Student visas

Approximately 5,000 Dutch and 1,500 Belgian students go to the United States each year to study. Attending an institute of education in the United States boosts these students’ future employment prospects: they study at some of the best schools, colleges and universities in the world; improve their English language skills; and make valuable connections for life.

But in order to be able to attend school in the United States, Dutch and Belgian students need a US Student Visa. The process of obtaining these visas can be complicated so this article describes the basic overview of determining which of the US Student Visas you need, what is needed to apply, the steps which must be taken in order to obtain a visa and potential pitfalls in the application process and how to avoid them.

Which type of US Student Visa do you need?

All Dutch and Belgian students – who do not have US citizenship or a Green card – must obtain a US Student Visa in order to legally attend a course of education in the United States. The visa will allow the student to reside in the United States temporarily to attend an approved school, language program or academic exchange program.

Dutch and Belgians are both able to use the Visa Waiver Program to enter the United States visa free.

Please note that you may NOT study in the United States if you enter using the Visa Waiver Program, you must instead apply for one of the visas mentioned below.

There are three types of US Student Visa:

  • F-1 visa: This visa is for those wishing to attend private elementary schools, high schools, college/university (both undergraduate and postgraduate) or language programs in the United States.
  • M-1 visa: This visa is for non-academic or vocational courses of study in the United States such as flight school or culinary school.
  • J-1 visa: This visa is for exchange visitors more broadly but includes research scholars and students studying abroad for shorter terms (and even professors and teachers).


What will you need to apply?

  • Passport: You will need a passport which is valid until six months after the date your program in the US finishes.
  • Passport photograph: You will need a recent (taken within the last six months) passport photograph.
  • Money: There are several visa related fees you will have to pay
  • I-901 SEVIS fee: This fee is $200 for F-1 and M-1 students, $180 for J-1 students or $35 for short-term J-1 programs.
  • Visa application fee: This fee is $160 for each applicant.
  • Visa Issuance fee: This fee is not required for Dutch or Belgian students but it may be required if you hold a different nationality.
  • Visa Issuance fee: This fee is not required for Dutch or Belgian students but it may be required if you hold a different nationality.


Visa Application Timeline


1. Apply and be admitted to a US school

First you will need to apply and be admitted to a US school. If you are applying for an F-1 or M-1 visa the school must be SEVP approved.

If you are applying for a J-1 visa, you must be sponsored by a designated sponsor organization. You can find a list of designated sponsors of the

2. Receive either Form I-20 or DS-2019

Once admitted, F-1 and M-1 students will receive Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) and J-1 students will receive Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status). Each form contains your SEVIS ID as well as information related to your US school and program.

3. Pay I-901 SEVIS fee

With your I-20 or DS-2019 you will be able to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee online. Once you have paid the fee, print out your confirmation page as it will be needed at your visa interview.

4. Complete form DS-160 online

You will then need to complete the Form DS-160 online. Before you put your details into the form you will be able to select the US Consulate at which you wish to have your Visa interview. You will need to provide information such as:

  • Biometric information which can be found in your passport
  • Details from your form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Work and education history (as will likely be found in your resume)
  • Details of where you intend to stay in the United States
  • The dates and duration of your past five trips to the United States. If you can’t remember you can download your travel history from the Department of Homeland Security’s website
  • The countries you have visited in the past five years
  • An electronic version of your passport photo.

Once the DS-160 is completed, print out the confirmation page as you will need this for your Visa interview.

5. Schedule your Visa interview

Once you have submitted your Form DS-160 you can schedule your Visa interview appointment online. You can schedule an appointment for the US Consulate in Amsterdam or the US Embassy in Brussels at this website.

You can check the current wait times for Visa interviews at the Department of State’s website .

6. Pay your Visa Application fee

You can then pay the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee of $160 online. Print out the receipt as you will need this at your Visa interview.

7. Attend your Visa interview

The final thing you will need to do is attend your Visa interview. You should take a packet of documents with you to this appointment which should include:

  • Your passport
  • A recent passport photograph
  • Your DS-160 confirmation page
  • Your MRV fee receipt page
  • Your I-901 SEVIS fee confirmation page
  • Your original Form I-20 or Form DS-2019
  • Proof of sufficient funds to meet your financial needs in the United States
  • Proof of your intent to depart the United States on completion of your program
  • Any preparation required to attend your US school

Your Visa interview could take anywhere between three and 15 minutes and you will be asked questions most likely focusing on why you want to study in the United States, why you want to study at the school you have chosen and what you intend to do after your course of study in the United States. You should make clear your intent to depart the United States after you finish your studies.

You will also undergo a security check and will be asked to provide your fingerprints digitally. If you are successful, you will leave your passport with the Consulate or Embassy.

8. Receive your Visa

If successful in your Visa interview, the US Embassy or Consulate will send your passport back to you with your US Student Visa foil stuck inside. This often takes up to five business days to complete.

Why Might Your US Student Visa be Denied?

While the vast majority of US Student Visa are approved, there is always a chance that a US visa will be refused. Here are some of the most common reasons for a US Student Visa denial and how to avoid them:

  • Security Check: If you have committed certain crimes, including controlled substance violations, you may not pass the security check. If you have ever committed any crime in any country before, I would strongly suggest speaking to a US Immigration Lawyer before making your US Student Visa application to discuss any possible relief.
  • Incomplete Application: If you fail to bring one of the abovementioned documents your application may be rejected due to incompleteness.
  • No Show: Your application may be rejected if you turn up too late for your interview and of course, if you don’t show up you have no chance of receiving a visa.
  • Apply Too Late: If you apply too late or too close to the start date of your program you risk not being eligible for a visa.
  • Insufficient Proof of Sufficient Funds: You need to show proof of sufficient liquid assets to cover at least one academic year, preferably longer.
  • Do Not Show Your Intend to Depart: An important part of your application is to provide documents which show that you have the intent to leave the United States upon completion of your program.


Obtaining a US Student Visa can sometimes be a complex task. Hopefully the steps and pointers given above makes the process clearer and simpler for those wishing to study in the United States. If you would like help with any part of a US Student visa application, feel free to contact George Lake for more information. George Lake is the founder of US Immigration law firm Blue Lake Law. He helps people to move to the United States to study, be with their family or for work and can also help when their criminal history is holding them back from their American Dream.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes and is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.

George Lake

George Lake is the founder and Managing Attorney at Blue Lake Law. He has lived in the Netherlands for seven years. He studied at Tilburg University where he received a Master’s Degree in International Business Law and studied at Northwestern California University where he received his JD. George is licensed to practice by the State Bar of California.

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