Guide for Obtaining the F-1 Visa
Step 1: Read Your Enclosed SEVIS Form I-20
Your SEVIS immigration document indicates that we have created a record for you in the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Your assigned SEVIS ID number is in the upper right corner of the first page of your SEVIS Form. If any information on this form is incorrect, contact email@example.com immediately. If all of the information is correct, please complete and sign the bottom portion of the form.
Please note: The spelling of your name and your date of birth must be exactly the same as your passport. If your name and/or date of birth on your SEVIS immigration document are not the same as the information that appears in your passport, please request that we issue you a corrected Form I-20.
Step 2: Make Sure Your Passport Is Valid
In order to avoid issues applying for a visa or entering the U.S., it is recommended that your passport be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you intend to remain in the U.S.
Step 3: Pay the SEVIS Fee
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires proof of payment of the $350 SEVIS Fee—called the SEVIS I-901 Fee—before issuing a visa or approving any benefits of status. This fee must be paid by new F-1 students who are beginning an academic program in the U.S. While immigration regulations indicate that the fee should be paid a minimum of three business days prior to a visa application at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, we suggest that students pay the fee as soon as they receive the Form I-20 to allow sufficient time for DHS to update the fee payment in the student’s electronic SEVIS record. To complete the online SEVIS I-901 Form and pay the fee, please visit: fmjfee.com.
After paying the I-901 Fee online:
- Print out a payment receipt (Form I-797) at the end of your transaction.
- Make and keep extra copies of your SEVIS Fee payment receipt—you should keep your receipt for the duration of your stay in the U.S.
- Present a copy of the receipt with your visa application at the U.S. Consulate and at the U.S. port of entry.
- Carry the receipt with you during any future travel into the U.S.
Please note: The SEVIS Fee is non-refundable; however, if your visa application is denied by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, you may not be required to pay a new SEVIS Fee if you reapply for a new visa within 12 months of the denial.
Step 4: Contact the Nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate
You will need to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to arrange for an interview at the Consulate. Prior to the interview appointment, you should complete the online application for the visa, pay the fee, and have the other documents ready so that you can bring them to the interview.
Please refer to the following U.S. Department of State (USDOS) website for information on your nearest US Embassy usembassy.gov.
To compete the visa application process, you will need to use form DS-160. The application can be found at travel.state.gov.
After you have completed the DS-160, you must:
- Print and keep the DS-160 barcode page—you do not need to print the full application.
- Visit usembassy.gov to determine any additional country-specific instructions.
- Schedule and interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Before the interview, nonimmigrant visa applicants (with few exceptions), need to pay the visa application processing fee.
Apply for a Student Visa
As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. Persons 13 and younger—and 80 and older generally do not require an interview, unless requested by an embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged.
Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing times are available on most embassy websites. For more information, visit usembassy.gov.
During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview by a consular officer.
Each applicant for a student visa must have the forms and documentation as explained below. Bring these with you to the U.S. Consulate interview.
- The SEVIS generated Form I-20, provided to you by the College of Mount Saint Vincent. You must sign this form.
- The formal letter of acceptance from the College of Mount Saint Vincent.
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160. Visit ceac.state.gov/genniv to learn more about the DS-160 online process.
- A passport valid for travel to the U.S. and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the U.S.
- One (1) 2×2 photograph. See the required photo format by visiting: travel.state.gov.
- A receipt to show payment of the visa application fee.
- You will also need to provide a receipt showing the visa application processing fee has been paid when you come for your visa interview. Visit the website of your local U.S. Consulate office to find out how to pay this fee.
- The SEVIS I-901 Fee receipt, which you can pay online and print out the receipt at the end of the process online.
- Financial evidence that shows you, or your parents who are sponsoring you, has sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study. For example, if you or your sponsor is a salaried employee, please bring income tax documents and original bankbooks and/or statements. If you or your sponsor owns a business, please bring business registration, licenses, etc., and tax documents, as well as original bankbooks and/or statements.
Please keep in mind that it may take a few weeks to schedule an appointment, so you should initiate your visa application as early as possible. Before your interview, practice answering questions in English about your visa application, your plans in the U.S., and your plans after you return home.
You may not need to do anything special to prove that you intend to return home. It may be sufficient for you to explain, if asked, that you plan to return to your country to work, to continue your studies, or to do whatever you plan to do when you return home. However, you may be required to prove that you will return home. For more information, visit travel.state.gov.
The consular official may decide to process your application through a special security clearance before granting the visa. Most consular officials request a security clearance for a visa application based on the national origin of the applicant or on a determined level of sensitivity in a prospective field of study. Once the application has been sent for security clearance, the applicant must wait until the consular post approves the visa, which could take a few months. If your visa is denied, we suggest that you ask for the reason for the denial in writing, if possible.
Step 5: Travel to the U.S.
Once you have obtained your F-1 visa, you are ready to travel to the U.S. Immigration regulations allow you to enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days prior to the start of your program indicated on your SEVIS immigration document. During your trip to, or upon your arrival in the U.S., you will be given a form called Arrival Record/Departure Record (Form I-94). Using a pen, print the information requested on this form, making certain to spell your name exactly as it is spelled in your passport.
Step 6: Apply for Admission to the U.S.
When you arrive in the U.S., you will need to apply for admission and an immigration inspector will examine your documents. You must present the following documents:
- Form I-94
- Passport with valid F-1 visa
- SEVIS Form I-20
- Proof of SEVIS Fee payment
You will also need to present the following documents, should the inspector ask for them:
- Admission letter from the College of Mount Saint Vincent
- Original financial documents
The Immigration Inspector may ask you one or more questions. If you are asked about the funds that will pay for your studies, answer the question and offer to show the inspector your financial documents.
Please note: Citizens of certain countries may be subject to special registration procedures when entering the U.S. This process requires fingerprinting and photographing and could take extra time—please plan connecting flights accordingly.
If you have the required documents, the inspector will admit you to the U.S. by processing your passport, your Form I-94, and your SEVIS Form I-20. When you leave the inspection area, make certain you have your passport, departure record (part of Form I-94), SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019, and all of your financial documents in your possession.
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