DEFINITION of 'Student Visa'

A student visa is a special endorsement that is added to a passport that governments issue to students who are enrolled at qualified educational institutions. Student visas are non-immigrant visas that do not require the holder to obtain citizenship. Any prospective student seeking higher education in another country must obtain a student visa for that country.

BREAKING DOWN 'Student Visa'

Most countries will issue student visas in order to allow foreign students to attend school within their borders. However, in most cases the student must be enrolled at a postsecondary institution of higher learning. Foreign exchange students must therefore usually obtain a different type of visa, such as for temporary residence.

According to the U.S. Department of State website, the first step to receiving permission to attend school in the United States is to apply to a Student and Exchange Visitor-(SEVP)-approved school in the United States.  Next, if the SEVP-approved school accepts your enrollment, the website states that the student will be registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.

After the fee is paid, the SEVP-approved school will issue  a Form I-20.  After the student receives the Form I-20 and register in SEVIS, he or she may apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a student (F or M) visa.  The student must present the Form I-20 to the consular officer when he or she attends the mandatory visa interview.

For international students traveling with a spouse or children, each family member must also enroll in SEVIS, obtain the required forms from the SEVP-approved school and apply themselves fora visa. For immediate family members, SEVIS fees are waived. 

American citizens who wish to go to a school abroad must follow the rules and regulations as per the government of the country where the desired school is located. 

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