Apply for a F-1 or J-1 Student Visa

If you are a citizen of a foreign country, you must apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa.

F-1 Visa: For degree seeking students only. If you receive an I-20, you must interview for an F-1 Visa

J-1 Visa: For non-degree and exchange students only. If you receive a DS-2019, you must interview for a J-1 visa.

As soon as you receive your I-20 or DS-2019, schedule your visa appointment at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Visa Application Steps:


Contact your local US Consulate or Embassy to obtain F-1 international student visa application procedures.

Pay the SEVIS fee online. You must bring the receipt of fee payment with you to the interview. If you have lost the receipt, the Visa Officer should be able to view your payment history in his or her SEVIS database.

Complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160. After you have completed the DS-160, you need to print and keep the DS-160 barcode page. (You will not need to print the full application). Visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for additional country-specific instructions.

Pay the Visa Application Fee by following the instructions on your local US embassy or consulate’s website.

Prepare and bring to your visa interview the following:

  • A passport valid for at least six months
  • Form I-20 or DS 2019 (sign the form as appropriate)
  • School admission letter
  • Completed visa applications (DS-156, DS-158, and, if applicable, DS-157)
  • Two 2x2 photographs that adhere to the Department of State Requirements.
  • A receipt for the visa application fee
  • A receipt for the SEVIS fee. If you have not received an official receipt in the mail showing payment and you paid the fee electronically, the US embassy or consulate will accept the temporary receipt you printed from your computer. If you do not have a receipt, the consulate may be able to see your payment electronically if your fee payment was processed at least 3 business days before your interview.
  • Financial evidence that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period you intend to study.
  • Any information that proves that you will return to your home country after finishing your studies in the US. This may include proof of property, family, or other ties to your community.

Interviews are quick. Remain calm and be honest about everything you state in your visa application and say in your interview. The interview will be conducted in English. Here are 10 helpful points to remember: NAFSA 10 Points to Remember when Applying for a Student Visa

Citizens of Canada do not have to apply for an F1 visa at a US Consulate or US Embassy.  Instead, their immigration documents are reviewed at a US Port of Entry by an Immigration Officer. If successful, the US Immigration Officer will stamp the student’s passport with “F1” and the student will be allowed to enter the US in F-1 status. However, there are still special documents that are required for entry, including proof that the SEVIS fee has been paid, proof of ability to pay for school fees, and proof of ties to Canada. For details, please see the US Embassy Site.

Additional Resources:

How to Navigate the U.S. Immigration System: Pre-Arrival, Arrival, While in the U.S., and Departing

Travel State Gov: Information about bringing dependents to the US, returning to continue studies, and renewing your visa.

Study in the StatesFor prospective applicants and newly admitted students.

SEVIS Fee Payment and Visa processes: Information on tasks you will need to complete to accept your admission, such as paying your SEVIS fee, applying for a F1 visa, and entering the US.