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Valid Passport and Obtaining a Student Visa
The United States Government requires that international students keep their passports valid for at least six months into the future. Please check the expiration date on your passport. If it is dated to expire earlier than six months into the future, your passport must be extended before you can apply for your student visa.
International students who study full-time in the United States need to obtain an F-1 (non-immigrant) Student Visa. After you submit a Certification of Finances and Affidavit of Support to the College Admissions Office, we will issue you a SEVIS-generated I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility). SEVIS is a U.S. Government Internet-based system that maintains data on international students before and during their stay in the United States.
You will need to bring the I-20 form, your passport, and the supporting documentation described below to the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate where you can apply and interview for an F-1 Visa.
Note: Visas cannot be issued more than 120 days before the actual start date of your degree program
Important Points To Remember When Applying For An F-1 Visa
- Applying: Schedule your visa interview appointment early, as soon as you are prepared and well in advance of your planned travel date. Be sure to complete the visa application correctly, and follow instructions carefully. When completing any forms, list your name as it appears in your passport.
- SEVIS fee and visa processing fees: You must pay the SEVIS fee at least three days prior to submitting your visa application. There may also be a non-refundable visa application processing fee. Be sure to document your proof of payment and bring it with you to your visa interview.
- Ties to your home country: You must be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. “Ties” to your home country are things that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence, such as a job, family, finances, investments, etc.
- English: The visa interview will be conducted in English. Be prepared to explain in English how your program of study will be useful to you in your home country.
- Speak for yourself: Do not bring parents or family members with you into the visa interview. The consular officer wants to interview YOU, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak for yourself.
- Know your academic program and how it fits your career plans: If you are not able to explain the reasons you will study a particular academic program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than immigrate. To demonstrate your academic commitment, you may wish to bring school transcripts, national examination or SAT/ACT results, or English language test scores, such as TOEFL and IELTS.
- Be concise: Because of the large number of visa applications, consular officers are under a lot of time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision in the first one or two minutes of the interview. Keep your answers short and to the point.
- Supporting documents: Be sure that any written documents you present are clear and easily understood by the consular officer. They may only have time to glance at the material and long written explanations cannot be quickly read and evaluated.
- Employment: Your main purpose of coming to the United States should be to study, NOT for the chance to work. You MUST be able to clearly explain your plan to return home at the end of your academic program.
- Stay positive!! Do not argue with the consular officer. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents that he or she would suggest you bring the next time in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.
Note: Do not enter the United States on a tourist visa or visitor’s visa hoping to change your status to a student visa after you arrive. This process could take up to 90 days and prevent you from registering for classes or moving in to the residence hall.
Staying In Status
Keep your passport valid at all times.
- Contact your embassy on what is required for a passport extension.
Do not work illegally.
- If you are not sure what is legal, ask the ISSS staff.
- You may also refer to the Working In the US portion of this website for more information.
Register as a full-time student.
You must be registered as a full-time student during the academic year (fall and spring semesters).
- Regis requires 12 credit hours each semester to be considered full-time.
- USCIS requires you to successfully complete a full-time course of study each semester. This does not include summer.
Apply for an extension of your current Form I-20 or DS-2019 at least 30 days before it expires.
- Students on F-1 visa should check item #5 of their Form I-20 for their expected graduation date.
- Students/scholars should check item #3 of their Form DS-2019 for their end date.
Keep the Registrar and ISS Office informed of your current local address.
- Your current local address must be where you sleep at night, here in the United States!
- Your permanent address in the Student Information System must be your address in your home country!
Make sure as a J-1 student/scholar, that you and your dependents have health insurance!!! This is very important, is a requirement and if your dependents do not have health insurance they can be deported and their DS-2019 could be canceled!
Reporting Degree Changes
USCIS requires that any degree change must be reflected within 10 days of the change. When there is a change, you will need a new I-20 to reflect it.
Please make sure that you get your I-20 signed for travel at least TWO WEEKS in advance of travel in order to be able to return to the United States.