Preparing For Your F-1 Visa Interview

This information is for individuals who plan to enter the United States for the first time to study. For information on bringing dependents to the U.S., returning to continue studies, or renewing your visa, or for more details on how to apply for a student visa, refer to the U.S. Department of State website.

1. Contact your local U.S. Consulate or Embassy to ask about how to get an F-1 international student visa.   A list of Consulates and Embassies can be found here.

2. After you receive your I-20 form from the school that you want to attend, follow the U.S. Embassy/Consulate’s instructions to schedule an interview for your F-1 student visa. It is important to apply for your student visa as far in advance as possible.  Many consulates recommend that appointments be made no more than 90 days from the intended date of travel, but some can make earlier arrangements for interviews.

3. Complete the following forms:

  • DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form;
  • DS-158 Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant; and,
  • If you are a male between the ages of 16 and 45, you must complete DS-157 Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application.

4. Pay the visa application fee by following instructions on your local U.S. embassy or consulate’s web site.

5. If your I-20 is marked for “initial” attendance (see #3 on your I-20 form), you will also need to pay the $200 SEVIS fee.

To Pay By Mail

  • Get a Form I-901 “Fee Remittance for Certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrants.”
  •       Download the form from here or
  •       Ask for the form by phone at 1-800-870-3676 (inside the US)
  • Complete the Form I-901. Be sure to write your name exactly how it appears on your I-20 form.
  • Prepare a check, international money order or foreign draft (drawn on US banks only1) in the amount of $200 USD, made payable to “The Department of Homeland Security”. 
  • Mail the completed I-901 and payment to the address listed on Form I-901. 
  • A Form I-797 receipt confirmation letter should be mailed within 3 business days of processing your fee payment. Be sure to make copies of this receipt letter, and keep it with your other important immigration documents.

To Pay Online

  • Find the Form I-901 at here
  • Complete the form online and supply the necessary Visa, MasterCard or American Express information.  *Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 form.
  • Print a copy of the online receipt.
  • Be sure to make copies of your receipt, and keep it with your other important immigration documents.

You must bring the receipt of fee payment with you to the interview.  If you have lost the receipt, the Visa Officer should be able to view your payment history in the SEVIS database.

6.  Prepare and bring to your visa interview the following:

  • A passport valid for at least six months
  • Form I-20 (sign the form under Item 11)
  • School admission letter
  • Completed visa applications (DS-160, DS-158, and, if applicable, DS-157)
  • Two 2”x 2” photographs in the prescribed format (see the travel.state.gov website at here).
  • A receipt for the visa application fee
  • A receipt for the SEVIS fee.  If you have not received an official receipt in the mail showing payment and you paid the fee electronically, the consulate will accept the temporary receipt you printed from your computer.  If you do not have a receipt, the consulate may be able to see your payment electronically if your fee payment was processed at least 3 business days before your interview.
  • Financial evidence that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period you intend to study.
  • Any information that proves that you will return to your home country after finishing your studies in the U.S.  This may include proof of property, family, or other ties to your community.

7.  Remain calm and answer all the Visa Officer’s questions to you openly and honestly.

PLEASE NOTE:  During the interview process do not volunteer any information to the Visa Officer.  Only answer honestly the questions that are given to you by the Visa Officer. 

Transferring the SEVIS FEE

The Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that fee payment made on one SEVIS ID number (i.e. I-20 form) can be applied to another SEVIS ID number issued to the same individual. The new student will need to bring in proof of the SEVIS ID number connected to the SEVIS fee – i.e. the unused I-20. Bring the I-20s of both the school for which you paid the fee and the school you will be attending, as well as your SEVIS fee payment receipt, to the consulate or port-of-entry (if you are applying for a visa, you should bring both of the I-20s back to the consulate).

If you have any questions, please contact Barbara Jackson or (601) 266-4841.

Many foreign banks are able to issue checks or money orders drawn on a U.S. bank. You may therefore obtain a check from:

  • a bank chartered or operated in the United States;
  • a foreign subsidiary of a U.S. bank, or
  • a foreign bank that has an arrangement with a U.S. bank to issue a check, money order, or foreign draft that is drawn on a U.S. bank