Below is a guide to obtaining your F-1 or J-1 visa. Please follow the steps in the order they are listed below. If you are renewing an expired F-1 or J-1 visa, some of the steps below may no longer apply – it will depend on your circumstances and citizenship. You may contact us for assistance. We recommend beginning this process as early as possible once you know you will attend the University of Vermont so that you can avoid possibly delays to your studies. For some students, this process can take some time.

Receive I-20 or DS-2019


Complete DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application

Schedule and Prepare for Your Visa Interview

Attend Visa Interview


1. Obtain and Review Your Form I-20 or DS-2019

You will need an I-20 or DS-2019 to apply for your visa. The Form I-20 is for students applying for an F-1 Visa. The Form DS-2019 is for students applying for a J-1 visa - usually these are non-degree students. 

If you plan to attend UVM on an F-1 or J-1 status sponsored by the University of Vermont, this document will either be automatically issued for you (exchange students), or you must request it in iStart (undergraduate and graduate students). Students coming to UVM on a J-1 status sponsored by another organization such as ISEP or Fulbright will obtain their document from that organization directly.

Once you have received your document, read your I-20 or DS-2019 carefully to be sure the information listed there is correct. If everything looks correct, go on to the next step.

2. Payment of the SEVIS (I-901) Fee

Each new F-1 or J-1 student in the US must pay a SEVIS (I-901) fee.  You will show proof of payment to the US embassy or consulate when you apply for your visa.  Visit the Student and Exchange Visitor Program's website to learn about SEVIS fee (I-901) payment and to pay online.  Students who were born in and/or hold citizenship in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria or Gambia may not be eligible to pay the fee online and should follow separate instructions. All students should print a copy of their completed fee payment.

3. Complete the Form DS-160 online

Complete the Form DS-160 online to begin the visa application process. You will be asked which consulate or embassy you will apply to. If you are unsure, find the location closest to you at

  1. Upload photo -When completing the Form DS-160 you will upload a photo. Be sure your photo meets the photo requirements.
  2. Upload copies of required documents – The Form DS-160 will also require you to submit supporting documents. These should be high quality copies.
    • Passport: At the time you apply for your visa your passport must be valid for at least six months. If your passport will not be valid for six months after the date of your visa application you must first renew your passport.
    • Form I-20 or DS-2019 from University of Vermont (or in some cases your sponsoring organization)
      • Proof of Funding: You must prove to the visa officer that you have enough money to pay for your studies. Check your I-20 or DS-2019 for the total cost of attending. You can show the visa office any of the following documents, but be sure documents are written in English:
        1. Personal/Family Funds (i.e. bank statement and formal letter of support)
        2. Home government (i.e. letter of award/support)
        3. Sponsoring Agency (i.e. letter of award/support)
        4. University assistantship, fellowship, or scholarship (i.e. letter indicating amount and duration of award)
    • Proof of Temporary Stay (if available): The F-1 and J-1 student visas are non-immigrant visas. This means that you must do your best to prove that you are only coming to the US temporarily. If possible, try to include some documents to show that you will leave the US when you are done with your studies. This is hard since students generally do not own property, businesses, or homes. Talk to your family and see if they can provide some documents that might show you are only coming to the US temporarily. If you cannot provide any documents, do not worry. Explain your plans to the visa officer. If the officer asks any questions, be clear and honest about your plans.
  3. Pay the visa fee - After you have completed the Form DS-160 you will need to pay the visa fee. Usually you can pay this online after completing the DS-160.  Keep your receipt. While the DS-160 fee is standardized, US embassies and consulates in some countries charge an issuance fee as well. The US Department of State’s website will tell you if you will be subject to additional fees and current costs of the DS-160.

4. Schedule and Prepare for Your Interview

After you complete the Form DS-160, carefully read the instructions at the end of the Form DS-160 application process, these instructions will tell you how to schedule the interview.  When preparing for your visa interview be sure to bring the following documents:

  1. Nonimmigrant visa application confirmation page
  2. Proof of payment for the visa fee
  3. SEVIS fee receipt (Form I-901)
  4. Passport (valid for at least 6 months)
  5. Form I-20 or DS-2019 from University of Vermont (or in some cases your sponsoring organization)
  6. Proof of funding (bank statement, scholarship statement, etc.)
  7. Proof of temporary stay (if available)
  8. Acceptance letter to the University of Vermont (or to UVM's exchange program or ISEP's exchange program)
  9. Any other documents requested by the US embassy or consulate
  10. Any other documents you think may assist your visa application

5. Attend Your Visa Interview

Your interview will most likely be conducted in English. Since the primary purpose of the F-1 and J-1 visas is to study, you should be able to explain this in English. Always speak for yourself, do not bring friends or family, or mention what plans they may have for you.

Here are a few tips for your visa interview:

  • Answer all questions clearly but briefly – you do not need to tell your life story. 
  • Speak honestly, politely, and directly to the officer, also be sure to maintain a positive attitude.
  • Be ready to explain how your studies in the US fit your academic and career goals.
  • If you do not understand a question, politely ask the officer to repeat it.

6. Wait for Your F-1 or J-1 Visa

Check the US Department of State’s website for a list of visa wait times according to the US embassy or consulate where you applied. You will not be able to enter the US as a student until your visa has been approved and your passport has been returned to you. 

For some students, this processing will take a long time.  Occasionally, student must go through something called "administrative processing."  There is no way to know in advance if your application will need to go through administrative processing but it is more common for graduate students than undergraduate students.  Students selected for administrative processing are commonly asked to provide some or all of the following information after their visa interview:

  • Invitation - This could be an invitation, offer of admission or an enrollment verification letter from UVM.  For graduate students, this letter should be written by your supervisor or advisor and include details of your work and possible applications of your research
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV) - You should provide a detailed resume or CV including your professional and academic background and a brief list of all of your publications.  It should also have a brief description of your current position.
  • Supervisor's CV - Your supervisor or the principal investigator (PI) for your lab/research group should provide a detailed resume/CV, including his/her professional and academic background and a brief list of all publications.  It should also have a brief description of his/her current position.
  • Research - You should provide a complete and detailed description of your current and past research, and any research you intend to conduct in the US.  The description should include a description of the practical applications of your research or study.
  • Proof of Funding - How will you pay for your stay in the US?  If you have a graduate assistantship, you can provide a letter from your department with information about your assistantship and what it covers.  If you are using personal funding or have sponsorship from another organization, you should provide appropriate documentation (bank statements, sponsorship letter, etc).
  • Itinerary - You should provide your trip itinerary with contact information about where you will be staying in the US.  If you are a graduate student, provide the contact information for the professor who will be overseeing your studies.
  • Travelers - You should provide a list of the names of people coming with you to the US, including family members and colleagues.
  • Travel - For this, you should list the dates and location of all your international travel for the past ten years, including travel to the US.

If your visa application is delayed due to administrative processing, contact to discuss your timeline for arrival at UVM.