USA Visa Guide

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USA Visa Guide

Most international students will require a visa to study in the United States. Read our guide below to determine if you will require a visa to study with us.

There are 3 types of student visa available: 

F-1 Student Visa – required by international students attending an accredited US college, university, or high school. 

J-1 Visa –required for international students who are government sponsored or in exchange programs for a semester or a year. J-1 Visas are accepted for CATS Academy Boston programs. 

Visa Waiver Program (VWP) −this is in place for international students from 37 participating countries, enabling them to study in the U.S 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.  

Please note: Students joining 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 or she has 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, they are able to make an appointment for a visa interview. Procedures for obtaining an interview vary from country to country and the most accurate information can be found at

Students will need to provide, at the minimum, the following items: 

  • A valid passport. 
  • A receipt for the paid nonrefundable visa processing fee. 
  • A I-901 form. 
  • 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. 

Should your application be successful and you are admitted to our program, your next step will be to apply for a student visa. As part of your visa application process, you will likely have to attend an in-person visa interview. Below are some tips on how to prepare for this. Please note we cannot guarantee a successful outcome to your visa interview. These points are only meant as a guide for your interview.

  • Attend – Failure to attend the interview may result in your application being automatically refused.
  • Answer – You should always answer all questions fully and honestly.
  • Think – You should think in advance about your program or course, the documents you provided in your visa application, and your intention to study. The Visa Official wants to know that you have given serious thought before choosing your course.
  • Speak English – The Visa Official will likely be checking your level of English so always answer in English, not via an interpreter. Practice answers to potential questions and be prepared.
  • Ask – Ask for clarification if you do not understand a question to make sure you are providing the information they want.

A student’s I-20 is issued based upon the length of study he or she will pursue. For CATS Academy Boston 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.

Students can arrive in the U.S no earlier than 30 days before the start date on the I-20. If the student will arrive later than the start date on the I-20, he or 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.

While under F-1 visa status, students have two options for working in the USA.

Students are eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) after nine 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 nine months of study.

Upon completion of the student’s expected program length, he or she is eligible for a 60-day grace period within the U.S. During these 60 days, the student is not required to be attending full-time classes and may travel within the U.S as they wish. 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 or she will no longer be a full-time student, therefore will forfeit the grace period and have to leave the US within 15 days.

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.

Please visit the Student Exchange and Visitors Program website for more information.

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