VISA process & Entry in the US
Once you have the admission letter and I-20, you may proceed with scheduling the visa appointment. Note: The admission letter will be mailed to you directly from either the academic department (graduate students) or the Office of Admissions (undergraduate students). ISS does not mail admission letters.
You should not schedule your visa appointment until after you receive the I-20. If you do so, you will need to cancel or reschedule your appointment if you do not receive the I-20 on time. Setting a visa appointment ahead of time will not be considered an urgent reason to speed up your I-20. We will treat all students equally throughout the I-20 process. Be sure to have all required documents in order before attending the visa appointment. For any questions directly related to the student visa application, please contact the United States Embassy or Consulate near you.
- Canadian students: are not required to obtain a visa but need to receive a stamp on the passport to verify F-1 status at the United States Port of Entry. Contact your local United States Embassy or Consulate for details.
- Visa Waiver students: those students from countries that a Visa Waiver agreement with the US do need to fill out an I-94 arrival/departure form for valid F-1 student status.
Processing a F-1 Student Visa
The United States embassies or consulates will not issue a visa more than 120 days before the start of your program (see item 5 on I-20). Consulates will allow you to apply prior to this, but may not issue your visa until the 120 day time frame occurs. You should make an appointment to obtain the visa as soon as you are eligible. There are two fees involved with obtaining a visa. One is the application fee for the F-1 visa and the other is the I-901 SEVIS Fee. Please keep in mind these are separate fees and you will need to pay both to apply for the visa. You will need a valid passport, admission letter, proof of funds, I-20 and the receipt for the I-901 (SEVIS Fee)*. Make sure your surname and given name match on all your documentation and that all other information is correct and up-to-date. You should be prepared to prove that you do not intend to immigrate. If you have ties to your home country, you will need to bring documentation to prove the ties, such as a letter to continue employment upon your return, documentation of economic, social and/or family ties to your homeland, and/or post graduation plans for the future in your homeland.
- If you need to reschedule an appointment for the visa, you must make a request prior to the date of the interview and show good cause for rescheduling.
- Use the I-20 for the school you will attend, because regardless of how many I-20s you are issued; only the I-20 used to obtain the visa will be activated.
* To obtain the I-901 receipt, you will need to pay the SEVIS Fee (I-901). This is a $200 fee that can be paid using one of three methods:
- Online with a credit card
- By mail with a check or money order
- At a Western Union
- To transfer a payment made on one SEVIS ID to another SEVIS ID
Arriving in the United States
If you are entering the United States on an initial I-20, you may not enter the United States more than 30 days before the start of your program. Be sure to check the Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA) website for current travel regulations.
Carry your admission letter, I-20, I-901 receipt, passport (valid for at least 6 months), proof of funds and visa with you. It would also be useful to have names and contacts for the University of Florida International Center and your department.
Make a full declaration using the Customs Declaration Form (obtained during your flight). If you are bringing more than $10,000 in cash, you must fill out a report with the customs official. Remember that certain articles are forbidden or restricted. Visit the Transportation Security Agency’s website for a list of prohibited items.
Upon entry into U.S. the Port of Entry (POE) official should stamp yout passport only, with the date, visa type and D/S (Duration of Status). The I-94 is transmitted electronically and should be retrieved at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.
If you have difficulty in retrieving your electronic I-94, please send a scanned coppy of your I-20, passport ID page and visa page with entry stamp to firstname.lastname@example.org.