Get an F-1 Student Visa

How to get your Visa

The U.S. government requires students studying in the U.S. to hold a proper Visa and to maintain proper SEVIS status. FIDM is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to issue I-20s for admitted students, pursuing a "full course of study" toward a specific educational or professional objective, to obtain an F-1 student visa. Once the student's educational or professional objectives have been attained, he or she is expected by the U.S. government to return to his or her residence abroad. Once a SEVIS I-20 has been issued by FIDM, an F-1 student visa can be issued.

F-1 status is acquired in one of two ways:
  1. If the student is abroad, by entering the United States with the I-20, a passport valid for at least six months into the future, and an unexpired F-1 visa obtained at a U.S. consulate.
  2. If the student is already in the United States in a status other F-1 and wants to apply to change that status by sending the I-20 to the USCIS with an I-539 application requesting a change of nonimmigrant status (For B1/B2, J-1, M1 and F2 students you must wait for your change of status to be approved before starting a program of study at FIDM. The application typically takes 2.5 months on average). If you are in the US in F-1 student status studying at another college you may request transfer of that I-20 to FIDM within your allotted grace period.

Read more about F-1 status.

Applying for your Visa

There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you intend to apply. The steps are generally as follows:

•  Pay the I-20 issuance fee (I-901 fee). Print a confirmation of payment or use the QuickPay service at your local Western Union office. Student should have the I-901 payment receipt with them when they apply for the F-1 visa and when they enter the US. For detailed instructions about the required I-901 fees log on to http://ice.gov/sevis. The fee is currently $200.

•  Complete the on-line visa application form DS-160. All F-1 students (CANADIANS EXEMPT ONLY) have to file for an F-1 visa using the DS-160. Visit http://travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_4230.html to learn more about the DS-160 online process. You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements. After completing the form the student needs to print out the application confirmation page.

•  Schedule an appointment/interview with the US Consulate (only foreign diplomats may file for visas within the US, all others must apply at a US Consulate located outside of the US). Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early. Review the interview wait time for the location where you will apply.

The Interview

During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the category of visa for which you are applying.

Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.

Generally each interview is typically about 3 minutes. US Consular officials have indicated that the fewer documents are better in an attempt to limit the interview time. (PLEASE NOTE: Students should still anticipate certain factors that often work against them and have paper work with them such as prior transcripts, bank statements, etc. but not display them or offer them up unless specifically asked about them.)

During the Visa Interview Process for F-1 requests consular officials concentrate on four primary questions:

  1. Who are you? (Establishing identity)
  2. What are you going to do (Specific school and Specific program of study)
  3. How are you going to pay for this? (Financial documentation)
  4. What are you going to do after you study?

After your visa interview, your application may require further administrative processing. You will be informed by the consular officer if further processing is necessary for your application.

Necessary Interview Documents
  1. Student must have a valid passport, valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person who needs a visa must submit a separate application.
  2. Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page
  3. Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview
  4. Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.
  5. I-901 Payment confirmation
  6. Form I-20
  7. Proof of finances – how the student will pay for the education, living expenses and travel costs (should submit the same form of documentation they submitted for their I-20 issuance).

Additional documentation may be required so students should review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the embassy or consulate where they will apply. Examples: Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended; and standardized test scores required by your U.S. school.

Visa Processing Time

When the visa is approved, you may pay a visa issuance fee if applicable to your nationality, and will be informed how your passport with visa will be returned to you. Review the visa processing time, to learn how soon your passport with visa will generally be ready for pick-up or delivery by the courier. Average processing time is 4-6 weeks. Students may refer to http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/wait-times.html to determine the processing time for the consulate they are to apply with.

Additional Notes

•  We cannot guarantee that you will be issued a visa. Do not make final travel plans or buy tickets until you have a visa.

•  Students who are outside the United States, and who have not been attending classes for five (5) months or more, should apply for a new student visa to reenter the United States.

•  Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport is still valid. If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, do not remove it from your expired passport. You may use your valid visa in your expired passport along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States

Spouse & Children

Your spouse and unmarried, minor children who intend to reside with you during your study may apply for F-2 or M-2 visas. Although SEVIS fee payment is not required, your school must issue them an individual Form I-20, which is required to apply for their visas. You must provide a copy of your F-1 or M-1 visa and provide proof of relationship. Your minor children are permitted to attend school in the United States while accompanying you.

Denial Reasons

Denial Reasons as codified by INA Legislation (Prior to USCIS):

  1. INA 214(b) – basic denial
  2. INA 221(g) – additional information needed
  3. INA 212 (a) – past crimes or acts of moral turpitude

Denials are always in writing with the specific category of the denial listed but no specific reasons stated unless the denial was specifically for an INA 212(a) reason. Denied students can always reapply unless denied due to an INA 212(a). If reapplying after an INA 214(b) denial additional evidence is required.