International Student Services

Obtaining an F-1 Visa

Once you have received a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status (INS Form I-20) to study at Lewis University, you need to obtain a visa to enter the United States.  The following are the steps you need to take in order to apply for an F-1 student visa to enter the U.S. as a student in F-1 immigration status.  

Read the I-20 you were sent

Step 1:  Carefully review the I-20 Lewis University Sent to you.  If all information is correct on the I-20, complete item 11 on pages 1 and 3.  If you have dependents (husband or wife, children under the age of 21) who will be traveling with you, their information must be printed on page 4 of the I-20.  If they will be traveling separately from you, they must have a separate I-20. (In some instances the U.S. Consulate may request that they be sent a separate I-20 even if they are traveling with you.)  

Passport Validity

Make sure your passport is valid.  In order to avoid possible problems applying for a visa or entering the U.S., your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you plan to enter the country.  If you are a Canadian citizen, you are not required to have a passport unless you are entering the U.S. from a country outside the Western Hemisphere.

Obtain a valid F-1 Visa

Please apply for an F-1 visa well in advance of your planned travel to the US as it can take as long as 4-8 weeks to obtain a nonimmigrant visa at some US Embassies and Consulates.  Certain countries may take longer.  Citizens of all countries except Canada are required to have F-1 visas to enter the U.S. to study.  If you have a valid F-1 visa in your passport, you will not need to obtain a new one.  To apply for a visa, you will need to submit the following documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate:

  1. Application for Nonimmigrant Visa (Form DS-156), which can be obtained from any U.S. Consulate

  2. Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-157), generally required of all male applicants between the ages of 16 and 45, which can be obtained from any U.S. Consulate

  3. Application fee (check with the Consulate for the fee amount and how it must be paid)

  4. One photograph (1½ inches square [37 x 37mm], showing full face, without head covering, against a light background)

  5. Passport

  6. Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status (INS Form I-20) from Lewis University

  7. Admission letter from Lewis University

  8. Original documents proving the availability of sufficient funds (the “Total” in item 7 on your Form I-20)

  9. Documents which demonstrate that you intend to return home after your studies (see explanation below)

Handling the Visa Interview

If you have a visa interview, it will be very short.  Make a good impression; be positive and respond to questions with clear, concise answers.  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.  If your spouse and children will remain in your country, be prepared to explain how they will support themselves without you sending them money from the U.S.

You may not need to do anything special to prove that you intend to return home (item 8 above).  It may be sufficient for you to say, 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.  You may need, however,  to prove that you have such strong ties to your country that will compel you will return there.  If you believe it is likely that you will need to prove this, please read the handout entitled Proving "Nonimmigrant Intent" for U.S. Visa Application Purposes.

If a visa application is denied, it is sometimes difficult to get the Consulate to change its decision.  For this reason, you need to obtain the best supporting documents you can before you apply.  If, despite your best efforts, your application is denied, ask the Consular officer to give you a written explanation of the reason.  Also, ask the officer for a list of documents you might bring back in order to address the reason for the denial.  If your visa is denied because you have not sufficiently proved your intent to return home, there is little Lewis University can do to help you.  The Consulate knows that we cannot speak with any authority about your intentions.  If your visa is denied for any other reason, please contact us and we will try to provide you with suggestions which may strengthen your next application.  

Additional Information

The International Student Services Office (ISS) is pleased to provide you with information, advice, and assistance on any visa or immigration matter which relates to your activities at Lewis University.  For more information on U.S. Embassies and Consulates, and on the visa application process, you may visit the U.S. Department of State Web site at http://travel.state.gov/.