The process of becoming an F-1 or J-1 student occurs in the following steps:
- Receive the F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 from the USC Graduate Admissions (GA) Office
- Pay mandatory SEVIS I-901 Fee
- Every international student or exchange visitor who wishes to begin an “initial” program of study or research is required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Student will need information from their USC I-20/DS-2019 when paying the fee
- Print the fee payment receipt to present at the visa interview and at the US Port of Entry
- Complete the DS-160 visa application*
- Use only the “BACK” and “NEXT” buttons that are part of the application and not the web browser’s back and next arrows
- Be as accurate as possible with any questions asked and DO NOT submit the application until it is complete
- At the end of the online application, print the confirmation page with barcode that is required for all phases of the interview
- The US Department of State provides additional guidance on completing the DS-160
- Schedule and complete visa interview at a US embassy/consulate
- To obtain the most current and accurate information on the visa application and interview process, international students should review the website for the US consulate/embassy where they will schedule the visa interview
- Arrive at a US airport and clear customs at a US Port of Entry with the following documents:
- Original I-20/DS-2019
- Valid passport
- F-1/J-1 student visa stamp in passport*
- SEVIS Fee Payment Receipt
- Financial documents consistent with I-20/DS-2019
*Canadian citizens are exempt from obtaining an F-1/J-1 visa as they do not need an F-1/J-1 visa stamp in passport to enter the US in international student status.
For a list of required documents needed for the visa application, please visit this page.
In addition to providing the required visa application documents and showing ties to home country, making a positive impression on the consular officer is critical in the visa interview process. Review some helpful interview tips.