The first step in getting an F-1 student visa is to be accepted by an American school. This can be either a college/university, English-language program, or high school. The process for being accepted into one of these programs is dependent on the program.
Next, your school will give you an I-20 form. Once you have your I-20, you have to gather some other required documents:
- DS-160 confirmation page
- I-20 form (SEVIS)
- SEVIS fee payment receipt ($200 as of February 2015)
- Printed interview schedule confirmation
- Visa application payment receipt ($140 as of February 2015)
- In Korea, this is paid at a local bank that is different from the one currently listed on the Korean embassy's website (as of February 2015)
- 50mm x 50mm passport-type photograph
- I don't believe this is required anymore because you have to upload a photograph as part of the online DS-160
Additionally, there are some recommended documents that you can prepare to make your visa interview easier:
- One-page cover letter
- This just helps to keep you organized so you can make sure you have all of your documents when you go to your interview.
- Proof of finances
- Form I-134 (Affidavit of Support) if someone else is paying for your education
- Verification of deposit regardless of who is paying to show that they have enough money to pay for your education.
- This should show that they have enough liquid assets (cash or cash equivalents, not stocks/bonds/etc.) to pay for your first year of school. The estimated cost of your first year if school will be listed on the I-20 form your school sends to you after you've been accepted.
- You can request a "verification of deposit" from your bank. This will typically be stamped and signed by the bank itself. It will include the date the account was opened, if the account has been well-maintained or not, and the current balance of the account. This document can take anywhere from 0 to 10 business days to be mailed to you depending on your bank.
- Evidence of economic, social, family and educational ties to your home country
- This can include a list of family members remaining in your home country, offers of employment upon your return, home ownership, etc.
- Evidence of academic ability
- College degrees
Be prepared to state clearly your educational goals; your major; why you chose that major; why that major is important to your future career in your home country; your graduate school plans, if any; how your degree will help you when you return home.
If you answer the interviewers questions to his/her satisfaction, they will inform you at the end of the interview if you will be receiving a visa or not. If they will not grant you a visa, they will tell you why. You can gather more evidence and schedule another visa interview later to try again. I think that if you fail two interviews that there is a mandatory waiting period of some time before you can have a third interview.
Timeline (based on South Korean Embassy)
- Request verification of deposit
- 3-10 days
- Apply to school, get accepted, receive mailed original I-20 from school
- Varies by school (5-180 days)
- Schedule visa interview after receiving all required documents (including original I-20)
- Varies by embassy (interviews in South Korea in February 2015 were held as early as 2 days after the appointment was made)
- Receive visa by mail
- Varies by embassy (7 days after the interview in South Korea in February 2015)