A student seeking an F-1 visa must first apply to and be accepted to a school certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). A F-1 visa applicant can use the United States Department of Homeland Security’s School Search website to identify schools throughout the United States that are certified for F-1 visa students. A student seeking an F-1 visa may also learn about applicable education programs at EducationUSA and about Kindergarten to 12th grade study.
Filling Out Application Forms
After a student is accepted into an SEVP-certified school, a school official will send the F-1 visa applicant the Form I-20 to fill out. After receiving the Form I-20, the applicant must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. The I-901 SEVIS fee must be paid before applying for the F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate near the applicant.
In order to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee, an applicant must be prepared to provide their:
- Name, address, date of birth and email address;
- Country of birth and country of citizenship;
- School Code as listed on the Form I-20 “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”;
- SEVIS Identification Number as listed on the Form I-20.
After paying the I-901 SEVIS fee, the F-1 visa applicant must complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application by filling out Form DS-160. While completing the Form DS-160, the F-1 visa applicant must upload a photo that meets certain photograph requirements.
Interview at U.S. Embassy or Consulate
The F-1 visa applicant must attend an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to them. At the interview, the applicant needs to establish that they meet the qualifications for the F-1 visa. The F-1 visa applicant must bring certain items with them to the interview as required by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that hosts the interview.
Most commonly, a F-1 visa applicant must to the interview:
- Form I-20;
- school acceptance letter;
- proof of financial ability;
- DS-160 confirmation page;
Entering the United States
A F-1 visa holder may enter the United States 30 days prior to the start date of the academic program as listed on the Form I-20. Upon entering, the F-1 visa holder must immediately contact his or her designated school official at the school they will attend. The F-1 visa holder must contact the designated school official again when the F-1 visa holder arrives at his or her school no later than the date listed on the Form I-20.
A F-1 visa holder must bring certain documents with him or her when attempting to enter the United States and have the documents on his or her person, not in checked baggage:
- F-1 visa;
- Form I-20;
- Acceptance letter from school;
- Proof of financial ability.