F-1 Student Visa
Paying the I-901 Fee
Upon receipt of a Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20), all students intending to apply for an F-1 student visa or F-1 student status must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee and obtain a receipt. The I-901 is not a school fee or the visa application fee. The SEVIS fee can be paid by credit card over the internet, by check or by money order, or by Western Union in select locations. As a receipt may be printed instantly when paying online by credit card, we highly recommend this payment option.
If electing NOT to pay the I-901 fee online by credit card online, other payment options are available, including payment by Western Union or by mail. Form I-901 may be downloaded, printed and mailed with payment according to the instructions on the form. Please allow 1-3 weeks for processing of a mailed payment.
Students from Canada or Bermuda are exempt from having to apply for an F-1 student visa, however this exemption does NOT apply to the SEVIS fee. Payment of the SEVIS fee is required. The SEVIS fee payment verification must be presented along with the Form I-20 to an immigration inspector at the port of entry when applying for entry into the United States as an F-1 student.
Scheduling your Visa Interview
Students applying for an F-1 Student Visa should make an appointment with the American Consulate or Embassy having jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although it is possible to apply at any U.S. Consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence.
There is no time limit on how soon one can apply for the student visa. The sooner one applies the better. Consular offices get extremely busy during the late summer months (July, August, and September). The F-1 visa will be issued up to (but not more than) 120 days prior to the program start date on the Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20). The F-1 Student Visa permits entry into the U.S. up to (but not more than) 30 days before the program start date listed on the Form I-20.
Visa Application Requirements
- Form I-20 from Hiram College (with Letter of Acceptance, Certificate of Finances, and original financial documents)
- Form DS-160, Online Non-Immigrant Visa Application
- Passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your proposed date of entry into the United States
- Two (2) 2x2 photograph of yourself
- An MVR fee receipt to show payment of the Visa Application Fee
- Receipt that shows payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee
NOTE: Individual Embassies may differ slightly regarding procedures for paying Visa Application Fees and requirements for an F-1 visa application. Get specific requirements by visiting or phoning the Embassy/Consulate where you schedule your interview appointment.
The US Department of State has an excellent website to answer many of your visa application questions as well as several on-line forms.
Qualifications for a Student Visa
- You must have a definite academic or professional objective. Be ready to say what you want to study and the kind of career for which it will prepare you.
- You must be qualified for the program of study you select.
- You must be definite about your choice of schools as the visa is issued for you to attend a specific school.
- You must be adequately financed and have documents to prove it. You may not plan to use employment as a means of support while you are in the U.S., except in the unusual case when employment is particularly authorized on the Form I-20 (i.e. graduate assistantship).
Important Guidelines for Your Visa Interview
Before you apply for the visa, you should understand the process and the rules governing visas. Many visa applications fail because a student does not know the rules or is not prepared. The following guidelines will help you achieve a positive outcome:
- Consular officers are obligated to follow the law. In the U.S., it is considered important to remain impartial when administering laws. In the U.S., the ideal is to apply laws equally to all regardless or status or gender.
- U.S. law very clearly states that an F-1 visa may be given only to persons who intend to remain in the U.S. temporarily for educational purposes. The consular officer who makes the decision on your visa application will expect to discuss how you will use your education when you return to your country after completing studies.
- Most interviews take less than 5 minutes so keep your answers short and to the point.
- Remain calm and polite. Practicing with a friend or counselor is good preparation for the actual interview.
Be prepared to show documentation to support your spoken statements. When possible, have papers to show your connections to your home country.
- If your family owns property, take copies of the deeds.
- If your family owns a business, take profit statements letters that describe the success of the business to the visa interview.
- If applicable, show that an individual or company in your home country will give you a job when you return.
- Though limited work permission is possible for students in F-1 status (but not for dependents in F-2 status), employment is not guaranteed and cannot be used as part of your financial support for visa purposes.
- Read your Form I-20. Some of the regulations for maintaining status are printed on page 2. Be aware of these regulations – especially the requirement that you study full-time.