Student Visa Information

Applying for a U.S. Visa (F-1 Students)

International students will typically obtain an F-1 student visa. An F-1 student is a non immigrant who is pursuing a full course of study at an academic institution in the United States. Once the educational objective has been attained, the F-1 student is expected by the U.S. government to return to his or her residence abroad.

You must receive a Form I-20 from Wheelock in order to apply for the F-1 visa. Wheelock will issue the Form I-20 only after the following documents have been received and accepted:

  • The completed application for admission including all supporting materials.
  • Tuition deposit
  • A clear photocopy of the student's passport from the home country. If a student has obtained a visa from another school, a clear photocopy of the student's previous visa is also required.
  • Certified evidence of financial support.

SEVIS

All international students must have a record in SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, which is maintained by the U.S. government. Wheelock will create this record after you have submitted the tuition deposit and all other required documentation. We will then issue the Form I-20, which you will need to take to an embassy or consulate to apply for the visa.

1. Read your SEVIS Form I-20

Your assigned SEVIS ID number is in the upper right corner of page 1 of the Form I-20. If any information on your SEVIS Form I-20 is incorrect, please contact Mary McCormack (mmccormack@wheelock.edu; 617-879-2267). If all of the information is correct, complete item 11 on page 1. 

Note: The spelling of your name and your date of birth must be exactly the same as reflected in your passport. If your name and/or date of birth on SEVIS Form I-20 are not exactly the same as the information that appears in your passport, please request that we issue you a corrected Form I-20. Please send a photocopy of the passport so that we can make sure that all information is consistent.

2. Make Sure Your Passport is Valid

In order to avoid possible problems applying for a visa or entering the U.S., it is recommended that your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you intend to remain in the U.S.

3. Pay the SEVIS Fee

You must obtain proof of payment of the $200 SEVIS fee. While regulations indicate that the fee should be paid a minimum of three (3) business days prior to your appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, we suggest that students pay the fee as soon as they receive the Form I-20. Please refer to the Student and Exchange Visitor website for more information: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm. The fee can be paid online at  www.fmjfee.com.

Note: The SEVIS fee is not required for students currently in the U.S. in valid F-1 immigration status. Similarly, the fee is not required from students transferring to a new school or changing to another degree program or level within five months from the completion of the previous F-1 program. However, students who have studied in the U.S. in F-1 status in the past, but have departed the U.S. for longer than a five month period or changed to another immigration status must pay a new SEVIS fee before commencing the new program regardless of whether the student will need a new F-1 visa. Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from the requirement to possess a visa to enter the U.S. but are still required to pay the SEVIS fee. Proof of SEVIS fee payment for these individuals will be verified at the U.S. port of entry before they are admitted to the United States in F-1 status.

You must have proof of payment in advance of applying for the visa or entering the U.S. We strongly recommend that you pay the fee online at www.fmjfee.com to secure an immediate receipt. All students who pay the SEVIS fee will receive a formal receipt that should be used as proof of fee payment. The receipt Form I-797 will be sent to the mailing address provided on the Form I-901. This receipt notice will take time to process and to arrive in the mail. It is strongly recommended that students retain the receipt with other important immigration documents.

4. Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain a valid F-1 visa

Citizens of all countries, except Canada, are required to have F-1 visas to enter the U.S. to study. You must contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to initiate your visa application. Most Consular Posts will process an application 120 days prior to the start date of the academic program listed on your SEVIS Form I-20. Please refer to the following U.S. Department of State (USDOS) website for more information: http://contact-us.state.gov/cgi-bin/state.cfg/php/end user/std_alp.php

To apply for a visa, you will need to submit the following documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate:

  1. Application for Non-immigrant Visa (Form DS-156) which can be obtained from any U.S. Consulate or downloaded from the following USDOS website: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/forms/forms_1342.html.
  2. Supplemental Non-immigrant Visa Application (Form DS-157), for all male applicants between the ages of 16 and 45, which can be obtained from any U.S. Consulate or downloaded from the following USDOS website: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/forms/forms_1342.html.
  3. Contact Information and Work History For Non-immigrant visa applicant (Form DS-158), which can be obtained from any U.S. Consulate or downloaded from the following USDOS website: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/forms/forms_1342.html.
  4. Application fee (check with the Consulate for the fee amount and how it must be paid or visit the following USDOS website at http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/fees/fees_1341.html).
  5. One photograph (2 inches square [51 x 51mm], showing full face, without head covering, against a light background). Refer to the Visa Application Instruction for more details.
  6. Your Passport.
  7. Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (F-1) Student Status (SEVIS Form I-20) from Wheelock College.
  8. Form I-797 Receipt or online proof of SEVIS Fee payment.
  9. Admission letter from Wheelock College.
  10. Original financial documents proving the availability of sufficient funds as reflected on your SEVIS Form I-20.
  11. Documents which demonstrate that you intend to return home after your studies (see explanation below).

All visa applicants are required to schedule an appointment for an interview. Please keep in mind that it may take a few weeks to schedule an appointment, so you should initiate your visa application as early as possible. Before your interview, practice answering questions in English about your visa application, your plans in the U.S., and your plans after you return home. Be positive and respond to questions with clear, concise answers during your interview.

You may not need to do anything special to prove that you intend to return home. It may be sufficient for you to explain, if asked, that you plan to return to your country to work, to continue your studies, or to do whatever you plan to do when you return home. However, you may be required to prove that you have such strong ties to your country that you will return there. For more information, please read the handout entitled Proving "Nonimmigrant Intent" for U.S. Visa Application Purposes and refer to the Visa Process Guide on the following USDOS website: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/visa-wizard.html.

Traveling and Applying for Admission to the U.S.

Once you have obtained your F-1 visa, you are ready to travel to the U.S. Immigration regulations allow you to enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days prior to the start of your program indicated in section 5 of your SEVIS Form I-20. You must carry with you the documents listed below. Place these documents in a folder or envelope that you will have with you at all times during your travel. During your trip to, or upon your arrival in, the U.S., you will be given a form called Arrival Record/Departure Record (Form I-94). Using a pen, print the information requested on this form, making certain to spell your name exactly as it is spelled in your passport. When you arrive in the U.S., you will apply for "admission" and an Immigration Inspector will examine your documents. You will need to present the following documents:

  • Form I-94.
  • Passport with valid F-1 visa.
  • SEVIS Form I-20.
  • Proof of SEVIS fee payment.

You will need to have the following documents ready to present, should the Inspector ask for them:

  • Admission letter from Wheelock College.
  • Original financial documents.
  • Documents which demonstrate your intent to return home.

The Immigration Inspector may ask you one or more questions. If you are asked about the funds that will pay for your studies, answer the question and offer to show the Inspector your financial documents. If you are asked about your "intentions," answer the question and offer to show the Inspector the documents that demonstrate your intent to return home. If you have the required documents and there are no more questions, the Inspector will "admit" you to the U.S. by processing your passport, your Form I-94, and your SEVIS Form I-20. When you leave the inspection area, make certain you have all your documents in your possession. Questions regarding obtaining a visa and gaining admission to the U.S. should be directed to Mary McCormack, Associate Vice President for Student Success (mmccormack@wheelock.edu; 617-879-2267).

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