All nonimmigrant foreign visitors are required to have to a visa stamp in their passports to enter the United States. You need to schedule an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad to obtain your visa. Visas cannot be issued in the United States. General information about getting a visa can be found on the U.S. Department of State website.
To apply for F-1 or J-1 visa involves the following steps:
SEVIS is a U.S. government system that manages data and application processes for nonimmigrants on F-1 or J-1 visas. To obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa you are required to pay a one-time SEVIS fee. Additional visa fees may be required at a U.S. consulate or embassy. F-2 and J-2 dependent family members are not required to pay the SEVIS fee. Fee payment instructions can be found on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.
By mail payment instructions can be found on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.
You can schedule your appointment up to 120 days prior to your program start date. Visa appointments are limited and visa processing times can take several months. However, consulates will give priority to F-1 and J-1 student applicants.
Some consulates may require additional documentation, so check the consulate web site for visa application instructions. Visa application forms and fees can be also be found on the consulate website.
In some cases the consulate may require a security clearance on your visa application. Your visa may be approved, but cannot be issued until the security checked is cleared. It is common for the security clearance to take a couple of weeks to a couple of months.