F-1 student visas are granted to full-time students who have been accepted to a degree-granting academic or approved language program. For information about other types of student visas, see the Internet resources listed on page 145. Students seeking an F-1 visa must be able to demonstrate the following.
• Eligibility for the program of study.
• Adequate financial resources for at least 1 year of studying in the United States.
• Intent to return to your home country after completing your education goals.
Visa Application Process
An F-1 student visa can be issued up to 120 days before the program start date as stated on your Form I-20.Because visa processing times can vary widely, apply for a visa as early as possible to begin the process. Most of the requirements and application procedures for F-1 student visas are standardized, although some procedures can vary from country to country. For more details on applying for a student visa, visit the Web site of the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country or the U.S. Department of State Web site. Four steps are required to apply for an F-1 visa:
1. Obtain a SEVIS Form I-20
Once you have been accepted by a college, the college will give you a Form I-20 from that institution. The Form
I-20 is required to apply for a visa but does not guarantee that one will be granted. (See chapter 8 for information about U.S. entry and customs requirements.)
Make sure the name written on your SEVIS Form I-20 is spelled identically to the name on your passport. If it is not, you will be denied entry to the United States.
2. Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee
All F-1 visa students must pay a SEVIS I-901 fee, currently US$200, and show the payment receipt when applying for a visa. You pay the I-901 fee once, regardless of the number of acceptances you receive. The fee must be paid and fully processed before you arrive at the U.S. embassy or consulate for a visa interview. For information on how to pay the I-901 fee, go to the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security Web site at www.fmjfee.com/i901fee.
3. Submit the Nonimmigrant Visa Application
To obtain information and assistance with the visa application process, visit the EducationUSA Web site or an EducationUSA advising center close to your home. Advisers can explain the visa process and how to assemble and submit your application materials. Visa application forms can be found on the U.S. Department of State Web site at http://travel.state.gov/visa.
4. Schedule and Attend a Visa Interview
You are required to have a brief face-to-face interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate that has jurisdiction over the area where you live. It may take several days to schedule an interview, so plan ahead. The interview is very important in determining whether you will be issued a visa. You should dress professionally and answer questions as specifically as possible. Be prepared to explain why you want to study at a community college in the United States, your planned program of study, and how your choice of a community college will help you achieve your education goals. Be on time for the interview and remember to bring all items identified in the checklist.
Visa Interview Checklist
1. Your name on your passport and all your forms must be spelled exactly the same way.
2. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the proposed date of entry into the United States.
What to Bring to Your Visa Interview
- SEVIS Form I-20
- I-901 SEVIS payment receipt
- Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application Form DS-160 confirmation page
- Proof of financial ability to pay expenses for at least one year of study in the United States
- High school diploma (or equivalent)
- Test scores (such as TOEFL and IELTS), if required by your college
- Receipt for the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) surcharge fee
Possible Visa Interview Questions
Q: Why do you want to study at a community college in the United States?
Q: What is your planned program of study?
Q: How do you plan to pay for your education?
Q: Where will you live while you are studying in the United States?
Q: How does your choice of a community college help you achieve your education goals?
Q: What do you plan to do after you have finished your education?
Where to Go for More Information and Assistance
Go to www.EducationUSA.state.gov or visit an EducationUSA advising center to obtain information about
• Applying for a visa.
• Assembling application materials.
• Preparing for an interview.