The process of becoming an F-1 or J-1 student occurs in the following steps:

  1. Receive the F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 from the USC Graduate Admissions (GA) Office
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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.

Required Documents

For a list of required documents needed for the visa application, please visit this page.

Visa Interview Tips

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.

Pending or Denied Visa Application