Student Visa FAQ

Q.1 What is an I-20? How do I obtain it?
The Form I-20 is an official U.S. Government form. A prospective nonimmigrant student must have a Form I-20 issued by a certified school in order to become F-1 or M-1 student. Only a certified school can issue a Form I-20 to students that have been accepted for enrollment. It acts as proof of acceptance and contains the information that is needed to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee, apply for a visa or change of status, and be admitted into the United States. The Form I-20 has the student’s unique SEVIS identification (ID) number on the upper right hand side directly above the barcode. SEVIS ID numbers are an N followed by 9 digits.

Q.2 How early should I apply for my student (F-1 or M-1) visa?
You are encouraged to apply for your non immigrant student visa as soon as you have your I-20. To ensure you get an early and timely date you may apply at anytime; however, a student visa may be issued no more than 120 days prior to the start date mentioned on your I-20.

Q.3 I have received my visa, when should I travel?
Students 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.

Q.4 Can a person on a visitor visa change his/her status to student while in the United States if he/she gets admission to a school and gets a Form I-20?
Yes. In general, you may apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you were lawfully admitted to the United States with a nonimmigrant visa, your nonimmigrant status remains valid, you have not violated the conditions of your status, and you have not committed any actions that would make you ineligible. For more details, please visit the USCIS website.

Q.5 What if I receive an I-20 to a different school?
If you have 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.

Q.6 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; 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.

Q.7 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.

Q.8 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 continuing and new foreign students and exchange visitors. Student visa applicants are required to pay a SEVIS fee before a visa can be issued. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Student and Exchange Visitor Program website has more information.