1. What is an I-20 and how do I get it?
The Form I-20 is an official U.S. Government form, issued by a certified school, which a prospective nonimmigrant student must have in order to get an F-1 or M-1 visa. The Form I-20 acts as proof-of-acceptance and contains the information necessary to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee, apply for a visa or change visa status, and be admitted into the United States. The Form I-20 has the student’s SEVIS identification number, which starts with the letter N and is followed by nine digits, on the upper right-hand side directly above the barcode.
2. How early should I apply for my student visa?
You are encouraged to apply for your nonimmigrant student visa as soon as you have your I-20. To ensure you get an early and timely date you may apply at any time. However, a student visa may be issued no more than 120 days prior to the start date mentioned on your I-20.
The Consular Section provides expedited appointments in emergency cases as well as for applicants for student (F-1, J-1, and M-1) and temporary worker (H1, L, P) visas. To request an expedited appointment, the applicants mentioned above must first have an existing appointment made through our Online Appointment System and have filled out an electronic application form DS-160. They must then contact the Consular Section by email (Consularashgab@state.gov) and provide their personal and passport information, existing appointment time and application barcode in addition to a short summary explaining the urgency of their application. All email requests are processed in three business days.
3. I received my visa, when should I travel?
You may only enter the United States within 30 days of the beginning of the course of study stated on your I-20, regardless of when your visa was issued.
4. What if I receive an I-20 to a different school?
If you received an I-20 after scheduling your appointment, then you can inform the U.S. consular officer of the new I-20 at the time of the interview.
If you receive an I-20 to attend a school that is different from the school listed on your visa, we recommend applying for а new visa. The immigration inspector at the U.S. border can refuse admission if given an I-20 from a school other than the one named on the visa, or if the student indicates an intention to attend a different institution.
5. I was working as an H-1b and have now been admitted to a university as an F-1. Do I need to return to my country to apply for a student visa?
No. Once you are in the United States, you do not need to apply for a new visa because the visa is only for entry into the United States. Check with USCIS to determine if you need to adjust status. If you leave the country, however, you’ll need to apply for the student visa in order to re-enter the United States.
6. Can an F-1 student work in the United States?
Full-time students on F visas may seek on-campus employment not to exceed 20 hours per week. After the first year in student status, an applicant may apply for employment off campus with authorization from USCIS. Please contact your student advisor for further information.
7. What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) program requires schools and exchange programs to verify the enrollment status of all new and continuing foreign students and exchange visitors. Student visa applicants are required to pay a SEVIS fee before a visa can be issued. Applicants are then required to provide the SEVIS I-901 fee receipt as proof of payment. The SEVIS website has more details.
8. Can I take a part-time class while I am in the United States on the tourist visa?
Generally, you need a student visa to study in the United States. However, if your program of study does not confer a degree, you may take part-time classes—up to 18 hours of instruction per week—while in the U.S. on a tourist (B2) visa. Before your visa interview, ask your school for documentation to demonstrate that your program is permissible on a B2 tourist visa.
9. My child is studying in the United States. Can I go live with him/her?
While you can use your own B-1/B-2 visa (or travel under the Visa Waiver Program, if eligible) to visit your child, you may not live with your child unless you have your own immigrant, work, or student visa.