Obtaining an F-1 Visa
Visa processing procedures can vary, depending on the U.S. Consulate or Embassy, but all student visa applicants are typically given priority. Information about wait times for scheduling an interview and processing an application is available on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website. Please visit the main International Affairs website for the most up-to-date announcements and guidance related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Students without an Active SEVIS Record/I-20
SAIC will issue your form I-20 which you will use to apply for a visa. After you have receive your I-20 you must first pay the U.S. government Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-901 fee and receive a receipt. Payment may be made online.
Students with an Active SEVIS Record/I-20 with another U.S. Institution
First, contact your current institution to transfer your SEVIS record/I-20 to SAIC. Once your current insitution has released your SEVIS record, SAIC will issue you a transfer-in I-20. As a SEVIS transfer in student from another U.S. institution, you are exempt from having to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. Once you receive your transfer-in I-20 from SAIC, make an appointment at the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy if your current visa will be expired at the time you reenter the U.S. If you are currently in the U.S. and do not plan to travel, you do not need to apply for a new F-1 visa.
The Visa Interview
A personal interview with a consular officer is normally required and can last, on average, about three minutes. It is important that you provide proof of permanent residence and strong ties to your home country. Examples of evidence include a family business, family property, membership in a professional organization, or long-term employment that you expect to return to in your home country and may all be presented during the interview.
Tips for your Visa Interview
- Prepare for questions such as:
- Why do you want to study in the United States?
- Why did you choose SAIC?
- How will your degree be used in your home country, and what are your job prospects?
- How will you fund your education at SAIC?
You must be truthful and willing to answer direct questions; visa denials typically occur when students fail to prove they do not intend to immigrate to the United States.
If you are denied a visa you should receive written confirmation as to why you were denied. Denials are not permanent, and you may be reconsidered if you can show further convincing evidence. You are strongly advised to contact International Affairs for assistance if you are denied a visa. You should never enter the United States to begin a degree program in a visa status that does not permit study in a degree program, such as tourist (B-1/B-2) status.
International Affairs recommends that you seek out an EducationUSA office near you for predeparture orientation and visa application advising or find further details on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
Citizens of Canada and Bermuda
Citizens of Canada and Bermuda seeking entry as students do not need a visa stamp in their passport to enter the United States. You are exempt from the visa application process, although you are required to pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee. Payment must be made before you travel.
Present your I-20 Form (Certificate of Eligibility), along with your SEVIS I-901 fee receipt, evidence of adequate funding, and Canadian/Bermudian citizenship at the Port of Entry. You will not be issued a visa but will receive an I-94 Departure card, which with the I-20 gives you permission to stay in the United States. Compliance with all U.S. laws regarding entry applies as it does to all other nationalities. For further information on entry issues see the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
Permanent residents (Landed Immigrants) of Canada must apply for a nonimmigrant visa unless you hold a passport of a country that participates in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
B-1, B-2 Visa Holders
Admitted students in B-1, B-2 cannot enroll in a degree program at SAIC. Students in these categories may apply for a change of status, which may take several months. The quickest means of changing status is to leave the United States, apply for a student visa and re-enter in the new status. Contact International Affairs for details if this is your situation.
Students in Other Visa Status/Change to F-1 Status
Students with other visa statuses (A-2, E-2, L-2, H-4, etc., and undocumented students) are not required to request an I-20 from SAIC, unless you plan to apply for a change in immigration status.
If you would like to apply for a change of status to F-1 student, we recommend you make an appointment with an International Student Advisor. We will review the benefits of F-1 status and walk you through the application process, depending on your current immigration status and current USCIS regulations that govern change of status requests, we may refer you to an immigration attorney. You may also decide to retain an immigration attorney independently to apply for a change of status.