Here’s Everything You Need To Know About The ‘Student Visa Process’ Before Flying To The US!



Your arrival as an F – 1 student in the U. S. will be smoother if you know what to expect. The department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has prepared the following guide to ensure the quality of your experience.

Through its “Student and Exchange Visitor Program” (SEVP), the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is committed to facilitating your stay in the U.S. as you enjoy our nation’s, academic, educational, and cultural offerings.

To enhance security without slowing legitimate travel, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has instituted some changes in U.S. entry and exit procedures. Careful planning and preparation by international students can ensure that any delay based on these procedures is minimal.

Plan Your Arrival
You may be refused entry into the U.S. if you attempt to arrive more than 30 days before the academic program start date listed on your Sevis I – 20 form.

Always Hand- Carry Your Documents
There are documents you will need to keep with you when you arrive. Please do not check these documents with your baggage. If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will be unable to present the documents at your port of entry. As a result, you may not be able to enter the United States.

Documents Needed
1. Your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay.
2. Sealed non-immigrant documents. (When you receive your non-immigrant visa at U.S. embassy or consulate, the Consular Officer will seal your immigration documents in an envelope and attach it to your passport. Do not open this envelope! The Customs and Border Protection Officer at the U.S. Port of Entry will open the envelope.)
3. Your SEVIS Form I – 20
We strongly recommend that you hand-carry the following additional documentation:
4. Evidence of financial resources
5. Evidence of student status, such as recent tuition receipts and transcripts
6. A paper receipt for the SEVIS fee, Form I – 797
7. Name and contact information for your “Designated School Official”, including a 24 – hour emergency contact number at the school.
For comprehensive information on procedures for travelling and arriving in the U.S.,
Click here

Complete Your Entry Paperwork
If you arrive by Air, flight attendants will distribute Customs Declaration Forms (CF- 6059) and Arrival Departure Record Forms (I – 94). These must be completed prior to landing. If you arrive by land or sea, the CBP Officer at the port of entry will provide necessary Customs Declaration Forms (CF-6059) and Arrival – Departure Record Forms (I – 94) to be filled out upon your arrival.

When you Arrive at Your Port of Entry
Go directly to the terminal area for arriving passengers. Have the following documents available: your passport; SEVIS Form (I – 20); Arrival Departure Record Form (I – 94); and Customs Declaration Form (CF – 6059). The Form I – 94 should reflect the address where you will be a student, along with the name and address of the University in which you will enroll.

When Your Inspection is Completed
Once your inspection is successfully completed, the inspecting officer will do the following:
1. Stamp your SEVIS Form for duration of Status (“D/S”) for F visa holders.
2. Stamp your SEVIS Form for 30 days beyond program end date for M visa holders
3. Stamp the Arrival – Departure Record Form (I – 94) and staple it in the passport.
4. Following Your Admission Into the U.S. You should report to St. John to register for your courses within 30 days date on your SEVIS I – 20 form. Failure to do so may result in serious consequences.


Secondary Inspection Requirement
If the CBP officer cannot verify your information, or you lack some required documentation; you may be directed to an interview are known as “Secondary Inspection”. This allows inspectors to conduct extra research to verify your information – without causing delays for other arriving passengers. The inspector will attempt to verify your status using the Student and Exchange Visitors Information System (SEVIS). They may need also to verify your university or program. You should keep on hand the name and phone number of your St. John’s foreign student advisor. In case you arrive during non – business hours, have an emergency phone number available.

Failure to comply with U.S. government entry – exit procedures may result denied entry to the U.S. Under certain circumstances, the CBP officer, may issue a “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor “Form (I – 515A), which authorities temporary admission. Work with your school to submit the proper documentation without delay.

U.S. Visit
Every non-immigrant visitor holding a Visa – regardless of race, national origin or religion – participates in the U.S. – Visit program, a comprehensive registration system tracking entries to and exits from the United States.
For more information click here

National Security Entry – Exit Registration System (NSEERS)
Some non-immigrant visitors with a Visa may be asked to give additional information under the National Security Entry- Exit Registration System (NSEERS). At your Port of entry you can obtain a packet of information explaining the registration procedure.

Students and Exchange Visitors
Beginning September 1, 2004, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will collect a congressionally mandated fee to cover the costs of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Internationally students and exchange visitors are subject to this fee, which will be used to administer and maintain the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), support compliance activities, and establish SEVIS Liaison Officers establish SEVIS Liaison Officers to provide information and assistance to students and schools.

Some schools charge a fee by the year or semester to support their foreign student/ exchange visitor offices and automated systems. These fees are neither mandated nor collected by the U.S. Government.

The payment of I – 901 fees are recorded and tracked in SEVIS, the system for collecting, maintaining, and managing information about non-immigrant student and exchange visitors in the United States.

Who pays the fee?
Those who wish to enter the United States either as a student or an exchange visitor with a Form I – 20 or DS 2019 dated on or after September 1, 2004. Participants of federally sponsored exchange visitor programs, which are designated by program codes beginning with G – 1, G – 2, or G – 3, are not subject to this fee. Spouses and Dependent children (F-2, M-2) of students or exchange visitor (J-2) do not pay this fee.

How much is the fee?
1. Students ( F-1,F-3,M-1,or M-3) – $200
2. Spouses and dependents children (F-2,M-2, or J-2) of students or exchange visitors-None 3. Exchange visitors (J-1) – $180

When do prospective students or exchange visitors pay the SEVIS fee?
Applicants who require a visa to enter the United States must pay the SEVIS fee before going to the U.S. embassy or consulate for their visa interviews.
Applicants who are citizens of Canada, Bermuda, Bahamans, and resident of certain other islands (see 8CFR 212.1a) wishing to apply for F-1,F-3,M-1,or J- 1 status at a Port of Entry into the United States must pay the SEVIS fee before appearing at the Port of entry.

How is the fee paid?
1. Online at using a credit card or debit card and completing the online Form I – 901 (Fee for Remittance for certain F, M and J Non-immigrant’s);
2. Through the mail by submitting a completed Form I – 901 and check or money order drawn on a U. S. bank and payable in U.S. currency; or
3. By a third party such as school or a sponsor; or
4. By selected sponsors of an exchange program by submitting a bulk or group payment.

When must the fee be paid?
The fee must be paid to ensure that the payment can be divided and recorded in SEVIS prior to the scheduled visa interview. The interviewing consular will confirm that the fee has been paid by accessing SEVIS.
To allow for adequate processing time the fee must be paid:
– At least three business days prior to the visa interview date for electronic submissions.
– For regular mail submissions, 15 business days should be allowed before the scheduled visa interview. – This frame allows adequate time for the fee payment to be received at the DHS address listed on the Form I – 901, deposited, and recorded in SEVIS.
– And local mail processing times to these processing time processing times for accuracy.

How will the payment be verified?
– The payment will be recorded in the SEVIS system. However, it is recommended that the paper I -797or the internet – generated receipt by brought to the Visa interview.
– DHS will issue and official paper receipt (I-797) for every payment received.
– Individuals, who are paying by mail, may request Express delivery service for the I -797 receipts at an additional cost of $35.
– Individuals who file electronically will be able to print an electronic receipt immediately at the time of payment.
– When must continuing students (F-1, F-3, M-1or M-3 non-immigrant who have begin but not finished a program) pay the SEVIS fee?

Continuing students must pay the SEVIS fee before:
– Filing an application for reinstatement when they have been out of status for more than five months;
– When applying for a new visa and returning to the United States after an absence of more than five months that did not involve authorized overseas study ;or
– When filling an application for a change of status to an F,M, or J classification expect for changes between F-1 an F-3 or between M-1 and M -3

When must continuing exchange visitors (J-1 non-immigrant’s who have begun, but not finished a program) pay the SEVIS fee?
– Filing a reinstatement application after a substantive violation; or
– Filing a reinstatement application after one is out of status between 121 and 269 days; or
– Applying for a change of exchange visitor category unless the new exchange visitor category is fee exempt (federally sponsored programs with program codes that start with F-1, G-2 or G- 3).

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