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Student Visas

What are the basic requirements for acquiring a F-1 Student Visa?

The student must:

  1. Prove they have been accepted by a school for a certificate or a degree course
  2. Have sufficient English skills to complete their studies or show that the school will provide them with adequate English language training
  3. Show evidence that they have enough money to pay for their school fees and all living expenses without having to work
  4. Show that they will return to their own country once they have completed their studies

What documents do I need to become familiar with?

  1. I-20 FORM: International applicants must apply and be admitted into a CSUDH academic program before receiving a USCIS SEVIS I-20 Form. Once you are admitted officially into your major with all the necessary documents required by the U.S. government, we will issue a I-20 form and mail it to you or your family in the U.S. (we normally issue the I-20 form the same day the student is officially admitted). The U.S. government requires that a $200 non-refundable SEVIS registration fee be paid on-line once you receive your I-20 form. You will use the I-20 form in acquiring your F-1 Student Visa at U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country. Once you arrive in the United States of America you will need to present your I-20 form to the U.S. Customs officer. He/she will stamp your I-20, remove a portion of it and return pages to you. Page 2 will become your I-20 identification. Please do not throw away your I-20 identification since you will need it throughout your stay at CSUDH. For more information on the F-1 student visa visit the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services website.
  2. PASSPORT: At all times in the U.S. and when traveling outside of the U.S., you must maintain a passport which is valid for at least six months.
  3. VISA: Secured outside the U.S. in order to gain entry, the visa is placed within your passport. It is only a border crossing permit used for single or multiple entries into the U.S. The expiration date indicated on the visa means that you must enter the U.S. prior to this date. However, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. (even if the visa stamp has expired) as long as you remain in legal status and your I-94 number is valid. If your I-94 number has "D/S" (Duration of Status) written on it you will be allowed to stay in the U.S. in full-time student status until you complete your studies (as stated on your I-20).
  4. I-94 CARD: This is the white arrival-departure card which you fill out as you enter the United States. This card records your entry date to the U.S., indicates the type of visa you have, and provides the date by which you must leave the U.S. If the I-94 in marked with a "D/S" when you pass through the U.S. Custom, this means "Duration of Status" and you may remain in the U.S. as long as you are in legal student status. The I-94 will be stapled in your passport. Please be careful not to lose or misplace your I-94 as it may be needed during your stay at CSUDH and the U.S. Immigration Service charges a substantial fee to replace it. It is necessary that you bring your passport, I-20, and I-94 to the International Student Services office in order to register. Copies will be made and kept in your file in case your forms are lost or stolen.

What are the procedures for applying for a F-1 Student Visa?

  1. Upon being admitted to CSUDH, you will be sent an I-20 form by the university. The I-20 form verifies your eligibility for an F-1 Student Visa.
  2. To obtain your F-1 Visa you must then take your CSUDH-issued I-20 and passport to an American Consulate or Embassy in your country to make an appointment for an interview and ask for an application form. You should plan early, since there may be a waiting period of a few weeks between your appointment and going to the interview. Visit the EmbassyWorld website to find the U.S. embassy closest to you.
  3. For students who are applying for a student visa for the first time or have been absent from the U.S. for more than 5 months, a SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) payment of $100 is required after you receive your I-20 form and before you schedule an interview at the U.S. Consulate for your visa. Check with the U.S. consulate in your home country for required documents and procedures for your interview.
  4. When you appear for the actual interview, you should bring with you your passport, the visa application form, one 1.5 inch photo, the SEVIS I-20 Form issued by the school that accepted you, originals and photocopies of your financial support documents, and your examination and school results. Check with the U.S. consulate for what is required for the interview. You cannot make your travel arrangements until you have been issued your visa so the earlier you handle this task the better.
  5. You will be required to have an interview, in English, with a visa officer. Questions that the visa officer may ask you include:
    • "Why do you want to study in the United States of America?"
    • "What kind of subjects do you want to study?"
    • "What are your plans after you graduate?"
  6. Do not over-rehearse your interview, and be sure to listen carefully to the questions the visa officer asks.
  7. You will find out at the end of the interview whether or not your application has been approved. If you are granted the visa, you will have to return a few days later to pick up your passport, which will have the photo-copies of your financial documents attached. You will need these when you enter the U.S. The name of your school will be written on your visa.
  8. If you decide to attend a different school, you must re-apply for a new visa.
  9. If your application is denied, your passport will be stamped "application received," and you will not be able to apply again for three weeks. You should ask the visa officer for the specific reason why you were denied. You may apply again only if you have new evidence to support your application.
  10. For more information on applying for a F-1 Student Visa, visit the U.S Department of State website.

How can I prove that I have been accepted to study at an American university?

You will receive an acceptance letter and a SEVIS I-20 Form. These are documents you will need to show the U.S. Consulate to prove that you have been accepted by a school. If you receive an I-20 Form from a school that you do not plan to attend, you should return the form to that school.

How can I show that I have sufficient financial resources to pay for my studies?

  • You need to prove that you have enough money available to pay for the first year of your studies and living expenses. You will also need to show evidence that you will continue to be able to pay for the remaining period of study in the U.S. The amount that you will need, including tuition and living costs, is shown on the I-20 Form (see sections 7 & 8 on your I-20 Form).
  • Any document which proves that you have sufficient funds in U.S. dollars can be used to support your visa application. Students most often use their sponsor's bank passbooks, showing savings, fixed deposits, etc.
  • As evidence that funds will continue to be available after the first year, the visa officer would like to see your own, or your sponsor's, financial statements for the past three years, indicating that there has been a steady income.
  • Ideally, someone in your immediate family will act as your sponsor. It is possible for someone else, such as a close family friend, to sponsor you, but the visa officer would want a clear explanation, preferably in writing, why this person is willing to sponsor you for the duration of your study in the U.S. See the Future Student's website for more information on Financial Certification and Costs.

What documentation will I need when I travel to the U.S.?

When you travel to the U.S., you will need the following documentation and information:

  1. Your passport
  2. Your visa
  3. I-20 form
  4. I-94 form
  5. Confirmation of SEVIS payment
  6. Letter of admission
  7. All international visitors and students go through U.S.-Visit Program where a scanned fingerprint and digital photo is required.
  8. You cannot enter until 30 days before the date on your I-20 form
  9. You must register at the school that is listed on the I-20 form

How can I prove that I return to my home country when I finish my studies in the U.S.?

When you apply for your student visa, the visa officer will look for three things which "tie" you to your home country:

  1. Your social ties may be called into questions if you have spent a long period of time away from your country, for example, if you have been studying in another country.
  2. The visa officer may ask about your family ties if you have several relatives living abroad.
  3. You should be able to prove strong economic ties if your family has a business or own property in your home country.

How long is the visa valid?

The visa is valid for at least the period specified on the I-20 Form. Normally, a visa will be valid for three years. If any question may arise about your visa length, you should make sure to explain to the visa officer that your I-20 Form is from a 4-year university.

Carefully read your SEVIS I-20 Form!

Carefully read all the pages attached to your I-20 Form (especially page 2). Sign, print your name and date the bottom of page 1 and page 3.


If you have any questions, just contact us. We are happy to help.