Student Visa Information

Immigration Requirements for Entry to the U.S. Visa (F-1 Students)

Questions regarding obtaining a visa and gaining admission to the U.S. should be directed to Mary McCormack, Dean of Student Success (mmccormack@wheelock.edu).

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 SEVIS 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.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here are the steps you need to take in order to pay the SEVIS fee, apply for an F-1 student visa, if necessary, and to enter the U.S. as a student in F-1 immigration status.

Step 1: Read your enclosed SEVIS Form I-20
Your SEVIS Form I-20 indicates that we have created a record for you in the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Your assigned SEVIS ID number is in the upper right corner of page 1 of your SEVIS Form I-20. If any information on your SEVIS Form I-20 is incorrect, please contact Mary McCormack immediately. If all of the information is correct, complete item 11 on page 1—use BLUE INK. 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.

Step 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.

Step 3: Pay the SEVIS Fee
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) require proof of payment of the SEVIS fee before issuing a visa or approving any benefits of status. This fee must be paid by new F-1 students with "initial attendance" I-20s who are beginning an academic program in the U.S. in F-1 status. We recommend that students pay the fee as soon as they receive the Form I-20 to allow sufficient time for DHS to update the fee payment in the student's electronic SEVIS record. Please refer to the Student and Exchange Visitor website: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm

You must also pay the SEVIS Fee if:

  • You have studied in F-1 status in the past, but are entering the U.S. on a new SEVIS record number.
  • You have studied in F-1 status in the past, but have since changed to another immigration status, and are now changing back to F-1 status.
  • You are a Canadian citizen. While Canadian citizens do not have to apply for a visa, they must still pay the SEVIS fee.

You do not have to pay the SEVIS Fee if:

  • You are an F-2 dependent.
  • You are an F-1 student who is currently in the U.S. under valid F-1 immigration status.
  • You are an F-1 student who is transferring to a new school or changing degree program or level using the same SEVIS record number.
  • You will be required to show proof of your SEVIS fee payment at both your visa interview and when entering a U.S. port of entry.

The SEVIS fee must be paid to DHS prior to your visa appointment or U.S. entry through the following methods only:

  • Over the Internet with an electronic application form (Form I-901) and a credit card.
  • By mailing a paper application with a check or bank draft drawn in U.S. dollars to a processing center in the U.S.
  • By making a payment at a participating Western Union in your area.

To pay the SEVIS fee online, log onto the FMJ website (http://fmjfee.com) and follow the instructions for completing the Form I-901. If you are unable to pay the fee online by credit card, be sure to indicate your method of payment and follow any additional instructions for paying the fee by check or Western Union. Student should print their payment confirmations from the FMJFEE website (http://fmjfee.com). Students should retain the printed fee receipt along with other immigration documents to use as needed.

Step 4: Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain a valid F-1 visa
Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain an F-1 visa to enter the U.S. to study. However, citizens of all other countries must be in possession of an F-1 visa to enter the U.S. You must initiate the visa application process with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It is strongly recommended that you review the website of the specific consular post to learn about their visa application procedures, documentary requirements and deadlines. Most consular posts will process a visa application 120 days prior to the start date of the academic program listed on your SEVIS Form I-20. All first-time applicants for an F-1 visa 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 after receiving your SEVIS Form I-20. Visit www.usembassy.gov for a list of embassies and consulates.

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) website offers information and list of required documents for the visa application: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/study-exchange/student.html

In addition to the documents listed on the U.S. DOS website, you will also need to be ready to submit the following documents:

  • Admission letter from Wheelock College
  • Original financial documents proving the availability of sufficient funds as reflected on your SEVIS Form I-20

Please bear in mind that there are special procedures for citizens of Cuba, Syria, Sudan, and Iran to apply for a U.S. visa. Please refer to the following USDOS website for more information: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/section-306.html.

Proving Nonimmigrant Intent

The consular officer will determine whether you intend to enter the U.S. temporarily for study, or whether they believe you plan to immigrate permanently to the U.S. In order to prove your "nonimmigrant intent" you must show "strong ties to a home abroad which you do not intend to abandon." Consider the questions below to help assess if you may have difficulty with this point of eligibility:

  • Is it difficult to obtain an U.S. visa in your country?
  • Are a significant percentage of F-1 visa applications in your country denied by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate?
  • Are any members of your immediate family U.S. citizens or permanent residents? Are any members of your immediate family living in the U.S.?
  • Are you married, and applying for F-2 visas for your spouse or children?
  • Will this be your first trip to the U.S.?
  • Have you recently finished one activity in the U.S. and will now begin a new activity?
  • Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of the questions above, it may be more likely that you will need to provide additional documentation to support your intent to return home after your activities in the U.S.

Possible Complications in the Visa Application Process

For citizens of select countries, or those students entering certain prospective fields of study, the consular officer may decide to process your application through a "security clearance" before granting the visa. Security clearances may take more than a month to process, so it is important to apply for your F-1 visa in case you are put through this process. Once the visa application has been sent for security clearance, the student must simply wait until the consular post approves the visa.

In the unlikely event that your visa application is denied, it is difficult to get the Consulate to change its decision. Therefore, it is important that you arrive at your appointment prepared with complete supporting documentation. If your visa application is denied, the ISSO recommends that you ask the Consulate for a written explanation of the denial reason. Please contact the ISSO immediately so that we may help you strategize how to strengthen your chances and your documentation in a second visa application. For more information on steps to take after a visa denial, please visit the DOS website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/denials/denials_1361.html.

Step 5: Travel to the U.S. and Arrival
It is important that you keep your passport, your I-20, proof of SEVIS payment, original financial documents, and your Wheelock College admission letter in your immediate possession when you travel to the U.S. When you arrive in the U.S., you will apply for "admission" at the U.S. Port of Entry, and an immigration officer will examine all of your documents. The immigration officer may ask you a few questions. If you are asked about funding, answer the question and offer to show the officer your financial documents. If you are asked about your "intentions," explain your plan to study and offer to show the officer the documents that demonstrate your intent to study while in the U.S. and any documents you may have that help demonstrate your intent to return home after you finish your studies.

If you have the required documents and have answered all questions, the officer will officially "admit" you to the U.S. and will stamp your passport indicating the date of entry and immigration status you have been granted. When you leave the inspection area, make certain you have the following documents in your possession: (1) passport, (2) the SEVIS Form I-20and (3) all supporting financial documents. Verify that the U.S. Entry Stamp in your passport is clear and indicates F-1 and D/S (Duration of Status).

Visit the Study in the States website for more information: http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students/get-ready-to-go.

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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