Applying for and Information About the F-1 Visa and Required Documentation
F-1 Student Immigration Documents
As an international student in the U.S., you have been issued several important documents. We encourage you to make photocopies of them in case they are lost or stolen. OIE will also keep copies of these documents in your file.
Your immigration documents:
- Valid, unexpired passport that does not expire within the next 6 months.
- F-1 student visa (a stamp or sticker in your passport that allows you to enter the U.S. for the purpose of studying.) (Canadian and Bermudian citizens: You are exempt from the visa requirement). It does not matter if your visa expires while you are in the U.S., but if you leave the country with an expired visa, you must get a new one in order to return to the U.S. *There is an exception to this rule for travel to Canada, Mexico and certain adjacent islands. For further detail see section below on Applying for Your F-1 visa.
The visa stamp is only used to enter the U.S. -- it does not have any bearing on your permission to remain in the U.S. You may apply for a new visa either in your home country or at one of several consular offices in Canada. Please note: a visa stamp cannot be renewed from inside the United States For further detail see section below on Applying for Your F-1 visa.
- I-20 form: This is the form issued to you by UVM which allows you to apply for an F-1 student visa. It is the document that allows you to remain in the U.S. for as long as you maintain F-1 student status (see below). You may not remain in the U.S. past the program end date on the I-20 form.
When you sign the I-20 form, you are swearing to the U.S. government that you have read and understood all the information on page two of the form.
Before leaving the country for a vacation or break, you must have your I-20 signed for travel by the International Student Coordinator. A signature is valid for 12 months, but we encourage you to have it signed every 9 months to be safe.
Keep all of your I-20 forms in a safe place. Do *not* throw any away, even if you receive a new one. The I-20 forms are proof of your immigration history. You will need to present copies of these forms to apply for certain immigration benefits (for example, an OPT work authorization).
- I-94 card: You fill out this card on the airplane prior to your arrival in the United States. When you enter the U.S., you will present it to immigration official who will stamp it. It should remain in your passport at all times. Do not lose it. If you do, you will need to pay a fee and apply for a new one with the help of your International Student Coordinator.
- D/S endorsement: When you arrive at the port of entry, an immigration official will inspect your documents and endorse your I-20 (top-right corner) and your I-94 card with "F-1; D/S". This means that you may remain in the U.S. for the "Duration of your Status" or for as long as you are maintaining legal student status, and you have a valid I-20. You should always check that your endorsement reads "D/S" and shows the proper visa category you are currently in. If it does not, please contact OIE immediately.
Documents required for visa applications
For detailed information about F-1 visas, please visit the State Department's website.
Non-immigrant visa applicants
Non-immigrant visa applicants are generally required to submit the following at the U.S. consulate abroad:
- Current passport-size photographs
- Valid SEVIS Form I-20 (what is SEVIS?)
- If you are applying for an F-1 visa as a new student, you will also need to provide a receipt of the I-901 SEVIS fee payment. The SEVIS fee is in addition to the visa application fee and can only be paid online. If you are a continuing student at UVM who is renewing the F-1 visa stamp, you do not need to pay the SEVIS again in most circumstances.
- Proof of financial support
- Proof of admission to program of study or appointment to program of research
- Proof of non-immigrant intent (evidenced by strong ties to home country; see below)
- Non-immigrant visa application forms, available from the U.S. consulate abroad, or online: Form DS-160
If you are requesting a renewal of your F-1 visa, it is also advisable for continuing students to submit copies of transcripts or an advisor's letter stating that you are making good progress toward your degree.
It is recommended that you check the website of your nearest U.S. Embassy to confirm application procedures.
Applying for an F-1 Visa
You must apply for your F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. You cannot apply from within the United States.
While you have the option of renewing or applying for your F-1 visa in Canada, it is recommended that you do not apply for a visa in a country of which you are not a citizen given the risks. The risks may seem small, but they are real and you should make an informed decision. If your visa application is denied in a "third country," you will be required to travel to your home country to re-apply for your F-1 visa without first returning to the United States.
Do you have dependents? Dependents (spouse and children) of F-1 students may enter the U.S. as F-2 visa holders. Learn more about F-2 visas.
Are you a Canadian student?
Canadian F-1 Students
Canadian citizens studying in the U.S. in F-1 status have different procedures to follow when entering. However, Canadian student are still required to comply with all F-1 regulations.
Canadians in F-1 status are not required to apply for an F-1 visa at an American Consulate or Embassy. Canadian students may enter the U.S. by presenting the I-20 form, evidence of Canadian citizenship, proof of admission to UVM, proof of payment of the SEVIS fee and evidence of financial support.
Canadian citizens MUST present their I-20 and apply for F-1 status at the border when entering the U.S. to begin their studies. It is very important that you not enter as a visitor if you are beginning your academic program. If the top copy of the I-20 is not stamped by the border official (in the upper right corner with the notation "F-1 D/S") and the student is not given an I-94 card that says F-1 D/S on it, then you must notify OIE immediately.
Proving Non-Immigrant Intent
F-1 visa applicants must be able to prove non-immigrant intent to the U.S. consular officer. This means that you need to be able to convince the consular officer that you will be returning to your home country at the end of your academic program. You can do this by showing evidence of strong family and economic ties to your home country. This is even more important if you are applying for a visa after you have graduated, and are working in the U.S. on post-graduation optional or academic practical training. For more information.
Visa Issuance Delays
Change to interview requirement: There have been recent changes to the interview requirement for certain U.S. visa applicants. Many more people will now be required to have a personal interview before a visa can be issued. Please allow at least one to two months for the visa application and for scheduling the interview at the Consulate, if required.
Security clearance delays: Current security clearance checks by the U.S. State Department can delay the visa application process for one to three months, or longer. You are less likely to be subject to a visa security check delay if you have received a U.S. visa in the last 12 months and were previously subject to a security check.
The U.S. Department of State has recommended that visa applicants whose field of study or research might be found on the Technology Alert List (T.A.L.) include in their visa application materials a resume and information about why their work does not have a military application. Contact your International Student Coordinator with any questions or concerns regarding the T.A.L.
Last modified January 19 2011 03:34 PM