The Global Education Specialists

USA Visa Guide

VISA Types


  • attending an accredited US college, university, or high school need an F-1 student visa.

  • Students who are government sponsored or on exchange programs for a semester or year may be issued J-1 visas which are also accepted for study at our programs.

A visa waiver program exists enabling students from 37 participating countries to study in the US without a visa under two conditions – the student’s stay is under 90 days and the course of study includes no more than 18 hours of instruction per week. Students joining our ONCAMPUS Boston or CATS Academy Boston programs are not eligible for the visa waiver program and should be advised to apply for the F-1 student visa.

VISA Application Process

In order to begin the student visa application process, the student must be accepted into an American institution and receive a Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20) from that institution. In addition to acceptance into a program, a student must also provide evidence that he/she have sufficient funds at their disposal to pay for tuition, room and board for the duration of their stay. This is essential and the I-20 cannot be issued without the appropriate financial documentation.
Once the student receives the I-20 from our institution, he or she is able to make an appointment for a visa interview. Procedures on obtaining an interview vary from country to country and the most accurate information can be found at Students will need to provide, at minimum, the following items:

  • A valid passport
  • A receipt for the paid nonrefundable visa processing fee
  • A I-901 form (a receipt showing that the required SEVIS fee is paid
  • Documented proof that the student or student’s parents will have enough money to cover tuition and living expenses for the duration of the student’s stay – this can come in the form of a notarized bank statement and/or a letter from the parents stating they will support the student Visas can be issued up to 120 days before the scheduled date of departure. Appointments should therefore not be scheduled any earlier than this four month period.


Arrival in the US

A student can arrive in the US no earlier than 30 days before the start date on the immigration document (I-20). If the student will arrive later than the start date on the I-20, he/she should notify the school so that the arrival date can be deferred. Students should report to our institution within 15 days of the start date on the I-20.

Duration of the Visa

A student’s I-20 is issued based upon the length of study he/she will pursue. For CATS Academy students, we will issue the I-20 for the full length they will study with us. Students planning to only stay for one semester are therefore provided with an I-20 covering the length of one semester. Visas are issued for the same length of time as noted on the I-20.
For ONCAMPUS Boston students, an I-20 will be issued by Wheelock College (our host campus) for 1 year to cover the duration of our program. If the student is accepted to and plans to matriculate into a college or university following our program, the I-20 is transferred to the new institution. Should the student be conditionally accepted and plan to matriculate into Wheelock College following our program, a 5 year I-20 will be issued.

Working in the US

While under F-1 visa status, students have two options for working in the USA. Students are eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) after 9 months of study and can work full or part time during vacation periods at a job or internship which is directly tied to or required by a course they are taking. Optional Practical Training (OPT) allows for 18 months of paid work following completion of a program. This work must be directly related to the student’s field of study and the student must have completed a minimum of 9 months of study.

Departure from the US

Upon completion of the student’s expected program length, he/she is eligible for a 60 day grace period within the US During these 60 days, the student is not required to be attending full time classes and may travel within the US as he/she wishes. A student may not leave the country during the grace period and re-enter.
If a student cancels and does not complete our program, he/she is no longer a full time student and forfeits the grace period and must leave the US within 15 days.

Glossary of terms

F-1 student visa – The appropriate visa for a student attending a US college, university or high school. Our students should be advised to apply for this visa type.
J-1 visa – Students who are government sponsored, either by the US or by a foreign country, and those on exchange programs apply for this type of visa.
I-20 – The Certificate of Eligibility provided by an institution supporting a student’s visa application. Students need this in order to apply for a visa as it signifies acceptance into an accredited program in the US
Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) - Helps the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of State better monitor school and exchange programs and F and J category visitors.
Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) - An Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students (F visa) and exchange visitors (J visa).
I-901 – Receipt of payment for the $200 SEVIS fee which is required prior to the visa interview.
Grace period – The 60 day period following completion of a student’s program in which they are not required to study and can remain within the US prior to departure.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) – Students can work over vacation periods during their program at a job or internship required by a course they are taking.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) – Students can work for up to 12 months after their program in a job directly related to their field of study