If you are applying for an F-1 Student Visa from your home country, you will begin by selecting a school in the U.S. where you want to study and applying to the school. You may also want to begin looking into housing information at this time. If your application is accepted you will obtain Form I-20 from the DSO (Designated School Official) and pay the I-901 SEVIS receipt. You will be added to the SEVIS database with an individual ID number.

After the school enters your information into the SEVIS database, you will receive Form I-20 and schedule the "Initial Entry Visa Interview" with your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Please check with your U.S. Embassy or Consulate to determine their policies and procedures. You can check the U.S. Department of State website and select your city, then click the link for visa information. Wait times for student visa appointments at embassies and consulates world-wide can be found at Travel.State.Gov.

Student Visa interviews will require the following documentation:

  • Your Form I-20
  • SEVIS I-901 receipt
  • Signed passport (must be valid for 6 months after entry into the US)
  • Transcripts or diplomas from current or previous institutions
  • Program of study description
  • Accommodation information
  • Evidence of funds to cover tuition and living expenses for either the length of your study or one year, whichever is shorter.
  • Your local US Embassy/Consulate might require additional forms such as DS-156, DS-157A, DS-158A. They are available online or at your local embassy/consulate.

Notify the school of your expected arrival date

Once you are granted a U.S. entrance visa, notify the school of your expected arrival date, and obtain a new I-20 if the dates have been deferred. Also, be sure to confirm your housing and transportation arrangements in advance of your departure from your home country. Keep in mind that you can enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before your program start date.

Upon arrival at a United States Port of Entry you must present:

  • Your Form I-20, signed by the DSO of the school you will attend
  • Your I-94
  • A valid visa containing your SEVIS identification number and the name of the school you will be attending (BIR)
  • Financial documentation
  • A valid passport

The Customs and Border Protection inspector will stamp your Form I-20 and Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record Form) after determining that you are eligible for entry. This document is proof that you entered the U.S. legally. You should keep the Form I-94 safe throughout your stay in the U.S.