Obtaining an F-1 Visa
After you have received your I-20 you may begin the visa application process. First, pay the U.S. government Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee and receive a receipt. Payment may be made online. If you are transferring your SEVIS record from another U.S. institution, you are exempt from the SEVIS fee. After paying the fee, you can make an appointment at the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
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.
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. Evidence of a family business, family property, membership in a professional organization, or long-term employment that you expect to return to in your home country 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 a student fails to prove that he/she does 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 in 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.
Canadian and Bermudian Citizens
Canadians and Bermudians 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 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, and F-2 Visa Holders
Admitted students in B-1, B-2 or F-2 immigration status 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.