Coming to the U.S. on a Student Visa

With the exception of Canadians, international students must apply for a student visa to study in the United States.

  • An I-20 is issued so a degree-seeking student can apply for an F-1 visa
  • A DS-2019 is issued so exchange students and visitors can apply for a J-1 visa

Canadian students only need a passport and a I-20 or DS-2019.

After receiving your I-20 or DS-2019:

  1. Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. This is required for F-1 or J-1 visa applicants.
  2. Schedule an appointment at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate that issues visas. 
  3. Upon receipt of a F-1 or J-1 visa, enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to your I-20 or DS 2019 start date.

Receipt of an I-20 or DS-2019 does not guarantee issuance of a visa. Receipt of an F-1 or J-1 visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. The Customs and Border Protection officers will determine admissibility after reviewing immigration documents. 

No I-20 Processing Fee

Some students applying to U.S. universities report being asked by a third party to pay an I-20 processing fee. This is fraudulent. There is no I-20 fee. Proceed with caution when enlisting a third-party application service. It may not be honest and is most likely not an authorized representative of the university.

Change of Status

If you are in the U.S. on visa status other than F-1, view the requirements, documentation and procedures for changing to an F-1 visa.

Learn More About Student Visas