The EDP School Guide for International Students

The EDP School Guide
for International Students
Spring 2012
PREFACE………………………………………………………………………………………… 2
INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………………………………... 3
GETTING STUDENT STATUS ………………………………………………………………………… 6
AM I ELIGIBLE FOR F-1……………………………………………………………………………… 7
FORM I-134, AFFIDAVIT OF SUPPORT ……………………………………………………………… 9
APLLYING FOR AN F-1 VISA ……………………………………………………………………….. 11
CHANGING STATUS ………………………………………………………………………………… 12
YOUR SPOUSE & CHILDREN (F-2 STATUS)………………………………………………………… 16
STAYING LEGAL……………………………………………………………………………………..18
WORKING WHILE STUDYING ……………………………………………………………….19
TRAVELING ABROAD ………………………………………………………………………... 22
RENEWING YOUR VISA ………………………………………………………………………24
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COMPOSITION REQUIREMENTS ……………………………………………………………………..
………………………………………….………….. 32
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS …………………………………………….…………..33
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International students are an important part of our community. We have foreign student
advisors, also called Designated School Officials, DSOs, or Foreign Student Advisors, FSA’s
available to assist international students.
Our School offers English language programs as well as career programs. We prepared this
guide to help international students understand how they can study at EDP SCHOOL, how they can
maintain legal status while studying, what they need to travel and to explain the rules regarding how
international students may work in the United States. In response to the terror attacks of 9/11, the
U.S. government has implemented new reporting requirements and regulations. Knowing the law that
affects international students is very crucial.
As a prospective international student, your first step in learning about EDP SCHOOL is to
visit the school’s website at You can apply to EDP SCHOOL either online or
by requesting and returning an application. Once accepts you, an FSA will help you with the
necessary immigration paperwork.
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In response to the events of 9/11, the United States Bureau of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, ICE, implemented regulations to better monitor international students in the United
States. Those regulations included an internet-based tracking system, the Student and Exchange
Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS regulations require schools to regularly report to the
changes in a student’s academic standing, address and immigration student status. Among other
things, your FSA must now report to the ICE the following information:
Start date of the student’s next term or session
Student’s failure to enroll.
Student dropping below a full course of study without prior authorization by the DSO.
Any failure to maintain status or complete the program
Change of the student’s or dependents legal name or U.S. address.
Any disciplinary action taken by the school against the student as a result of the student
being convicted of a crime.
Student’s graduation prior to the program end date listed on the Form I-20
Within 21 days of a change in the name, U.S. address or curriculum of a school, an FSA must
update SEVIS with the current information
Within 30 days,
a. The FSA must report the failure of the student or exchange visitor to enroll or commence
b. Date of the alien’s enrollment in an approved institution or exchange program
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c. Program and field of study
d. Date of the termination of enrollment and the reason for termination
You can see that the SEVIS monitoring requirements and the other new regulations necessitate a high
degree of understanding and compliance by international students.
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Depending on where you live when you are applying for the F-1 visa, your application process
may consist of two or three steps.
If you are currently in the United States, here is the process:
1. Apply and be accepted to an approved school in the United States.
2. Apply to change your current status to student status (unless you want to leave the
country and apply for a visa at a consulate or embassy).
If you are currently outside the United States, here is the process:
1. Apply and be accepted to an approved school in the United States.
2. Apply for a student visa at the U.S. Embassy in your home country (or another country).
3. Use your student visa to enter the United States and obtain your status as a student.
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Getting accepted by the EDP SCHOOL
To study as an international student you must get F-1 student status. The first step is to get
accepted by a school, college or university accredited by the ICE to admit international students.
EDP SCHOOL campus has ICE accreditation.
Start by getting an application package. You can request an application by phone by calling
the EDP SCHOOL hotline, 718-332-6469 or online by visiting
With your application, you’ll need to submit an application fee, $100.00 U.S., as well as
photocopies of your educational credentials. You should immediately request that your school (and
any colleges or universities you may have attended) send the EDP SCHOOL an official transcript.
Your credentials will be evaluated to determine your admission eligibility.
On your admission application, you’ll be asked to designate the EDP SCHOOL as your school
of choice. You will be admitted to the school if you meet the admission requirements.
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To qualify for an F-1 visa, you must meet several criteria, as outlined in this section.
Requirements for Your F-1 Visa:
Before you apply for an F-1 visa, you should make sure that you meet the following requirements:
You must be coming to the United States as a full-time student. The government has
defined what full-time means for each type of educational program.
For training programs in fine arts, language, liberal arts, or other non-vocational
training, you must attend at least 18 hours of classroom time (or 22 hours
if most of your study takes place in a laboratory).
Primary or high school students must attend hours required by the specific school.
Your course of study should lead to the attainment of a specific educational objective.
Most commonly, this objective is a diploma or a certificate, but it could be a lesser,
targeted goal.
You must be enrolled at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-approved
school. For the approved list of schools, please refer to:
You must demonstrate evidence of financial support for the length of the time you will be
in the United States. You must show that you have enough funds to cover the first year of
your stay in the United States either from your own personal funds or from other sources
such as parents, family members, organizations, etc. If your support is coming from a
source other than you, that person should complete a Form I-134 as an assurance of
your financial stability during your time in the United States. For more information on
Form I-134, see section below.
When applying for a visa, you must show that you intend to leave the United States as
soon as you complete your studies.
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Proving You Can Support Yourself Without Working
Once you are accepted at the EDP SCHOOL, you must submit, to the school’s FSA or
admissions office, proof that you can support yourself and pay your tuition without working. While
F-1 international students can sometimes work, to get student status, you must prove you can study in
the United States without needing to work. If you don’t have enough of your own money, you may
use an Affidavit (sworn statement) of Support from a relative or close friend (as discussed in the
section above). The school’s FSA will advise you of how much financial support you will need.
If a family friend or distant relative will be supporting you, it’s best for that person to put the
money directly into your personal bank account. The Affidavit of Support may not be enough to
convince the USCIS or a consular officer that you deserve F-1 status. If your expenses will be
reduced by free Room and board, document that fact with a letter or affidavit from the person
providing the Room and board.
If you have the personal resources to pay for your own education, you don’t need an Affidavit
of Support. However, you’ll need to show that you can maintain yourself throughout your course of
study. You must present evidence of bank accounts, a trust, or similar income.
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Form I-134, Affidavit of Support
If there is any question regarding whether you will be able to support yourself while studying
in the United States, your ability to enter the country will be in jeopardy. For that reason, we
recommend that you have someone sponsor you and complete the Form I-134, Affidavit of
Support, even though it is not mandatory. The person filling out the form must be able to
demonstrate sufficient financial resources or income to ensure that you will not become a public
charge. To do so, the sponsor will not only need to complete this form but also need to include
documentary financial evidence, such as:
A statement from an officer of a bank or a financial institution with deposits, including
information about the date the sponsor opened the account, the total amount the sponsor
has deposited in the last year, and the present balance;
A statement from the sponsor’s employer on business letterhead including the date and
nature of the sponsor’s employment, the sponsor’s job title, the sponsor’s salary, and
whether the sponsor’s job is temporary or permanent; if the sponsor is self-employed, the
sponsor will need to provide a copy of the most recent tax return; or
A list containing the serial numbers, denominations, and record owner(s) of any stocks or
bonds: If your sponsor has any documents from a broker to substantiate these values,
include them.
Note that your sponsor can just estimate the value of personal property (such as cars, land,
jewelry, appliances, equipment, and the like) and does not have to include receipts to support this
For complete instructions on completing the Form I-134, visit
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Form I-20
Once your FSA is satisfied that you meet all requirements to study as an international student
he or she will issue form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - for
Academic and Language Students). The advisor uses the Student and Exchange Visitor Information
System, SEVIS to create the form I-20. As we discuss later, you will use this document to apply for
an F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate or, if you are in the United States in legal status, to change to F-1
international student status.
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Applying for an F-1 Visa
Prospective students abroad, already accepted to the EDP SCHOOL, should apply for an F-1
student visa at a U.S. consulate. You need to get a student visa also, in most cases, if you travel
abroad after having changed to F-1 student status from another nonimmigrant status.
Canadians and citizens of the Marshall Islands and Micronesia do not need F-1visas.
To get a nonimmigrant visa, you must apply at one of the Consulates maintained by the U.S.
Department of State all over the world. In Taiwan the application is made at the American Institute.
Usually, you must apply for your visa at a consulate in your home country. On rare occasions, you
can apply in another country.
Since 9/11, consular visa processing has slowed. Increased agency checks have led to delays
of 30 days or more in some countries. Make your application early. For more information, please
refer to Addendum A at the end of this document (APPLYING FOR AN F-1 VISA AT A U.S.
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Changing Status/Getting an F-1 Visa
Once your school’s FSA issues you form I-20, your next step is to apply for F-1 status. If you
entered the United States with a nonimmigrant visa and you are still in legal status, you may apply for
a change from your current status to F-1 status. You do this by filing USCIS form I-539, Application
to Extend / Change Nonimmigrant Status. You MAY NOT attend school in B-1/B-2 visitor status or
F-2 dependent status while waiting for the USCIS to consider your change to F-1 status. You must
wait until the USCIS approves your change of status before attending school. This rule applies only to
B-1/B-2 visitors and F-2 dependents. Other lawfully admitted non-immigrants MAY attend school
while waiting to hear on a change of status application.
Sometimes it is difficult for a B-1/B-2 visitor to change to F-1 student status. If you apply
within 60 days from the time you arrive in the United States, the USCIS may think that you hid your
plans to study in the United States, or might be trying to avoid the possible difficulties of applying for
a student visa at the U.S. consulate in your home country. Wherever you apply, it is wise to include
with the application for a change of status to F-1 student status, an explanation, in the form of an
affidavit, as to why the change is sought and why no F-1 visa application was made in your home
country. The affidavit should also explain why you are seeking to study in the U.S. If your desire to
study developed after you entered the United States, explain how that happened. If you have concrete
plans about how your education will benefit when you return to your home country, mention that as
You should NOT have a problem changing from B-1/B-2 status to student status if, at the time
you got your B-1/B-2 visa or at the time you entered the United States, a government official noted
“prospective student” or similar language on your passport or I-94 Arrival/Departure form.
You must submit your change of status application before your visitors’ status expires, unless
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you have a particularly good reason why you could not do that.
You file the Application to Change Nonimmigrant Status, form I-539, with supporting
documentation, at the USCIS regional office, Vermont Service Center, 75 Lower Welden St., Saint
Albans, Vermont 05479-0001.
Send the Application, Certified Mail/Return Receipt Requested.
Keep a copy for your records. With the form I-539, include a copy of both sides of your form I-94
(the arrival-departure document issued to a nonimmigrant entering the United States), and your
original form I-20, documentation showing that you can pay for your education without working and
the application filing fee.
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Proving Nonimmigrant Intent
To get an F-1 visa, you must prove that you intend to return to your home country when you
complete your studies, and that you have a residence abroad that you are not abandoning.
sometimes refer to this as proving “nonimmigrant intent.” Individuals from advanced industrial
countries rarely have problems with this issue. If you are from a developing country, if you have
previously violated immigration laws, or if you have had an immigrant visa petition, or labor
certification application filed on your behalf, a consular officer may think that you may want to enter
the U.S. as a student, but you have the intention of staying permanently in the United States.
If nonimmigrant intent is an issue, in your case, prepare to show the interviewing officer that
you have strong ties to your country of residence, such as family, community or social ties,
membership in organizations and religious groups, a family business, ownership of property, and
bank accounts. No one type of evidence is required. It is all your proof taken together that counts.
Presenting a Valid Passport
You must present a passport valid for at least six months when you make your visa
application. We recommended that you present a passport valid for as long as is allowed in your
country of citizenship. Canadians, and citizens of the Marshall Islands and Micronesia may enter
without a valid passport. If you cannot get a valid passport, or if your passport has expired, you may
get the passport requirement waived, but only in exceptional circumstances.
The Visa Application
If the consular officer denies your visa application, your right to appeal is limited, so go to
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your visa interview well prepared. Keep copies of any documents submitted to the consul in case a
problem develops. If your application is denied the copies will help if you later discuss the matter
with an attorney or FSA.
If you are concerned that you may be ineligible for a visa, speak to an
experienced immigration law expert before applying for a student visa.
Fighting a Visa Denial
If a consular officer denies your visa application, you should receive a written statement of the
basis for the officer’s decision. Sometimes you can ask the visa officer to reconsider the denial. For
instance, if the application was denied because you failed to show sufficient financial resources, you
may be able to return to the Consulate with additional financial information. If, however, the officer
insists on denying the application, it is very difficult to get the decision overturned.
You may seek an advisory opinion from the Department of State asking them to reverse the
decision of the consular officer, but that only rarely leads to a reversal of the officer’s decision.
Where the officer's decision is based on an issue of fact, such as whether the officer believes that you
are an intending immigrant, it is almost impossible to get an advisory opinion recommending that the
officer’s decision be reversed. If you can prove that the officer made an error interpreting the law, the
Department of State will sometimes reverse the officer's decision. To get an Advisory Opinion, write
to Advisory Opinions Division for Visa Services, United States Department of State, 2401 E Street,
NW, Washington, DC 20522-0113.
Your Spouse and Children
The spouse and unmarried children, under 21, of F-1 status holders are eligible for F-2 status.
F-2 status holders may not work, nor may they attend school full time. To get F-2 status, each family
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member needs his or her own I-20. An F-2 spouse or child may only attend school or college to take
occasional courses for recreational or vocational purposes. F-2 children may attend school from
Kindergarten to 12th grade.
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Staying Legal
To maintain F-1 student status, you must abide by certain rules and conditions. This includes
pursuing a full course of study, notifying your FSA when changing educational objectives, attending
the school designated on the I-20 used to obtain student status, not working without authorization,
and leaving the United States within 60 days after you graduate unless you continue your studies at
the same school, or different college or university, engage in authorized practical training (more on
practical training below), change to another nonimmigrant status or become a permanent resident. If
you fail to maintain status, you may be considered removable (deportable) by the ICE.
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As a foreign student, you may wish to work to gain experience, interact with U.S. businesses,
and supplement family support. Sometimes you need extra funds due to changed financial need, like
having a baby. Although you had to show that you could support yourself without working to obtain
an F-1 visa, U.S. immigration law provides several possibilities for employment while in F-1 status.
On-Campus Employment
As an F-1 student, you may work up to 20 hours a week while school is in session and up to
full-time during vacations and break periods. To work during school breaks, you must intend to
register for the next term.
On-campus employment means employment on the premises of the school or at an affiliated
off-site location. It means employment on campus of a type normally performed by students (i.e.
school laboratory). With off-campus locations for on-campus employment, the place of employment
must be associated or educationally affiliated with the school’s established curriculum. If you are an
F-1 student at EDP SCHOOL, work you do at the campus is considered on-campus employment.
As an F-1 student, you must hold a valid Form I-20 that allows you to work up to 20 hours a
week. Sometimes you’ll need a letter from your FSA to verify that you are currently registered and
maintaining F-1 status. The FSA’s verification letter will help you also to get a social security card.
Students who accept on-campus employment need not get an Employment Authorization Document
(EAD) from the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Off-Campus Co-Op Programs and Internships
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F-1 regulations call co-op (cooperative) training programs and internships “curricular practical
You can get curricular practical training, sometimes referred to as CPT, only by
participating in a work-study program that is a part of a degree requirement or regular course of
study. You cannot qualify for curricular practical training until you have been maintained continuous
F-1 status for one full academic year. The F-1 regulations provide an exception to this rule if you are
enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in curricular practical training. Note
that if you engage in curricular practical training for one full year, you will not be eligible for post
completion practical training.
You must receive authorization from your FSA before you can engage in curricular practical
Students who accept off-campus co-op program and internships need not get an
Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS.
Employment Authorization Based on Severe Economic Hardship
Where unforeseen circumstances lead to a change in your economic situation, you can obtain
permission to work off-campus in any job of your choosing. You can work 20 hours per week while
school is in session and full-time during vacation periods. To qualify, you must have completed one
academic year in F-1 status and be in good academic standing.
Examples of a change in circumstances include the loss of your financial aid or on-campus
employment through no fault of your own, an unexpected increase in your cost of living or tuition,
large medical expenses, a decrease in the value of currency from your country, or an economic loss
affecting your sponsor. Employment based on economic necessity is not deducted from time allowed
for post-completion practical training. You must apply and obtain an Employment Authorization
Document (EAD) from the USCIS before you can begin employment.
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Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)
You can work off campus in a field related to your studies if you work no more than 20 hours
a week while school is in session. You can work full-time during vacations and recess periods so long
as you intend to register for the next term. Time spent in pre-completion practical training will be
deducted from the 12 months of full-time employment available for post-completion practical
For example, if you work 20 hours per week for 6 months, you would have 3 months deducted
from the 12 months allowed you for post-completion practical training.
Post-Completion Optional Practical Training
As an F-1 student, you are entitled to up to 12 months of employment in your field. This postcompletion employment authorization is called by regulation “Optional Practical Training,” OPT.
As explained above, if you have received 12 months or more of full-time curricular practical training
while studying, you are ineligible for post-completion practical training. Time spent in precompletion practical training also is deducted from the 12-month maximum.
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With security tight at all U.S. ports of entry, you need to take particular care when traveling
abroad. Before you leave, check with your FSA to make sure you have (or will be able to get) all the
documents you will need to be readmitted to the United States.
1. Valid SEVIS Form I-20 with a signature from your foreign student advisor. The document
must have been issued no more than six months earlier than the time you will return to the United
2. Passport valid for at least six months beyond their anticipated return date.
3. Unexpired F-1 visa stamp in your passport. Note that Canadians do not need a visa to enter the
United States. In some circumstances, discussed below, you may travel to Canada, Mexico, and
islands adjacent to the United States for up to 30 days even if your visa has expired.
4. Evidence of financial support. See Proving You Can Support Yourself Without Working above.
5. Proof that you are enrolled at your School. That might be a transcript or letter from your
foreign student advisor.
If Your F-1 Visa Stamp Has Expired
If your F-1visa stamp has expired, to return to the United States after travel abroad, you will
need a new visa stamp in your passport. While U.S. consuls usually grant new visas to students who
have maintained status, there is no guarantee. If a U.S. consular officer refuses to issue you a new
visa, you may get stuck abroad.
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If on your form I-94, Arrival/Departure document the ICE has granted you the right to be in
the United States for Duration of Status usually indicated by D/S or, until the date on your form I-94
has not expired, you may travel to Canada, Mexico, and islands adjacent to the United States for up to
30 days. However, if you apply for a new visa while abroad and a U.S. consul denies your visa
application, you MAY NOT reenter the United States using your unexpired I-94.
If the time it takes for you to complete your study program exceeds the limits stated on the Form
I-20, you can extend your status or visa expiration date to allow you time to complete your
program, so long as you maintain your eligibility for student status and your DSO agrees.
Note that the date of expiration on your visa or your Form I-20 may not be the same. One may
expire before the other, so you may need to change either one or both. Your DSO can extend
your Form I-20. Be sure to request an extension well before the end date printed on your Form I20. You will have to request an extension of your visa from a consulate outside the United States.
If you leave the United States on an expired visa, you must have a new one issued to you at a
consulate before re-entering the United States. If you qualify, you might also be able to extend
your stay through visa revalidation. (See section 11.) However, if you do not leave the United
States, you do not need a valid visa, as your I-20 and I-94 control your immigration status while
you are in the United States.
Keep in mind that the DSO or consulate officer does not have to automatically extend your right
to study in the United States. They will consider whether you qualify for an extension. For
example, if you do not appear to be progressing toward your academic objectives, the DSO or
consulate might deny your request.
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Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if you have a valid
U.S. student visa in an expired passport, you may use it along with a new, valid passport for
travel and admission to the United States.
You may also be able to automatically revalidate your visa, meaning you can re-enter the United
States on an expired visa, so long as you have not applied for a new visa during your travel. To
qualify for automatic revalidation, you must meet the following requirements:
You must travel to a contiguous country (Canada or Mexico) or an adjacent island for
fewer than 30 days.
You must not be a national of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, or Sudan.
Otherwise, you will have to apply in person at a U.S. consulate or embassy. To find a consulate
or embassy, visit
While requirements for renewing your visa may differ, in general, you should be prepared to show
the following documentation:
Valid passport
Current passport-size photographs
Valid SEVIS Form I-20
Proof of financial support
Evidence of a permanent residence outside the United States
Nonimmigrant visa application confirmation (DS-160)
Transcripts from studies in the United States
Registration for the upcoming term of your academic program
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If you are currently a full-time student in good academic standing who wishes to transfer to a
different school, you must first confirm that your new school is SEVP-approved. Then you must
apply and be accepted at the new school. You next must notify the USCIS and the DSO of your
current school, as well as the DSO of the school you wish to transfer to, of your decision. Send a
letter to the DSO of the school you wish to transfer from, explaining that you are leaving. The
DSO will update your records and indicate a release date, which will be the date when your
current semester ends or the date of your expected transfer. The DSO must send a copy of this
letter together with Form I-20 and your I-20 ID to the DSO of your new school. You will then
need to obtain a new Form I-20 from your new school and report to the new school within 15
days of the program start date to enroll full time. Typically, your transfer will be denied only if
you have violated your student status. If you simply wish to change your course of studies but
remain in your school, no formal permission from the USCIS is required.
The information needed for the transfer-in school’s DSO:
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To apply for an F-1 visa at your local U.S. consulate or embassy, you will need to complete
certain government forms and gather documentation to support your application. You can
complete some of the forms at the consulate the same day you apply, but you must first complete
Form DS-160 online.
Required Forms and Documentation
Here is what you will have to submit to the embassy or consulate to complete your visa application:
Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application.
You will need to print the confirmation page you receive when you complete this
application, and bring it to your interview at the U.S. Embassy. For more information
on completing this form, see section below – Completing Form DS-160.
Form I-901, Fee Remittance for Certain F-, J- and M- non-immigrant visa applicants
You can complete this form online or hard copy. For more information on completing
this form, see section below – Instructions For Completing Form I-901.
Evidence of your academic qualifications to attend school in the United States, including
academic transcripts, diplomas, certificates, and any standardized test results:
If you do not have this documentation, then obtain letters from officials at the schools you
have attended, to describe your education and school performance.
If you are attending flight school, you will need to provide additional evidence
including the following:
*** A specific reason for seeking the training,
*** Your current employer and your job title,
*** The name of the person who is paying for your training, and your relationship to
that person,
*** Your most recent flight certifications and ratings,
*** The type of aircraft the training is for, signed by a U.S. school official,
*** Certified take-off weight of the aircraft type, also signed by a U.S. school official,
and if you are currently working as a pilot, your current rank or title.
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Evidence that you can support yourself or that someone else will be responsible for
supporting you while you study in the United States. In particular, you will need evidence
that you are able to afford the first year of tuition and other school expenses as shown on
Form SEVIS I-20, and that you are able to attend additional years of education
(as applicable) without needing to find a job. This information may include the following:
Bank statements: six monthly statements showing regular income and sufficient
resources to cover your tuition and expenses.
Evidence of your sources of income, such as paystubs.
Evidence of support from an immediate relative with that relative’s bank statements
showing sufficient funds to support you and records of present employment
The best evidence of a relative’s support is Form I-134, Affidavit of Support. Using
this form, your relative will need to demonstrate that you are not going to seek
employment or become a public charge. The purpose behind Form I-134 is to show
that someone in the United States will be responsible for you financially.
Note: The person who signs this form is not promising to support you. Rather, he or
she is promising to repay the U.S. government in the event you receive government
support during your stay.
You will also need to gather the following documents:
Certificate of Eligibility, Form SEVIS I-20.
A passport valid for travel to the United States, valid for at least six months.
One 2 x 2 inch photograph, submitted digitally with your Form DS-160: For more
information, see section – Photograph Requirements. You will also need a photograph for
your spouse or any children traveling with you.
Your long-form birth certificate.
Other evidence that you intend to return to your home country after your visit, such as:
Evidence of strong social or family ties to your home country
Evidence of ownership of property and/or alternative sources of income not reflected
in the letter from your employer
Letters from an employer intending to employ you upon your return
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Other documentation as required by the embassy or consulate where you are applying.
For more information, contact your embassy or consulate. Contact information is available
If relatives are traveling with you, then the following documents, as appropriate:
Long-form birth certificate for each relative accompanying you
Marriage certificate, if your spouse is coming with you
Copies of divorce or annulment records or copies of death certificates if you or your
spouse has been married before
Finally, you will need to pay up to three fees before your visa appointment:
The filing fee for Form I-901, Fee Remittance for Certain F, J and M Non-immigrants, is
currently $200. This fee is used to support SEVIS, the U.S. student-tracking database.
You will need to provide a receipt showing that you have paid this fee at your visa
A machine-readable visa (MRV) processing fee of $140
*** At your visa interview, you will need to provide a receipt showing that you have paid
this fee. (You will not be allowed to pay this fee at the interview.)
*** To determine how to pay this fee, visit your local consulate or embassy’s website. For
a list of consulates and embassies, visit
*** Be sure to confirm the amount of the fee on the State Department’s website,
A visa issuance fee.
*** If you receive the visa, you will need to check the Visa Reciprocity Tables, available
at, to determine whether
you must pay a fee.
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Completing Form DS-160.
All travelers seeking temporary admission to the United States to study using an F-1 visa must
complete the Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, which is available at
What You Need to Complete Form DS-160.
When you are ready to complete the Form DS-160, have the following documents available:
• Passport
• Travel itinerary (if you have already made travel arrangements)
• Dates of your last five visits to the United States, if you have traveled there previously
• Dates of your international travel for the last five years
• Résumé or curriculum vitae (you may need to supply information about your education
and work history)
All of your answers must be in English. However, you may provide your full name in your native
alphabet. If you need help understanding the questions, the application translates questions into
many languages and provides helpful tips that will appear in a language of your choosing.
Most questions on the DS-160 require an answer; if a question is not mandatory, it will be marked
optional and you can leave it blank. If a question does not apply to you, select does not apply.
After you enter the required information, you will electronically sign the form by clicking a button.
Signing the form certifies that you have read and understood the questions in the application and
that you have provided true and correct answers to the best of your knowledge.
If you cannot complete the application on your own, a third party can help you. If you use a third
party, you must identify that person in the application. If the applicant is under the age of sixteen,
the applicant’s parents, legal guardian, or custodian may complete and sign the form.
Saving Your Application
The government estimates that it will take approximately 75 minutes to complete this form.
However, it may take even longer. If you cannot complete the form in one sitting, you can save it
to complete at a later time. To return to the application, you must have your Application ID, which
is assigned when you begin the application. Keep your Application ID in a safe place. Once you
save an application online, you must complete it within 30 days. If you want to save your
document permanently, which you should do when you have finished the application, you can
save it to your computer by selecting Save Application to File.
The DS-160 webpage will expire, or time out, if you do not make any changes for 20 minutes. If
the system times out, you will lose all unsaved information. You can save the form by clicking
Save at the bottom center of the webpage.
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If you lose your Internet connection or if you receive an error, you will not lose your information.
The system automatically saves the information as you complete each page. To return to the
place where you left off, enter your Application ID number and answer the other security-related
questions that appear.
If you finish the application and go back to edit your work, be sure to click Save to record your
changes, and always use the system’s back and next buttons to navigate through your
application. Do not use your browser’s back or forward buttons, or you may lose your work.
Photograph Requirements.
Along with the Form DS-160, you will need to submit a picture with the application by uploading a
digital image file. You can either take a picture with a digital camera or scan a paper photograph
using a scanner. Both methods will produce a digital image, but using a digital camera is the best
way to ensure a quality result.
Composition Requirements.
To satisfy the Department of State, your photograph must meet the following requirements:
• The photograph must be in color.
• The photograph must be sized such that your head is between 1 inch and 1⅜ inches (22
mm and 35 mm) or 50% and 69% of the image's total height from the bottom of your chin
to the top of your head.
• Your eyes should be 1⅛ to 1⅜ inches (28 to 35 mm) from the bottom of the picture.
• The photograph must have been taken within the last six months to reflect your current
• The photograph must have been taken in front of a plain white or off-white background.
• The photograph must have been taken in full-face view, directly facing the camera.
• The photograph must have been taken with lights placed to avoid shadows on your face
or background; typically, the photographer should use three light sources (one on each
side of the person and one lighting the background).
• You must have a neutral facial expression and both of your eyes open.
• You must be wearing clothing that you normally wear on a daily basis:
*** Do not wear a uniform, except religious clothing that you wear daily.
*** Do not wear a hat or head covering that obscures your hair or hairline, unless you
wear it daily for a religious purpose. Your full face must be visible, and the head
covering must not cast any shadows on your face.
*** Do not wear any headphones, wireless hands-free devices, or similar items.
*** If you normally wear glasses (without tinted lenses), a hearing device, or similar
articles, you may wear them.
*** Glare on glasses is not acceptable. Avoid glare by tilting your glasses slightly
downward, by removing the glasses, or by turning off the camera’s flash.
*** Do not wear dark glasses or glasses with tinted lenses.
*** Do not enhance or alter the photo in any way.
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Digital Image Requirements.
Your photo must also meet certain digital requirements. If the image you supply is not suitable,
the system will not allow you to submit the photo. You may have to take another photo with a
digital camera or modify the format to meet the minimum technical requirements. These technical
requirements include the following:
• Dimensions: The image dimensions must be in a square aspect ratio (the height must be
equal to the width).
• Color: The image must be in color (24 bits per pixel) in sRGB color space. (This is the
common output for most digital cameras.)
• File format: The image must be in JPEG file format (.jpg file extension).
• File size: The image must be no more than 240 kilobytes (KB).
• Compression: To meet the size requirement, you may have to compress the file. The
compression ratio must be 20:1 or less.
If you want to scan an existing hard copy photo, the photo must be 2 x 2 inches (51 x 51 mm) and
scanned at a resolution of 300 pixels per inch (12 pixels per mm).
If you have trouble uploading a photo with your Form DS-160, then you will see an X where the
photo should be on your confirmation page. In this case, you will have to submit a hard copy
photograph to the embassy or consulate where you are applying for your visa. To learn more
about how to do this, you will need to contact your specific embassy or consulate.
For more information on photograph requirements to share with your photographer, or to use the
State Department’s tool to resize, rotate, crop, and save your digital photo yourself, visit
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Instructions For Completing Form I-901.
Before you complete Form I-901 online, you must have received a complete, accurate Form I-20.
If you have not yet received this form, contact your school.
Some schools will pay the SEVIS fee on your behalf. If you are responsible for this form and fee,
you can choose to send it by mail or complete it online.
If you proceed by mail, pay the fee using a check or money order (drawn on a U.S. bank and
payable in U.S. currency) payable to “I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee.” Write your
name and SEVIS identification number on the check. Send the completed form and fee to:
I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee
P.O. Box 970020
St. Louis, MO 63197-0020
Or, if you are using a courier service, send the form and your payment to:
I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee
1005 Convention Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63101
Alternatively, you can complete the form and pay online using a credit card at If you choose to complete the form online, here are a few words of
caution that will help you:
You should have a printer available to print the receipt for your payment of the application
fee. You cannot return to your application and print the receipt at a later time.
You do not have to pay the I-901 fee for any dependents or spouses who are
accompanying you on F-2 visas.
If you make a mistake, do not pay the fee again: e-mail [email protected], explain
the mistake, and wait for further instructions.
Do not use the back or forward buttons on your browser to navigate during your session:
use the navigation buttons available on each webpage instead.
If you access other websites with the same browser, or open a new browser window
while completing the form or payment, your session will end.
You will not be able to save or bookmark web pages for later access.
To check the status of your I-901 payment, click the “Check Status” button on the SEVIS
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1. My relative lives in the United States and wants to help me get a visa. Can my relative
file a visa application on my behalf?
No. You must qualify for and file for the nonimmigrant visa on your own.
2. Do I need a sponsor for an F-1 visa?
The answer depends on your financial circumstances. If you can support yourself for the first
year of your studies (and beyond) and have documentary evidence that you have the
financial resources to do so, then you will not need a sponsor. However, we recommend that
you obtain a sponsor, who should fill out Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, to show that he or
she will be able to support you financially while you visit the United States.
3. My visa is still valid, but my passport has expired. Am I still allowed to use the visa?
A visa is valid for the time stamped on the visa, even when the passport containing it is no
longer valid. As long as the visa is not damaged in any way (make sure that the passport
authority does not cancel it by perforating it) and you have not changed your nationality, you
can still use the visa. You will need to carry two passports: your current, unexpired passport,
as well as your expired passport that contains the still-valid U.S. visa. Make sure that the
spelling of your name and your date of birth are exactly the same in the old and new
passports. If there is even a slight difference, you may need to apply for a new visa.
4. How can I reschedule my visa interview?
You will need to contact the embassy or consulate where the interview is scheduled to
determine the appropriate procedure for rescheduling. Some locations require you to
reschedule online, and some require you to call. Be sure to reschedule with as much notice
as possible: some locations will not allow you to reschedule within one business day of your
interview. To find contact information for the appropriate consulate or embassy, visit
5. If my visa interview date or my travel dates to the U.S. change, do I need to fill out a
new DS-160?
No, you can still use the same DS-160 form even if your visa interview date or travel date
6. If I make mistakes while completing my DS-160, do I need to submit a new form?
The answer to this question depends on the type of error. If you made a minor spelling error,
you can explain the error at the interview without needing to complete a new form. If your
error is more significant, you will need to submit a new form. Because you will also receive a
confirmation number with a different barcode when you complete an updated application, you
should bring both confirmation sheets with you to your appointment.
7. Do I need to fill out a separate DS-160 form for my unmarried, minor children?
Yes, each person traveling must have an individual Form DS-160. After you complete the first
Form DS-160 for one of your family members, you will have the option to create a family
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application on the “Thank You” webpage. Click that option, which will automatically import
certain information into a new application.
8. My visa expires in ten years. What does this mean?
Your visa must be valid at the time you seek admission to the United States, but your visa’s
expiration date has no bearing on how long the Department of Homeland Security will allow
you to stay in the United States.
9. Can I travel outside the United States if I did not finish my studies in the United States?
Students on F-1 visas who have not completed their studies can travel outside the United
States, but only for five months or less. Please keep in mind that to keep your F-1 visa status,
you must be a full-time student. Make an appointment with your school’s DSO, who will assist
you with necessary forms, endorse your Form I-20 for re-entry, and will tell you whether your
travel plans are acceptable.
10. Do I need a re-entry signature on Form I-20 if I want to travel to another state?
International students only need a re-entry signature on their SEVIS I-20 page 3 if they are
traveling outside of the United States. If you live in one state and want to travel to another,
you do not need a re-entry signature. Just be sure to carry a government-issued photo
identification card, such as a driver’s license or a passport, in case you need to show
11. Can I stay in the United States if my visa has expired?
Yes. A visa is only an entry document, so if you are in the United States while you are a fulltime
student who is maintaining your F-1 status, you are not breaking any laws. However, if
you want to travel outside the United States while your visa is expired, then you will need to
renew your visa to come back to the United States to complete your studies.
12. What does D/S mean on my I-94?
D/S means duration of status: a D/S stamp allows you to stay in the United States as long as
it takes to complete your studies, so long as you do not violate your student status.
13. What is SEVIS?
SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. This system helps the
United States track, monitor, and access accurate and current information on nonimmigrant
students (F and M visa) and exchange visitors (J visa). SEVIS is a source of timely and
accurate information for educational institutions and government agencies whose task is to
assist and oversee the many international visitors pursuing their studies in the United States.
14. How long can I stay in the United States after I finish my OPT?
International students should leave the United States within 60 days after completion of their
OPT or start a new program of study.
15. How many OPT years can I work?
After completing your undergraduate studies, you are allowed to work on OPT for one year. If
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you decide to pursue a masters’ degree, then you will be allowed to work one year on OPT.
So in essence, you can work for 12 months after you finished your undergraduate degree and
another 12 months when you finish your graduate degree. If you then decide to get a second
masters’ degree, you will not be allowed to work a third year on OPT.
16. What will happen if I apply for OPT before completing my studies?
You will be permitted to work part time only until you complete your degree requirements.
17. Do I have to pay taxes for income I earn in the United States?
International students are exempt from paying social security unless they are present in the
United States for more than five years, but they must pay federal and state taxes, which will
be deducted from their paychecks. International students are also required to file their taxes
with the IRS. You should file your federal taxes by April 15 of each year. State tax filing
deadlines differ from state to state.
18. What is a Social Security Number (SSN)?
A Social Security Number is a unique nine-digit taxpayer identification number issued by the
U.S. Social Security Administration to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and qualified
foreign nationals—including F-1 students who meet the requirements. You can apply for this
card only if you have a valid employment authorization.
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