Student Visa

Application Process

Pay the SEVIS Fee

SEVIS is the database that U.S. Immigration Service uses to track all International Students studying in the United States. Most new students must pay the SEVIS fee before applying for an entry visa or entering the United States. This fee, SEVIS I-901 Fee, is assessed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is not administered by the University of Minnesota. 

For more information about SEVIS

Locate the Nearest U.S. Embassy or Consolate in Your Home Country

Embassy and consulate information is available online:

Schedule an Appointment for Your VISA Interview

Your local embassy or consulate will have specific instructions for scheduling an appointment. Keep in mind that waiting times for an appointment can be lengthy (up to several weeks or longer), especially during the busy summer months. Schedule your appointment as soon as possible after receiving your visa documents. Approximate visa wait times at consular locations can be found at the Department of State Web site.

Prepare Documents for Your VISA Interview

All visa applicants must provide the following documents to the U.S. embassy or consulate at the time of the application:

  • Valid passport
  • I-20 document
  • Documented proof of financial support for at least one year
  • Proof of SEVIS Fee payment (Receipt)
  • visa application forms (available from the US embassy/consulate)
  • Any other documents requested by your embassy/consulate

Practice for your VISA Interview

When applying for your non-immigrant visa, the United States Consular Officer interviewing you will assume that you plan to immigrate permanently to the U.S unless you prove otherwise. During the interview you will need to prove that you will only study temporarily in the U.S. and will return home after your studies are complete. Answer all questions truthfully but only provided information related to the question asked. Be prepared to answer confidently and clearly in English:

  • Your area of study;
  • Your reason for wanting to study in the United States;
  • Proof of sufficient funds and how your funds are able to cover all of your expenses for a minimum of one year;
  • Your good reasons for returning home after you complete your studies. You must be able to provide documentary evidence where possible of the strong ties you have to your country. It could include having all of your family in your country, having a job offer awaiting you when you return, or proof of property ownership. Other facts to emphasize are specific future educational, employment or career goals that will be carried out in your home country. Do not emphasize relatives who live or study in the U.S.
  • We recommend practicing your visa interview with a family member or friend!
  • Tips for a Successful Visa Interview

Canadian Citizens

Canadian citizens are eligible to enter the U.S. without obtaining an entry visa in their passport. However, Canadian citizens must obtain an I-20 and pay the SEVIS fee before entering the US. Upon entry, you must present to immigration your passport, I-20, proof of financial support for at least one year, and proof of SEVIS fee payment.


The Form I–20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status" is a government form that tells the United States (U.S.) government officials that you are eligible for F-1 Student Status. It certifies that you:

  • Are or expect to be a student at a U.S. educational institution;
  • Meet our admissions requirements;
  • Will pursue a full course of study;
  • Proved to us that you have the financial resources to study and live in the U.S. without working illegally or suffering from poverty.

You need a Form I–20 to obtain an F-1 student visa or status, or to keep lawful F-l status when transferring or changing schools within the U.S.

The Form I–20 is a legal document and must reflect accurate information. Changes in any of the categories listed below should be reported to ISP and a new I–20 should be requested.

  • name
  • country of citizenship
  • major
  • degree program
  • financial resources

I–20 Completion Date

Students are allowed to pursue full-time studies toward the completion of the program reflected on their I–20 up to that date. The date is reflected in item five on your I–20.

  • The completion date does not include the 12 months of Optional Practical Training employment a student may apply for based on completion of a program of study.
  • If a student completes the program of study prior to the completion date, the I–20 will automatically expire on the date the student completes their program of study. A student has an automatic grace period of 60 days upon the completion of studies to:
    • Depart the United States;
    • Gain admission to a new program of study;
    • Apply for a change of visa status.
  • Degree-seeking students unable to complete their program of study by the completion date must apply for a program extension with the International Student Program before the expiration date.
  • Students unable to complete their program of study by the completion date and who fail to extend their I–20 before it expires will violate legal status and overstay their visa.

Grace Period Eligibility

60-Day Grace Period: DHS regulations automatically provide a 60-day grace period for F-1 students who complete a program of study. The 60-day grace period should be calculated from the date of completion. Students authorized post-completion Optional Practical Training have a 60-day grace period beginning from the date Optional Practical Training employment expires. Students who do not complete a program of study are not eligible for a 60-day grace period.

15-Day Grace Period: Students who elect to discontinue their program of study are not eligible for a 60-day grace period. Prior approval from the International Student Program is required before a student cancels classes or discontinues the program at the end of a term. Based on obtaining the prior approval from the International Student Program, a student has a 15-day grace period in which to depart the U.S. Students are strongly encouraged to obtain the 15-day grace period approval to avoid problems in reentering the United States.


The Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document issued to nonimmigrant aliens at the time of lawful entry into the United States at an air or sea port of entry. The Form I-94 is evidence of a nonimmigrant’s term of admission and used to document legal status in the United States, including length of stay and departure.

While immigration inspectors no longer give a paper I-94 to nonimmigrants at air and sea ports, they still place an entry stamp in the nonimmigrant’s passport.  Nonimmigrants still must check the stamp to be certain that it shows the correct immigration classification (for example, “F-1” or “H-1B”) and date of expiration (“D/S” for “F” and “J” status).  Persons entering at land border posts and certain other persons will still receive paper I-94 cards.

Nonimmigrants, including international students, are able to print their own I-94 from a Homeland Security webpage after entering the U.S.

USCBP factsheet