Applying for a student/scholar  visa

The Visa Process

This page serves as a general guide for students who are looking to obtain a student visa to study in the United States.

Please note: Any public information provided on the official U.S. Embassy website supersedes any information that is provided on this page.

Visa Categories

The United States has 3 main student visa categories: F, M & J. Given below is a description of the 3 visa categories:


This visa category is applicable to students who are going to study at an accredited U.S. college or university or to study English at an English language institute.

The spouses or children who will be accompanying the F1 visa holder will travel on an F2 visa.

Note: Spouses of F1 visa holders are not able to work but may accompany and/or apply for their own visa to the U.S. to work or study.


This visa category is applicable to students who are going for non-academic or vocational study or training in the United States.

The spouses or children who will be accompanying the M1 visa holder will travel on an M2 visa.  

Note: Spouses of M1 visa holders are not able to work but may accompany and/or apply for their own visa to the U.S. to work or study.


This visa category is applicable to students who are participating in any form of exchange program. This includes high school and university study.

The spouses or children who will be accompanying the J1 visa holder will travel on an J2 visa.

Note: Spouses of J1 visa holders are able to work in the United States when permission to work has been obtained in advance by completing the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. More information about this can be found here:

Note: You will not need to determine which visa category you need to apply for. Your academic institution or host organization will advise you on the type of visa that you would need to obtain.

General Steps on How to Apply for an F, M or J Student Visa

You will begin the student visa process once you receive your Form I-20 (For F1 & M1 visa categories) or the DS-2019 Form (For J1 visa categories). If you are travelling with your dependents, you would need to obtain the necessary forms for them as well.

Step 1: Make the SEVIS payment.

Complete the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-901 form to register with the international visitor database and make the necessary SEVIS payment online.

You can visit the following website to make the SEVIS payment and for information about the current fees for the different visa categories: Make sure to take a print out of the SEVIS Payment Confirmation as you will need it for your records.

Note: Your dependents will not need to pay the SEVIS fee.

If you would like to learn more about the SEVIS program, please follow this link:

Step 2: Complete the DS-160 Form

Sri Lankan students can access the DS-160 form via the following link:

Note: Each and every individual travelling with you (including young children and minors) would need to complete a separate DS-160 form.

Step 3: Visit the following website: and click on ‘Login’ to create your account for 1st time users.

Step 4

Once the account has been created, click on ‘New Application/Schedule Appointment’ if you are applying alone or on ‘Group Scheduling Request’ if you are applying together with your family. Follow the instructions provided.   

Step 5

When you reach the visa fee payment page, click on ‘Cash Payment’. Next print the cash payment deposit slip and follow the instructions on how to make the payment.

For more information about visa fees and the procedure follow this link: Note:You need to keep your cash deposit slip with you as you will need it again in the future.

Step 6

Once the payment has been made, your account will be updated and the payment will appear on your account page (typically after 1:00 p.m. the following day).  Once the payment has been processed, you can continue to schedule your appointment for the visa interview based on the availability of time slots. You will need the receipt number from your Visa Fee receipt as well as the 10 digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page when scheduling your appointment.

Step 7

Once your appointment has been scheduled. The final step would be to attend the visa interview.  Please visit this page and read all instructions carefully in order to successfully prepare for the interview:

A Basic Overview of the Required Supporting Documents

General Documents

  • DS-160 Confirmation page
  • DS-160 payment receipt
  • SEVIS confirmation
  • SEVIS Payment receipt
  • Form I-20 (For F and M visa categories) or the DS- 2019 Form (For J visas)   
  • Offer letter from the university/institution that you will be attending
  • Academic Certificates (O/L and A/L certificates, Degree Certificates, etc.)
  • School or University academic transcripts
  • Standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, TOEFL or IELTS) – (If applicable)
  • 2 photographs that meet the following specifications:

Financial Documents

  • Bank statements for 6 months confirming funds to support the first year of study and to show that the applicant has access to enough funds to cover all their expenses for the entire duration of their stay in the United States.  (M1 visa applicants must show that they have the funds to pay all the tuition and living expenses for the full period of their intended stay.)
  • If you are travelling with dependents, you would need to show additional funds to support their living expenses as well.
  • Letter from the bank confirming the availability of funds.
  • Strong financial, social, and family ties to Sri Lanka that can confirm your return to Sri Lanka upon completion of your program of study.
  • If you have a sponsor – a sponsor letter as well as the sponsor’s bank statements, tax information and proof of relationship to the applicant would be required.

Note: For up-to-date official information and more detailed guidelines about the visa application process, please visit the U.S. Embassy Colombo Website via: and search for ‘Nonimmigrant Visas’.

If you require assistance with preparing your documents for your visa interview, you can get in touch with our advisers at the EducationUSA Advising Center, via 011-2564153, 011-2564176 or 011-2564029.


U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka. (n.d.)  Retrieved from U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka:

USIEF. (n.d.). United States – India Educational Foundation . Retrieved from United States – India Educational Foundation :