Applying for an F-1 Student Visa

First, the good news: the overwhelming majority of UWSP F-1 visa applicants are successful and receive their student visas. You will enhance your prospects for success by reviewing the suggestions below and keeping them in mind as you move through the visa application process.

Applying for an F-1 student visa to study at UWSP is a four-step process which begins with your application for admission to study at UWSP.

This first step includes completing the UWSP application form and submitting it—along with all required documentation and fees—to the UWSP International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO). Once your application file is complete, we will make an admission decision.

Upon admission to study at UWSP, the ISSO will express courier an admission letter and an I-20 Form to you. Your UWSP admission letter and I-20 are important documents: they tell both you and the U.S. Consular Officer who will review your visa application that you have satisfied UWSP’s admission requirements and been formally admitted to a program of study at UWSP.

Step two in the visa application process is to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. We strongly recommend you pay the SEVIS I-901 fee online using a credit card. Be sure to print at least 2 copies of the online receipt to show to Consulate staff during your interview and to keep with you when you travel.

To pay online have your passport, I-20, and a credit card available. Make certain your computer is connected to a printer. Go to http://www.fmjfee.com/ and follow the “Proceed to I-901 Form and Payment” link in the center of the page. More details about the fee, methods of paying it, processing times, and frequently asked questions can be found at: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm.

Step three is to schedule a visa interview at the nearest U.S. Consulate.

The U.S. Consulate will not issue an F-1 student visa more than 120 days before the program start date indicated at item #5 on page one of the I-20. You may be able to schedule an appointment before that 120 day period, but you will not get the visa approved until you are within 120 days of your start date. You also need to be aware that you may not enter the United States more than 45 days before the start date on the I-20, so make your travel arrangements with that 45 day period in mind.

If you wish to learn where U.S. Consulates are located, follow this link: http://usembassy.state.gov/.

Step four is the visa interview. While documentation requirements vary by Consulate, at a minimum you must present the following items at your visa interview:

 

1) Your I-20 Form
2) Your I-901 SEVIS fee receipt
3) A completed application Form DS-160
4) Your passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States
5) One passport photo. Check with the Consulate for photo requirements.
6) A receipt for payment of the visa application fee.

All applicants should be prepared to provide:

  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
  • Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, etc.;
  • Financial evidence which shows that you or those sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study.

F-1 student visa interviews are generally very brief. Avoid the temptation to prepare a monologue. U.S. Consular Officers around the world are consistent on this point: visa seekers *must* listen carefully to the questions posed and respond to those questions candidly. Unfortunately, many visa seekers memorize a script and insist on presenting their scripts regardless of the questions the Consular Officer poses. Preparing a script is a natural temptation...but one we strongly caution against. Be yourself, listen to the questions, and respond honestly and directly. Be confident: you have much to gain and contribute as a student sojourner in the U.S.

Most F-1 student visa denials are based on a lack of proof that you will return to your home country when you complete your education in the United States. You must never suggest that you want to live in the U.S. permanently or that you want to work here for many years after you graduate. Emphasize all your family ties, property, future jobs and ways that you will use your U.S. degree when you return home. The second reason you might be denied a visa is proof that your financial support will be there for the entire period of study in the U.S. Your chance to work while an F-1 student will typically be limited to part-time campus jobs, so you must show a strong funding source that will continue for as many years as you are a student.

The visa approval process may take several weeks due to security checks, so apply as early as possible and then travel in time to arrive at least one day in advance of the program start date listed on your I-20.