a step-by-step process on applying for an American visa from Pakistan. For a more detailed explanation of the F-1 visa application process and documents required, check out our in-depth guide to US visas for international students.
1. Enroll in your US university or college and receive your I-20 form
Once you have secured a spot with your university or college, they will send you an I-20 form that you will need throughout the F-1 visa process. This includes information like your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) ID, the start and end dates of your academic program, and your source of funding. It is important to double-check all the information in the I-20 form before you sign the document.
Before moving on to the next step of the F-1 visa process, you have to make the payment for the SEVIS fee ($350, which is approximately Rs 54,000). Make sure to print a copy of your receipt—you will need it for the visa interview!
2. Complete the required DS-160 application
After completing the DS-160 form, pay the visa fees ($160, or approximately Rs 24,700) to receive a confirmation page with a barcode. You will have to print this page for the interview.
3. Schedule an interview
Once you have completed and submitted the I-20 and DS-160 forms, find the US embassy or consulate closest to you and book an interview.
Here is a list of US embassies and consulates in Pakistan:
To find out how long you will have to wait for an interview, you can check the U.S. Department of State website. By keeping an eye on US visa appointment available dates and wait times, you can plan ahead.
4. Prepare for your visa interview
For the final step in the F-1 visa application process, make a list of all the documents that you should take to the interview. This includes:
I-20 and DS-160 forms, including the I-20 payment receipt and DS-160 confirmation page
A copy of your visa photo
Any supporting documents that prove intent to return to Pakistan after graduation
Before the interview, remember to practice answering mock interview questions with a friend or your Shorelight enrollment advisor.
Next, let us go over some commonly asked questions from students in Pakistan about the F-1 visa.
What if my visa gets rejected?
Unfortunately, there is no appeal process if your F-1 visa gets denied. However, this does not mean you cannot apply again!
If your visa does not get approved by the US embassy, it is important to find out why. Once you know the reason, it is easier to reapply for the student visa with any additional documents required.
What if my visa interview gets delayed?
If your study program is starting within 60 days and there are no interview appointments available before it begins, you can request an expedited appointment. You will have to bring your I-20 form and the receipt for the SEVIS fee.
Can I travel on my student visa?
Once they have arrived at their US college or university, students from Pakistan on an F-1 visa may travel within the United States and internationally. To do so, a travel signature is required on page two of the I-20 form, provided by the designated school official (DSO), who often works in the international student service department of the university.
Additionally, visas and passports must be valid and I-20 forms must be up to date. For more information about the documentation required for reentry and the limitations on travel, refer to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.
Can I work while studying on F-1 visa?
Work is permitted on an F-1 visa only under certain conditions.
For F-1 visa students, work is typically limited to on-campus jobs. Students are allowed to work for a maximum of 20 hours a week. To seek employment outside the university, you can apply for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT), if applicable to your program.
Can I transfer to another university or college on an F-1 visa?
Yes, you can. But you will have to speak with your DSO before applying. To maintain your F-1 visa status, the university or college you selected would need to issue a new I-20 form.
Do I need travel insurance or medical health insurance?
Not all universities require travel insurance when traveling to the United States, but it is often recommended, as an insurance plan could potentially save you a lot of time and money, especially with unexpected travel delays or medical emergencies.
The majority of universities in the US require students to obtain medical insurance to complete enrollment. Students can enroll in a university-sponsored health insurance plan, which is commonly included in university fees. For more information about travel and health insurance plans, reach out to a Shorelight advisor.
For students in Pakistan hoping to study in the US, the F-1 visa process may feel time consuming and challenging—but with the right amount of research and preparation, you can improve your chances for success.
How can we help? Talk to an advisor today about Shorelight’s student visa services >