If you are citizen of a country other than the United States, you are required to get a student visa to study in the U.S. You will need to take your SMSU issued I-20 to the nearest US consulate to apply for your F-1 visa.
1) Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee
All students applying for an F1 Student Visa are required by our US Government to pay a $200 fee to cover the costs of administering and maintaining the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This fee will apply to any potential academic students who are initially issued a Form I-20. This $200 fee may be paid in one of the following ways:
- The fee may be paid by mail, by submitting Form I-901, together with a check or money order to our US Government that has been drawn on a U.S. bank and has been made payable in U.S. currency. (An application fee submitted from outside the United States may be made by an international money order or foreign draft drawn on a financial institution in the United States, and payable in U.S. Currency.) In other words, many foreign banks are able to issue checks or money orders drawn on a U.S. bank. The form you will need to pay the SEVIS Fee can be downloaded at Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Web site. Do not send the form and fee to SMSU, but rather the address provided on the downloadable form.
- The fee may be paid electronically, by completing the Form I-901 through the internet and using a credit card. Pay the SEVIS fee online. The Department of Homeland Security acknowledges that some people may experience difficulty making these payments. To reduce as many of these problems as possible, the Department of Homeland Security will accept fee payment from a third party, either in the United States or abroad, using the methods mentioned previously.
This fee payment does not need to be completed prior to scheduling an interview with the consulate, (or any other activities undertaken prior to the in-person application process at the embassy). However, the fee payment must be processed at least 3 days before you go for your visa interview. If the payment has not been processed more than 3 days prior to your visa interview, you will not be issued an F1 Visa. (Those submitting their payment via the internet will be able to print out a receipt and will be able to use that printed receipt for immediate verification of payment. Those submitting their fee by mail will be mailed a paper receipt to the address provided on the Form I-901)
Finally, prospective students who have paid the fee and were denied a visa will not have to pay another fee for the same visa classification for a period of 12 months.
2) Visa Interview
Once you have received the I-20 (Certification of Eligibility) from the Admissions Office, and paid your SEVIS fee an interview will be required before a visa can be issued. Check with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country for application procedures and supporting documents needed. Find the US Embassy location nearest you. You will be able to apply for your F1 visa 120 days before the start date on your I-20. If you get your Visa you cannot enter the US more than 30 days before the start of your academic program
3) Visa Interview Suggestion
- Make sure that when you go for your appointment, you are respectful and polite. Answers like: “Yes sir”/“No sir” or “Yes ma’am”/“No ma’am” will be appreciated by officers at the Embassy.
- Many times the officers will make their decision based on whether they feel your intent is to immigrate to the United States. If the officer believes that you will use your F1 status as a means to gain entry to the United States to seek permanent residency, your chances of being denied a VISA greatly increases. Any assurance you can provide indicating that you are coming to the U.S. for an education and that you intend to return to your home country will improve your chances of getting an F1 student VISA. The more you are able to indicate that you have deep economic, social, familial, and career connections to your country, the better your chances of being granted a Visa. Again, the more you can impress upon the officer that you intend to return, the better your chances of securing a VISA. Become very familiar with Southwest Minnesota State University! One problem that students have encountered is that they do not know enough about SMSU. You need to be able to answer questions such as: “Why did you choose SMSU?”, “What can you tell me about your academic program?” , “Where is SMSU? How many students attend?”, "Are you familiar with the weather in Minnesota?"
Please spend time on the website and become familiar with SMSU. BEFORE YOU CONTACT ME TO ASK QUESTIONS, PLEASE SPEND TIME STUDYING THE WEBSITE AND REVIEW WHAT IS EASILY ACCESSABLE.
- Be sure that you have all your financial documents up to date and meet the required amount of $16,850 USD. Be able to provide documentation that your sponsor has this amount sequestered in an account and it will be used solely for your education.
- Be sure you have paid the SEVIS 901 fee at least 3 days in advance of your interview. (Do NOT send the form or any money to Southwest Minnesota State University regarding the SEVIS fee. We will NOT process and this will delay your interview).
- Start the application process early. Interview appointment times fill up rapidly and you may not be able to secure an appointment if you wait until October or November to apply.
- Be sure your name is spelled exactly as it is on your passport in ALL of your papers – including your I-20.