F-1 Visa

What is an F-1 Visa?

In many circumstances, a citizen of a foreign country must have a valid visa to enter the United States. Depending on the reason for entry, different types of visas are issued for either temporary stay or permanent residence. Students wishing to attend American International College (AIC) must apply for a temporary stay visa known as an F-1 visa.

An F-1 visa is used for the purposes of entry and reentry into the country. It does not dictate how long the applicant may remain in the United States. Therefore, an additional document, Form I-20, is used along with the visa and contains important details about the duration of stay for which the student is authorized.

How to Apply

An F-1 student visa is issued to international students who are attending an academic program or English Language Program at a US college or university.

Before you begin the visa application process, you must have the following documents:

  • Form I-20
    After you have been admitted to AIC and your deposit has been received, your I-20 is sent to you in the mail. Your I-20 is required when applying for an F-1 student visa at an American Embassy or Consulate and for entry into the United States. This I-20 has been produced by Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and is an acknowledgement that your record is in the SEVIS system. The form includes your SEVIS ID number, which is the number in the upper right hand corner above the bar code (usually starts with an N).
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt
    All new students coming in F-1 status must pay a SEVIS fee prior to applying for your visa. You can find instructions about paying the fee on the US Immigration and Customs Website.

Applying for your F-1 Student Visa

You must apply for your visa well in advance of your arrival as it can take several weeks or longer to obtain the student visa. To apply for a US visa, you will need to present the following documents at the US embassy or consulate nearest to you:

  • Your Form I-20
  • The SEVIS Fee receipt
  • A copy of your financial support documents, that includes evidence (like a bank statement) that you have sufficient funds to meet the expenses of studying at AIC
  • Your Admissions acceptance letter from AIC

In addition, the application for a US visa requires:

  • A valid passport
  • Passport-size photographs
  • Completed visa applications forms (Visa application forms are available on individual consular Web sites)
  • An application fee
  • An interview

There have been (and continue to be) changes in the visa application process and these changes are usually reflected on the consular Web sites. Click on the following links to find more information on:

Important Information

When applying for your F-1 student visa, pay careful attention to the following:

  • The US Department of State has instructed US consulates that they may issue an F-1 visa no more than 120 days in advance of the program start date. However, an application for an F-1 visa can be submitted more than 120 days in advance of the I-20 start date in order to accommodate long processing times. Again check the Web site of the consulate where you will apply for a visa for detailed instructions.
  • You must pay particular attention to the starting date noted on the I-20 document (Item #3), as you must enter the US by this date. If you cannot enter the US by this date, please get in touch with Office of International Student Life.
  • In addition, you may enter the US no more than 30 days prior to the starting date noted on the I-20 Form. If you try to enter the US more than 30 days before the start date on your I-20, you may not be permitted to enter the US.
  • The expiration date on your visa may not match the end date of your degree program. If your visa expires before you complete your degree program, you will apply for a new visa on your first trip outside the United States after your current visa expires.
  • If the US Consulate has any questions regarding your studies at AIC, please contact the Office for International Student Life. And if your visa application is delayed or denied for any reason, please email international.advisor@aic.edu immediately.

Visa Interview Tips

To improve your chances of being issued an F-1 Visa be prepared with the following for your interview:

  1. Academic Plans: Be ready to talk about your educational plans. Have a clear and definite plan.
  2. English: Be prepared to speak English during your interview.
  3. Homeland ties: You may be asked to discuss your ties to your home country and what you intend to do after your studies are complete.
  4. Proof of financial ability: Be prepared to prove financial ability to pay for your education and living expenses, especially for the first year. If you are bringing dependents/spouse, you will also need to demonstrate your ability to financially support them as well.
  5. Brief responses: Due to the volume of visa applications, your consular officer will likely appreciate you providing short but concise responses to the interview questions.
  6. Dependents: If you have dependents remaining in your home country while you study abroad, be prepared to discuss how they will support themselves in your absence. If you are the primary source of income, you may be requested to prove they will be financially set.

Maintaining Your Visa Status

You must:

  • Attend the school that is listed on your I-20 at the time of entry into the United States.
  • Pursue a full course of study (12 credits minimum for undergraduate).
  • Not accept off-campus employment of any kind without prior written permission from an International Student Life Advisor.
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