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Persons traveling to the United States to pursue academic study or English language instruction must obtain an F-1 student visa. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 dramatically affected who qualifies for F-1 student visas. As a result, the U.S. Department of State has issued two memos discussing these changes to the law. These memos should be reviewed by anyone interested in applying for a student visa.

Persons traveling to the United States to pursue non-academic (vocational) study must obtain an M-1 student visa. Vocational training includes such areas as flight instruction, beauty schools, and dance instruction.

To obtain a student visa, you must show the following:

  1. You have nonimmigrant intent
  2. You have been accepted to pursue a full course of study at an US Immigration and Naturalization Service approved institution. Schools that are authorized by the INS to accept F foreign students issue prospective students a completed and signed FORM I-20A-B. Schools that are authorized by the INS to accpet M foreign students issue prospective students a completed and signed FORM I-20M-N. Remember to sign the I-20 at the bottom, or have your parent or guardian sign at the bottom if the you are under age 18. If you do not have an I-20, but intend to travel to the United States to obtain one as a "Prospective Student" you should apply for a B-2 Visa and inform them of your intent. You should include the remaining information in this section with your B-2 application.
  3. You are qualified to pursue the intended course of study. This is determined by examining your grades and diplomas from schools attended in Japan or elsewhere.
  4. You have sufficient knowledge of English to pursue the course of study, or if you do not, that the school is aware of this and intend to assist you.
  5. You have sufficient financial resources to cover the first year of study. This is determined by examining your bank statements and other related financial documents. Bank statements from your parents are also helpful if they are will to pay for the education.

Although specifically not required, I recommend that you write a short letter (in your best English) to the Embassy explaining the following:

  1. your background, (personal, education, employment),
  2. why you want to study in the United States, and
  3. how you think it will help you in your future.

You should attach transcripts and diplomas from your schools, employment verification letters, and financial documents.

Remember that the Embassy receives many F-1 and M-1 visa applications. Try to make your application look serious and sincere. One of the biggest concerns the Embassy has when making its decision on whether or not to grant you the F or M visa is whether you really intend to study. Many people abuse student visas by getting them, but then never going to school, or going to school for a short period and then remaining in the United States. These people tend to work illegally in the United States. Unfortunately, such individuals have made it difficult for serious students to get F and M visas.

If your visa request is denied the first time, but you are a serious student, don't give up. Submit your application again. Inform the Embassy you submitted a visa application and it was first denied, but that you are a serious student. Give the Embassy additional evidence such as letters from your teachers, parents, employer, etc. The bottom line is don't give up.



  1. Complete a nonimmigrant visa application Form OF-156 for the applicant and each accompanying relative.

  2. Obtain one passport-size photo (37 mm x 37 mm) of the applicant and each accompanying relative.

  3. Pay the $45 "MRV" fee. This fee is payable in yen to the "U.S. Embassy Visa Application Fee," Touza account 3151583 of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Shin- Akasaka branch. The fee may be paid at any Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi branch in Japan at no charge to the visa applicant. Attach the original payment receipt to the visa application.

  4. Obtain I-20 from the school you intend to attend. If you do not have an I-20 you could try to obtain a B-2 visa as a "Prospective Student." Include the remainder of the evidence on this list with your B-2 visa application.

  5. Write a letter and attach documents proving that you are a serious student.
    a.Diplomas and transcripts showing the applicant's previous education.
    b. Letters from your parents, teachers, employer, prospective employer, etc.
    c.Letter from the applicant indicating why you want to study in the US and how you think it will help you with your future in Japan.

  6. Submit proof that you can financially support yourself without working illegally in the United States.
    a. Financial documents showing sufficient funds to attend school for at least 1 year without working.
    b. Ownership of a business or real property of the applicant and/or family.

  7. Marriage certificate (if spouse accompanies)

  8. Birth certificate (if child accompanies)

  9. Divorce certificate (if applicable)

  10. Once you obtain the above documents, submit the application and supporting documents to the Embassy using:

    1. a travel agent,
    2. the special drop box at the front gate of the Embassy, or
    3. mail the application to the Embassy and address it to "VISAS BY MAIL."

    Include a self-addressed envelope with sufficient postage so that the passport can be mailed back to you for options (b) and (c).

NOTE: Don't give up if you are refused the first time. Resubmit the application with additional evidence.



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