Studying in the U.S. requires legal documents and planning ahead

There are a few good sources for you to learn about the process of applying for a student VISA and other necessary legal documents. Planning and following the necessary steps is important! Your school will help guide you through the process, but it is wise to learn as much as you can ahead of time to avoid surprises.

In this issue...

1. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Government
2. Admissions Office
3. International Student Office

1. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Government

-The Department of Homeland Security has a website to learn about SEVIS. You will need an acceptance letter from the college/university and an I-20 Form from that college/university to move forward in the process of obtaining a VISA. The college you plan to attend will send the I-20 to you once you commit to attending. It is important that the information on the I-20 form matches the information on your passport exactly - name (spelling), date of birth etc. After receiving the I-20 form, the next step will be SEVIS.  SEVIS is the Homeland Security database. You must register for this and pay the fee BEFORE obtaining a VISA. This can be done on-line and for most students costs $200.

Student Process - How to Navigate the U.S. Immigration System

SEVIS I-901 Fee

Each campus has a DSO - a designated school official that oversees the SEVIS status of each incoming international student. The school you plan to attend must be SEVP certified. To check if your school is on this list go to:

VISA information

- You will need to make an appointment with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country as part of the process. Information about this and wait times can be found here:  PLAN AHEAD!

From the Travel.State.Gov website: When Do I Need to Apply for My Student Visa?

  • 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 are prepared to do so.
  • Students should note that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue your student visa 120 days or less, 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.
  • Students are advised of the Department of Homeland Security regulation which requires that all initial or beginning students enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the course of study start/report date as shown on the Form I-20. Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to the U.S.

*These are credible sources of information and reliable.

2. Admissions Office

The admissions office at the college/university you are attending will also have VISA and SEVIS application information for you. Admissions offices at colleges/universities are the best source of information BEFORE you arrive on campus. They have admissions counselors who can answer specific questions you may have. Most colleges have admissions counselors assigned to work with international students. They are well versed in how to prepare for enrolling at the college/university of your choice. Many admissions offices employ international students who can also help to answer your questions.

To find the international admissions counselor at your college/university, go to the college's website and click on admissions. Look through the directory of the admissions staff and locate the international counselor's name and email address.

Note: Email the international admissions counselor with any questions - no question is too small.

3. International Student Office

 Most colleges/universities that enroll international students have an international student office on campus. This office is responsible for keeping records of your documents to make sure you maintain legal status while studying here. They are a good sources of information before and after your trip. Look for this office on the college website.


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