What You Must Do before Obtaining an F-1 Student Visa

If you are coming to the U.S. under an F-1 student visa, there are a few things you need to know before you can enter the country. Your immigration process will have several steps that must be completed in the right order before you can even apply for a visa, beginning with your registration with the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) .

The SEVP and SEVIS are a way for government programs to monitor immigration in U.S. education and exchange programs. SEVIS allows colleges and universities to send information on F-1 visa students to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to ensure that the student’s visa remains valid.

According to SEVP, you must do the following before a student visa can be processed:

  • School application. You must first apply to a school in the United States. The school must be SEVP-certified, so you must choose your educational institution carefully.  
  • Acceptance. If you are accepted to the SEVP-certified school of your choice, the institution will send you Form I-20, which is a paper record of your information in the SEVIS database. Make sure that you check the information on your Form I-20 to match the name and date of birth on your passport. If there is an error, you must contact the school official and have him send you a corrected Form 1-20.
  • Paying fees. All student applicants are required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee in order to qualify for a visa. Check to make sure that the information on your SEVIS I-901 fee form matches that on your Form I-20 before submission.
  • Applying for a visa. After you have a receipt for the I-901 fee, you are eligible to apply for an F, M, or J student visa. You must be careful when selecting which visa you desire, as there are restrictions that apply to each one. 
Vaughan de Kirby
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San Francisco California EB-5 Investment Immigration Attorney