The United States of America has always been a popular destination for international students. This is due to the quality of higher education and many possibilities of employment once you finish your degree. For this reason, the US offers several study and exchange visas so you can apply for one and move to the US temporarily for your studies, exchange programs, or work experience.

USA Study and Exchange Visa Types

If you want to study in the US or participate in an educational exchange program, there are several types of visas you can apply for depending on what program you’re leaning towards:

  • F-1 visa. To get this visa, you must first be enrolled in an approved school in the United States as listed in SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program). If your university application is completed successfully, you will be registered in SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). It’s important to receive the I-20 form from SEVIS, or you cannot apply for this visa.
  • M-1 visa. You can apply for this study visa if you are interested in vocational studies that include, cooking, technical courses, flight training, cosmetology, and similar fields. Even for this visa, you also need to be enrolled at an eligible institution in SEVP, so you can be registered in SEVIS and get your I-20 form.
  • J-1 visa. This is a two-year exchange visa you can apply for only if you’ve applied for one of the acceptable programs in this category. Additionally, you can apply for a J-1 visa if you are going to do short-term work, such as au pair, work and holiday, or temporary scholar work. There are several categories of J-1 visas you can apply for depending on the program- make sure you choose the correct visa category for you.
  • Q-1 visa. A Q-1 visa is a cultural exchange visa, that allows you to work in the US and share your culture and traditions with other people in the US. To get a Q-1 visa you have to apply for a program managed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

How to Apply for a US Study and Exchange Visa?

To apply for a US study and exchange visa you need to follow these steps:

  1. Apply for a study or exchange program. Before you can apply for a study and exchange visa for the US, you must first be enrolled either in a university or be a participant in an exchange program. So, first, apply for the program you are interested in and then apply for your visa.
  2. Fill in the visa application. For your study visa application, you have to fill in the online application form DS-160 and have the confirmation page printed as you need it for your documents.
  3. Make an interview appointment. After you apply for the visa, make an appointment at your nearest embassy or consular office, for a visa interview.
  4. Get your documents ready. When you attend the interview, you have to submit some required documents, i.e., your application confirmation page, a valid passport, a visa photograph, and so on.
  5. Pay the visa fee. Usually, you have to pay the fee when you attend the interview, but sometimes you may be required to pay before the interview, if so, then bring the fee receipt with you.
  6. Attend your interview. Finally, you can attend the interview and submit your fingerprints. After the interview, you have to wait until a decision is made on your visa application. Here are the questions that may be asked during a student visa interview.

USA Study and Exchange Visa Cost

A US study and exchange visa costs around $160. However, not all study visas will cost the same. In addition to this, you have to pay several fees during the application process, i.e., you have to pay for your visa application, the SEVIS fee, and you may also be required to pay an issuance fee when your visa is granted. You can find the full US visa fees here. 

How Long Can I Stay In the USA With a Study and Exchange Visa?

With a study and exchange visa, you can usually stay in the US for one up to three years. However, the validity of your study visa is always dependent on how long your program lasts- which means most of the time your visa is valid for the duration of your training or program.

Keep in mind that an F-1 visa is mostly issued for a year even if your program lasts for two or three years, in those cases you have to apply for a visa renewal or extend your F-1 visa.

Bringing Family Members Under a USA Study and Exchange Visa

You can bring your family members to the US if you have a study and exchange visa. However, you can usually only bring your spouse and children- they have to apply separately for one of the following visas:

Visa Q-1 does not allow you to bring family members, if your spouse or children want to visit you while you have a Q-1 visa, they have to apply separately for a visitor’s visa.

Am I Allowed to Work With a US Study and Exchange Visa?

Usually, you can work only on campus and during school part-time- you can work full time during holidays. However, for some study visas, you have to get a special form that allows you to work, but even then you can only work with restrictions.

Can I Get a Permanent Residence With a Study and Exchange Visa?

One of the easiest ways to get a permanent residence visa from a study and exchange visa is if you marry a US citizen, this is also one of the most common ways. Usually, you have to apply for a fiance visa, and afterward, you can apply for your Green Card.

You can also get permanent residence if you invest at least $500,000 in the US economy or you’ve proven yourself to have exceptional skills that America needs, or you have a job offer and your sponsor can support you for a work visa.

However, getting a permanent residence may be more difficult depending on what type of study and exchange visa you have. For example, getting a permanent residence may be easier from an F-1 visa than from a Q-1 visa.

Read: How to get a green card from an F-1 visa?

What if My Study and Exchange Visa Is Denied?

In case your study and exchange visa is denied because you are considered ineligible for a visa, then you may apply for a waiver of the denial decision. If your ineligibility is temporary you may even re-apply for the visa after you overcome your reason for the visa denial in the first place.

If your visa was denied due to permanent reasons of ineligibility, then you have to apply for the waiver.