How to apply for a student visa to the USA

Students who wish to enroll in American universities must apply for an F visa to enter the country. It is mandatory. It can take up to a month and a half to process the documents for such a visa. The F visa can be issued 365 days before the start of your studies, but you cannot enter the country until 30 days before the start of your studies.

It is important to make sure that the university you choose is accredited to issue Form I-20 for the admission of international students.

List of documents for F visa
  • I-20 form;
  • 5x5 color photograph;
  • DS-160 form;
  • A passport with an expiration date at least 6 months after the expected date of departure from the United States;
  • Old passports, if available;
  • SEVIS visa fee receipt;
  • Interview invitation letter;
  • Grades and transcripts (SAT, IETLS, GMAT, etc.);
  • Proof of financial independence.
Form I-20

After receiving an invitation from the university, you must confirm your decision to study. An additional fee or deposit may be required. After your confirmation, the university will issue a special I-20 form stating that the student is officially enrolled.

Make sure that all personal information and dates are correct.

Example of the form 

To obtain the I-20 form, you must pay the SEVIS visa fee and then you will be issued a SEVIS ID, which is your international student identification number.

SEVIS visa fee receipt

SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) is a registration and record system for international students. You must pay an I-901 fee of $350 to be added to the registry.

You can pay the fee on the SEVIS website at

DS-160 form

The DS-160 is an online application for a nonimmigrant visa. You will need your passport, photo, and SEVIS ID to fill out this form. You must complete the form before your interview at the embassy; you will not be accepted without it.

You can fill out the application form on the U.S. Department of State website:

It may take up to 90 minutes to complete the application. Do not skip questions and double-check your completed data.

An example of how to fill out the form

After completing the DS-160, you must print and save the page with the DS-160 barcode. You do not need to print the full application.

Photo requirements

A color photograph will be required to complete the DS-160 application form as well as the embassy interview.

Photo requirements:

  • 5*5 cm (2*2 inches) size;
  • minimum resolution — 600 pixels, maximum resolution — 1200 pixels;
  • the whole head from the top of the hair to the bottom of the chin is visible. The height of the head is 25 mm by 35 mm;
  • you must be wearing low-colored clothing, your face must be neutral and facing the camera;
  • if you wear glasses, you must remove them for the photo.
Embassy Interview

Once you have received and completed all required documents, you will need to schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy. You can schedule an appointment at

Be prepared to pay $160 to create a personal account on the embassy’s website.

Currently, Russian citizens who wish to study in the United States may be interviewed at U.S. consular offices in Kazakhstan, Armenia, Serbia, or at diplomatic missions in their current place of residence.

The questions asked during the interview may vary and will depend on the receiving Consul. The interview may be quick, but it is also possible that you will be bombarded with questions.

What to bring:

  • interview invitation;
  • passport;
  • photo 5*5 cm;
  • DS-160 form confirmation with a barcode;
  • academic documents (diploma, IELTS, SAT, etc.).

Proof of financial ability may also be required, such as a bank statement or student grant.

The consul may also require proof that you intend to return to your home country. There is no specific list, but it may include:

  • A letter from a prospective employer;
  • Property information (mortgage, transportation, etc.);
  • Family documents (marriage certificate, child’s birth certificate, guardianship papers);
  • Information about a long-term loan.

After a successful interview, your passport with your student visa pasted in will be delivered to your address within a couple of weeks.