Applying for a Student Visa

A visa is:

  • an entry document that you must apply for at a consulate outside the United States.

  • You need a valid unexpired student visa to enter the United States.


  • Citizens of Canada or Bermuda are not required to obtain an entry visa. You are still required to apply for an I-20/DS-2019

  • If you have an unexpired student visa, you are not required to apply for a new one. You are still required to apply for an I-20/DS-2019.

How To Apply

Step 1

Receive Your I-20/DS-2019 and Pay Your SEVIS Fee

Step 2

Complete the DS-160 Visa Application

  • You are required to submit the DS-160.
  • Review frequently asked questions about the DS-160.
  • Answer truthfully to the best of your knowledge. The ISSO cannot provide advice on completing the DS-160.
  • Contact your local embassy or consulate with any questions.

Helpful Tips

U.S. Address or Point of Contact

Not sure who to list? Use your school or department address. The phone number is 212-854-1754.


Dependents must submit their own DS-160.

Course of Study

Use your program name as it appears on your admission letter or your I-20/DS-2019.

Intended Length of Stay

Use your best estimate on the time you need to complete your program. The response to this question does not determine the length of your visa.

Present Work/ Education/ Training Information

Select the best option that is true at the time of submitting the application.

Person/ Entity Paying for Your Trip

List your primary source of funding as it appears on your I-20/DS-2019.

Step 3

Schedule Your Visa Interview

  • Follow the instructions for your embassy or consulate.
  • The earliest you can apply for an F-1 visa is now 365 days (previously 120 days) before the program start date on your I-20, but you cannot enter the U.S. more than 30 days before their start date. 
  • It is generally recommended that you apply for a visa in your home country rather than a third country if possible.
  • Each embassy has its own visa processing times.
Step 4

Prepare Your Documents



Step 5

Attend Your Interview

Review 10 points to remember when applying for a non-immigrant visa from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the leading organization committed to international education and exchange. 

  • Ties to Your Home Country and Residence Abroad
    The first point on this helpful list of what to keep in mind when applying for a visa addresses "Ties to Your Home Country and Residence Abroad." U.S. law considers applicants for nonimmigrant visas to be "intending immigrants" which means that the visa applicant intends to stay in the U.S. after the reason for their visit to the U.S. has been completed. A visa applicant has had to show strong ties to their home country to convince the consular officer that reasons to return home are stronger than reasons to remain in the U.S.

    On December 20, 2021 the Department of State updated its guidance to consular officers advising that they should evaluate the "residence abroad requirement" for student visa applicants differently than for B visitor visas or other short-term visas. It instructs consular officers to look only at a student visa applicant's “present” intent rather than future intent to depart the United States following the conclusion of their visa because a student is "...often single, unemployed, without property, and is at the stage in life of deciding and developing their plans for the future" and would not possess ties of employment and property that would be typical of an older B visitor visa applicant. (The instructions for consular officers are in the Foreign Affairs Manual under 402.5-5(E)(1) (U) Residence Abroad Required.)
Step 6

Receive and Review Your Entry Visa

  • Check the visa in your passport to make sure that all the information on it is correct. 
  • Your I-20/DS-2019 should be returned to you. You will need it to enter the U.S.

Renewing Your Visa

Do I Need to Renew My Visa?

If your visa expires while you are maintaining status and in the U.S., nothing happens because it is a travel document only. Please learn more about visa expiration here. However, if you are travelling internationally, you will need an unexpired visa to request entry into the U.S. (with the potential exception when traveling from Canada, Mexico, or certain Adjacent Caribbean Islands).

The visa renewal process is similar to the initial F-1 or J-1 student visa application outlined above. You must obtain the visa from a US consulate or embassy abroad, ideally in your home country where you were last successful, and you will need to establish your nonimmigrant intent and ties to your home country.

Document Review
Visa Renewal Documents Required

Generally these are the documents you need, but each consulate may require additional application materials so check with the consulate at which you will apply. 

  1. your passport (valid at least 6 months into the future)
  2. most recent I-20/DS-2019 with valid travel signature, and updated proof of funding.
  3. a copy of your transcripts and a certificate of enrollment from the Office of the University Registrar, if applying for a visa during your academic program.
  4. your EAD card and proof of employment, if you are on OPT or STEM OPT Extension

Visa Delays and Denials

Computer Typing
Visa Delays

After your visa interview, you will be notified if administrative processing is necessary.

Log in to Compass to report if your visa is delayed. We will track your application, but are unable to resolve individual cases. Most students receive their visa before the start of their program.

Person on Computer
Visa Denials

Log in to Compass to report if your visa is denied.

You may reapply and bring additional supporting documents, such as proof of ties to your home country. A support letter from your academic department may be helpful. 

Log in to Report Delays or Denials

Please click the appropriate link below: