Obtaining Your F-1 Visa

Your F-1 (student) visa will be issued by the U. S. embassy or consulate in your country. The embassy or consulate represents the U. S. Department of State (Bureau of Consular Affairs and Visa Services.) The visa grants you the privilege of entering the United States through a Port of Entry. The visa (a stamp or printed form with a photograph of the recipient on it) is added to your passport. The visa is one of several documents that you must obtain and keep valid in order to maintain your status.

What is a U.S. Visa?  The visa will indicate the consular post where it was issued, date that it was issued, the date that it expires, the visa class (or type), a visa number, and the number of entries permitted. You should check to be sure that all information on the visa is accurate and matches the information on your other documents.

Before you can apply for your visa, you must be fully accepted for admission into the program for which you have applied. Once you are accepted for admission, have confirmed your commitment to enroll in the program of your choice, and have provided evidence of financial support, you will be sent a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status (Form I-20). This will be sent to the mailing address provided on your application for admission unless you indicate that you wish them sent to an alternative address. Be sure to allow sufficient time for your documents to arrive.

After receiving your Form I-20, you should review it to be sure that all information is correct before making an appointment at the embassy or consulate for your interview. You should then pay the required SEVIS fee, obtain your receipt, and make your interview appointment. When you contact consular services to make your appointment, you should also ask the consular official to provide a list of all other items needed.

Apply for your visa as early as possible. In some countries there is a lengthy wait time. When your visa is issued, check to make sure that all the information is correct – your name (just as it is on your passport and on the form I-20), your birth date, the visa class, our school name, etc. If there are any errors, ask the consular official to correct them before your leave the consulate.

Keep in mind that it will take approximately three weeks from the time that your documents are sent for them to arrive. Then, depending upon your country of residence and the work-load of the consular officials, it may take several additional weeks for you to get your interview. You should usually plan to have the admissions/enrollment confirmation process complete at least three months before classes are scheduled to begin.

Steps for Obtaining an F-1 visa to enter the U.S.

Documents needed to apply for your F-1 visa varies by country and you should view the student visa application process on the official Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website for complete instructions, applicable fees, and processing times.

  1. Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee before going to the U.S. embassy or consulate for your visa interview.  The fee must be paid online.
  2. Schedule an interview at your local U.S. Consulate.
  3. Take your UIS issued I-20 (and all documents your local U.S. Consulate requires) to your visa interview. Canadian Citizens do NOT need to go to the U.S. Consulate to obtain a visa to enter the U.S.  These vary somewhat from country to country and may include any and all of the following:
  • Properly completed and signed Form I-20
  • Proof of payment of the I-901 SEVIS Fess
  • Printed Form DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  • Evidence of financial ability to meet expenses (a second copy of the same documents sent to UIS)
  • Evidence of English ability sufficient for the course of study (unless coming for the English Language Program)
  • Evidence of residence abroad and intent to depart the U. S. after completion of the program of studies. Here are a few examples – a family business to which you may return, a job offer available upon your return, a description of how your education and experience in the U.S. will make you marketable for jobs in your home country, etc.
  • Passport valid for at least six months (make sure that the name on your form I-20 exactly matches the name on your passport)
  • Photograph Requirements
  • Any required fees

Visa Interview

As you prepare for the visa interview, please review the following websites for guidance:

Five Ways to Prepare for Your Visa Interview

How to Prepare for Your Visa Appointment

Visa Denials

If your visa is denied, do not panic. You may be able to re-apply. Be sure to get a copy in writing of your denial notice. Send a photocopy to us. We may be able to help. The most likely reason is that you failed to convince the consular official that you knew why you were coming to the U.S. to study, were planning to return to your home country upon completion of your studies, had adequate financial resources to cover the costs of your study and your stay in the U.S., or had sufficient English skills to complete the course of study to which you were admitted. Re-applying will involve overcoming these doubts by providing additional evidence to the consular official. There may still be enough time to do this prior to the beginning of the semester for which you were accepted for admission. If not, we can defer your enrollment and assist you in working toward obtaining your visa for a future term.

Visa Approved

Congratulations!  Once your F-1 Visa has been approved, you will be able to travel to the United States as an F-1 student up to 30 days prior to the Program Start Date listed on your Initial Form I-20.  Please begin to prepare for your travel by following the steps on the New Students webpage.