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How to Apply for an F-1 Visa

The first step toward studying in the US is being accepted by a US academic institution. Only after you have been accepted by a SEVP-certified institution can you apply for a student visa. The school will issue you a Form I-20 enrollment document.

  • Students are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Students may apply for their visa as soon as they have been accepted by a SEVP-certified US institution.
  • Students should note that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue a student visa no more than 120 days in advance of the course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa more than 120 days prior to your start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa. Consular officials will use that extra time for application processing.
  • Initial or beginning students may enter the US no more than 30 days in advance of the course of study start/report date as shown on Form I-120. Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to the US.
  • A beginning student who wants an earlier entry into the US (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), must qualify for and obtain a visitor visa. A prospective student notation will be shown on his/her visitor visa, and the traveler will need to make the intent to study clear to the US immigration inspector at port of entry. Before beginning any studies, he/she must obtain approval for a change to Student or Exchange Visitor status, filing Form I-539, Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status and pay the fee. Also you must submit the required Form I-20 to the Department of Homeland Security office where the application is made. You may not begin your studies until the change of classification is approved.
  • Continuing students may apply for a new visa at any time, as long as they have been maintaining student status and their SEVIS records are current. Continuing students may also enter the US at any time before their classes start.