Nonimmigrant Visas: Study & Exchange

Student Visas (F&M) and Exchange Visitor Visas (J)

Important: For a step-by-step guide for applying for F, M, and J visas please click here. Covid-19 vaccination and testing requirements can be found here.

Additional Visa Issuance Fee for F1 Students

Namibian passport holders approved for F1 student visas are required to pay an additional $120 USD visa issuance fee before a visa can be processed. This charge is in addition to the $160 USD MRV fee required on the day of the appointment.  Unlike the MRV fee, which is payable in cash only, visa issuance fees can be paid by cash or credit card.

Visa issuance fees are based on the principle of reciprocity: when a foreign government imposes fees on U.S. citizens for certain types of visas, the United States will impose a reciprocal fee on citizens of that country for similar types of visas.

To learn more about visa issuance fees, visit: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country/Namibia.html

Student Visas (F and M)

Overview: Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. You must have a student visa to study in the United States. Your course of study and the type of school you plan to attend determine whether you need an F visa or an M visa.

To enter the United States to attend: You need the following visa category:
University or college F
High School
Private elementary school
Seminary
Conservatory
Another academic institution, including a language training program
Vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution, other than a language training program
M

 

Students cannot travel on the Visa Waiver Program or with Visitor Visas
A student visa (F or M) is required to study in the United States. Foreign nationals may not study after entering on a visitor (B) visa or through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), except to undertake recreational study (non-credit) as part of a tourist visit. For more information on the VWP, see Visa Waiver Program.

For short periods of recreational study, a Visitor (B) visa may be appropriate
A visitor (B) visa permits enrollment in a short recreational course of study, which is not for credit toward a degree or academic certificate. Learn more about Visitor Visas.

Study leading to a U.S. conferred degree or certificate is never permitted on a visitor (B) visa, even if it is for a short duration. For example, a student in a distance learning program that requires a period of time on the institution’s U.S. campus must obtain a student (F or M) visa prior to entering the United States.

Student Acceptance at a SEVP Approved School
The first step is to apply to a SEVP-approved school in the United States.  After the SEVP-approved school accepts your enrollment, you will be registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.  The SEVP-approved school will issue you a Form I-20.  After you receive the Form I-20 and register in SEVIS, you may apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a student (F or M) visa.  You must present the Form I-20 to the consular officer when you attend your visa interview.

If your spouse and/or children intend to live with you in the United States while you study, they must also enroll in SEVIS, obtain individual Form I-20s from the SEVP-approved school, and apply for a visa (but they do not pay the SEVIS fee).

Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website to learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS I-901 Fee.

Visit the Department of State EducationUSA website to learn about educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate study, and an overview of the application process.  You can also visit the DHS Study in the States school search page to search for SEVP-certified schools.

Exchange Visitor (J) Visas

Exchange Visitor Categories Include:

  1. Au pair and EduCare
  2. Camp Counselor
  3. Government Visitor
  4. Intern
  5. International Visitor (Dept. of State use)
  6. Physician
  7. Professor and Research Scholar
  8. Short-term Scholar
  9. Specialist
  10. Student, college/university
  11. Student, secondary
  12. Summer Work Travel
  13. Teacher
  14. Trainee

Exchange Visitors cannot travel on the Visa Waiver Program or with Visitor Visas – An exchange visitor visa (J) is required to participate in an exchange visitor program in the United States.  Foreign nationals may not study after entering on a visitor (B) visa or through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)  For more information on the VWP, see Visa Waiver Program.

Acceptance in Exchange Visitor Program – The first step is to apply for and be accepted into an exchange visitor program through a designated sponsoring organization in the United States. Visit the Department of State J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program website to learn about program requirements, regulations, and more.

After the exchange visitor program accepts your participation, you will be registered for the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee (except in certain cases – consult your exchange visitor program sponsor). Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website to learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS I-901 Fee.

Legal Rights and Protections

You must read the Legal Rights and Protections pamphlet to learn about your rights in the United States and protection available to you. Review this important pamphlet before applying for your visa.

Two-year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement

When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program and your program falls under the conditions below, you will be subject to the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement. This means you will be required to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program. This requirement under immigration law is based on Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Two-year Home-country Physical Presence Requirement Conditions – An exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement if the following conditions exist:

  • Government funded exchange program – The program is financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor’s nationality or last residence;
  • Graduate medical education or training – The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training;
  • Specialized knowledge or skill: Skills List – The exchange visitor is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List. Review the Exchange Visitor Skills List 2009.

Restrictions – If you are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, you must return to your home country for a cumulative total period of at least two years before you can do any of the following:

  • Change status while in the United States to the nonimmigrant categories of temporary worker (H) or intracompany transferee (L);
  • Adjust status while in the United States to immigrant visa/lawful permanent resident status (LPR);
  • Receive an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate; or
  • Receive a temporary worker (H), intracompany transferee (L), or fiancé (K) visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Waiver of Two Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement – If you are not able to fulfill the home country presence requirement, you may apply for a waiver. Select Waiver of the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement to learn more about this requirement and how to request a waiver.

How to Apply

For a step-by-step guide for applying for F, M, and J visas please click here. Covid-19 vaccination and testing requirements can be found here.