Requesting the F-1 Visa

You must have a complete and recently issued Form I-20 that is valid for an upcoming semester in order to apply for the F-1 visa at a consulate, and you will need a completed and up-to-date form I-20 if you apply for F-1 Change of Status. Never use an I-20 with a program start date that has already passed when applying for the F-1.

After obtaining an I-20 for a future semester, intending F-1 individuals must obtain an I-901 SEVIS Fee Receipt. This is required for both the actual F-1 visa, and also required for F-1 change of status.

Find more details here: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/2013/01/what-is-the-i-901-sevis-fee

After obtaining both the I-20 for an upcoming semester and obtaining the I-901 receipt, be sure to book a visa appointment in a timely manner, in order to obtain the F-1 visa page in the passport.
F-1 visas are issued only at U.S. embassies and consulates. Note the following steps:

  • Pay your visa fee
  • Obtain acceptable photographs
  • Complete your on-line DS 160 visa application
  • Schedule an appointment for your visa interview

The visa interview is your opportunity to tell the consular officer about your plans while in the United States and what you will do when you have completed your studies. You should be prepared to show the following:

  • You have received acceptance to an SEVP-certified school. Your Form I-20 verifies this.
  • You have the financial ability to pay for school costs plus living expenses (the amount shown on Form I-20). You may want to bring copies of financial documents you provided to the school where you want to enroll. These documents are evidence of the preparations you have made to finance your stay (e.g., bank statements).
  • You are prepared for the academic program in which you plan to enroll. You may want to bring copies of any standardized test scores, academic transcripts, diplomas or certificates from previous study you provided as part of your application to the school where you want to enroll.
  • Your stay in the United States is temporary (i.e., you are not permanently immigrating).
  • The interviewing official may be interested in how you intend to use the education you receive in the United States when you return home.

Words of caution:

  • Proofread all of your travel-related documents (i.e., Form I-20, Form I-901 SEVIS fee receipt and visa) to ensure they are correct. Especially make sure your name and birth date are written exactly the same way on all of your documents. If you find an error in a document, have it corrected by the people who completed the document before you apply for the next document in the process.
  • Proofread your visa when the consular official returns your passport to you – mistakes in the visa information cannot be corrected once you travel. If you find a mistake in your biographical data or your visa type, contact the embassy or consulate to ask officials to correct the error.
  • Be skeptical of anyone who claims the ability either to provide a document that you need or to get you a visa other than as this guidance suggests. Be especially cautious of advice or outside documents that come with a consultancy fee, or any visa promises from private companies.

For more information on submitting a student visa application, visit Travel.State.Gov, the official Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

Requesting F-1 visa status

If already inside the U.S. on a different visa and planning for a Change of Status to F-1, be sure to use an I-20 for an upcoming semester and the I-901 SEVIS fee receipt as part of the application package for Change of Status. https://www.uscis.gov/i-539