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About the F-1 Student Visa
This article explains what the F-1 student visa is and what an international student must do in order to be eligible to apply.

Applying for the F-1 Student Visa

This article explains how an international student can apply for an F-1 student visa to study in the U.S.

By Annie Rose Stathes
Last Updated: August 27, 2013

How do I Apply for the F-1 Student Visa?                                 


The first step in applying for the F-1 visa is being accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program System (SEVP) qualified school. If you have already been accepted into an academic or language program in the U.S., check with your academic advisor to confirm that the school is SEVP qualified. If you haven’t yet applied for colleges and universities in the U.S., check with the schools of your choice to make sure they are SEVP qualified prior to applying for admission.

Once you’ve been accepted into a school, your school will need to enter you into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and provide you with a SEVIS-generated “I-20” form. Once you’ve received the I-20 form, you will be eligible to apply for the F-1 student visa.

To submit an official application, you’ll need to visit the U.S. consulate in your country or submit an online application through your U.S. consulate’s website. Visit the U.S. Department of State’s U.S. Embassies, Consulates and Diplomatic Missions page for a list of U.S. consulate websites and locations.

Once you’ve submitted your application, you will be able to schedule an interview with the U.S. consulate in your country. During that interview, you will be expected to give fingerprints, discuss your intentions in the United States and provide the consulate with pertinent documents.

Preparing for Your F-1 Interview

Your interview with the U.S. consulate will help determine whether or not you are eligible to receive an F-1 student visa. In order to prepare for your interview, and to ensure that your request for the visa is granted, you must be prepared provide the consulate with certain proof and documentation. You must also be prepared to pay certain fees.

In order to apply for the F-1 student visa, you must provide proof of the following:

  • That you’ve been accepted into a qualifying program by an SEVP qualified school.
  • That you have a home outside of the U.S. with no immediate plans to permanently leave that home.
  • That you intend to leave the U.S. upon the completion of your studies.
  • That you have the necessary funds to pursue the educational program to which you’ve been accepted.
  • That you have no criminal record and are in good health.

In addition, you’ll need to bring the following:

  • Transcripts and/or diplomas from previous schools
  • Scores from standardized tests
  • Financial evidence proving that you or your sponsor has sufficient funds to pay for your tuition and living expenses while you’re studying in the United States. Bring tax documents, bank statements and other information pertinent to proving your or your sponsor’s economic status.

In order to apply for the F-1 student visa, you’ll need to provide the following documentation:

  • An I-20 form generated by the SEVIS system
  • A DS-160 application form completed online
  • A passport valid for travel to the U.S.
  • One 2x2” photograph
  • An MRV fee receipt to demonstrate that the application fee has been paid
  • A SEVIS I-901 fee receipt

In order to apply for the F-1 student visa, you’ll need to pay the following fees (in American dollars) and provide evidence that you’ve done so:

  • No-immigrant visa application processing fee: $140
  • Border crossing card fees: $140
  • “I901” fee for registration into the SEVIS system: $200
  • Reciprocity fee. Search your home country to determine whether or not you need to pay a reciprocity fee.

The fee amounts and types listed above are subject to change. For the most updated information about student visa fees, visit the U.S. Department of State’s visa fees page. Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s SEVIS fees page for updated information about SEVIS fees.

Keep in mind that purchasing passports, pictures and other required forms of documentation require separate fees.

Timeline for Applying for the F-1 Student Visa

It is advisable that you begin the F-1 student visa application process as soon as possible. Begin gathering the necessary paperwork, evidence and documentation as soon as you’ve decided to study in the United States. Once you’ve officially been accepted into a U.S. school, immediately begin the process of getting registered into the SEVIS and completing your application online.

Keep in mind that consulates and embassies can issue an F-1 visa up to 120 days prior to the start date of your program in the United States. If you apply for the visa more than 120 days before the beginning of your program, the U.S. consulate or embassy in your country will hold the visa until they can legally issue it. They will use the extra time to complete administrative work on the visa. It is smart, however, to gather all of your information and be prepared to apply as far in advance as possible; delays in retrieving passports or finding the appropriate documentation, for example, can all lead to a delay in obtaining your visa.

Visit the U.S. Department of State’s student visa page for more information about how to apply for your F-1 student visa.

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Annie Rose Stathes is a Colorado-based writer, teacher and political scientist. Her background is in international affairs and she holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science.


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