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International Education Week
Step 4: Apply for Your Student Visa
November 21, 2019


Photo by Simon Fairhurst on Unsplash
Photo by Simon Fairhurst on Unsplash


Step 4Yesterday we talked about completing your university application. Congratulations! Now that you have been admitted to a U.S. university you will need to apply for a student visa.

Once you are ready to apply for your visa, visit: ustraveldocs.com/nz/ for information about the documents you need and how to apply.

Further information pertaining to visas and travel can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Study in the States.  The information below comes from these sites. Be sure to visit these sites for full details about the visa process.

You can watch this video to learn more about applying for your student visa:


The United States supports international education and welcomes foreign students and exchange visitors. You must have the appropriate visa to study in the United States. Before applying for a visa, students and exchange visitors must be accepted by their schools or program sponsors.

There are three types of study and exchange visas; F, M, and J.

  • The F and M categories are Student Visas
    • F visas are for study at University or college, or other academic institutions including language training programs
    • M visas are for Vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions
  • The J category is an Exchange Visitor Visa and includes students who are participating in an approved exchange program

Remember that only schools certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) can accept international students.

Once accepted into an SEVP-certified school, you will receive a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” from your designated school official (DSO). DSOs work at SEVP-certified schools and are there to help you understand and follow the rules for studying in the United States. It is important that you know who your DSO is and how to contact them.

The Form I-20 is an important document that you should keep safe, as you will need it throughout the international student process.

The following guidelines about the Form I-20 have been published by the Department of Homeland Security at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students-and-the-form-i-20:

Students and the Form I-20

All F and M students that study in the United States need a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.” Once accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school, international students will receive a Form I-20 from their designated school official (DSO).

You must also obtain a Form I-20 for any eligible dependents you plan to bring to the United States with you. However, please note that the name (i.e., Academic and Language students vs. Vocational Students) on the Form I-20 an SEVP-certified school issues you will dictate the type of student visa you may obtain from the U.S. Department of State and the status you will need to maintain in the United States. You and your DSO must both sign the Form I-20. If you are under age 18, your parents must sign the Form I-20 for you.

Form I-20 Uses

The Form I-20 is an important document that you should keep safe, as you will need it throughout the international student life cycle.

Paying the I-901 SEVIS Fee

Before you pay the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee, you must receive the Form I-20 from a DSO at the school you plan to attend. You will need information from the Form I-20 to pay the fee. The I-901 SEVIS Fee is mandatory and must be paid before you enter the United States.

In order to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee, all prospective F and M students will need to provide their:

  • Name, address, date of birth and email address.
  • Country of birth and country of citizenship.
  • School Code as listed on the Form I-20 “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status.”
  • SEVIS Identification Number as listed on the Form I-20.

Applying for a nonimmigrant visa

The Form I-20 lists your program start date, 30 days before which you are allowed to enter the United States. F-1 and M-1 student visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date. Your type of student visa must match the type of Form I-20 you have (e.g., F-1 or M-1). You are expected to have the original Form I-20 at your visa interview. The consular officer may accept a copy of the Form I-20 in limited circumstances that warrant visa issuance prior to you receiving the original Form I-20.

Entering the United States

You are expected to have the original Form I-20 with ink signature on hand as you enter the country. Do not pack it away in your suitcase. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will instruct you to present your Form I-20 at the port of entry. You may arrive up to 30 days before the start date listed on your Form I-20;

For additional information or if you have further questions, please refer to: