What is a Visa?
A visa is a document issued by the U.S. government, usually at an embassy or consulate outside of the United States. This document allows you to present yourself at the U.S. Port of Entry and request to be let in.
What should I do first?
Before applying for an F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, students must first apply and be accepted to the college.
Once accepted to the college, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and you will be issued the Form I-20 by the college. You will then pay the SEVIS I-901 fee to the U.S. government and bring your Form I-20 to a visa interview.
Be aware that some steps may vary depending on the rules for your country’s U.S. embassy or consulate. Consult the embassy or consulate website for the country you intend to apply from.
- Complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160.
- Learn more about the Form DS-160. Print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
- Upload your photo while completing the online form DS-160. Be aware of the Photograph Requirements.
- Schedule an interview (students aged 14-79) for visa, generally, at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live. You may schedule your interview at any U.S. embassy or consulate, but be aware that it may be more difficult to qualify outsider your place of permanent residence. Wait times vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa as early as possible. F-1 visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your start date for your course of study. You will not be allowed to enter the U.S. in F-1 status earlier than 30 days before the start date listed on your I-20.
- Pay the non-refundable visa application fee. When your visa is approved you may also have to pay the visa issuance reciprocity fee, if applicable to your nationality. These fees details can be located on the embassy or consulate websites, linked above.
- SEVIS Form I-901 Fee can be paid online at the U.S. ICE website.
- There are no guarantees that you will be issued a visa. Do not make final travel plans for buy tickets until you have a visa.
- A visa is valid until its expiration date. If a valid U.S. visa is in an expired passport, the visa is still valid. You may use your valid visa in your expired passport along with a new valid passport for travel and admission into the U.S. If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., you are still in legal status, since the entry stamp/Form I-94 documents your authorized period of stay, and your visa is an entry document (you will need a new visa if you plan to travel outside the U.S. and come back).
- Your spouse and unmarried children who intend to reside with you during your stay may apply for an F-2 visa. The college will need to issue them an individual Form I-20 in order for them to receive their visas. Minor children are permitted to attend school in the U.S. while accompanying parents. Visit our F-2 Dependent webpage for more information.
- If you are refused a visa, you are permitted to reapply, providing your circumstances have changed. Attempting to obtain a visa by willful misrepresentation may lead to permanent refusal of a visa.
For these and more details, see the U.S. Department of State website.
For J-1 Visa Details, look at the Exchange Visitor Program website by the U.S. Department of State