Pre-Arrival Information

STEP ONE: Make a visa appointment at the U.S Embassy or Consulate in your home country. After you receive your I-20, follow the U.S. Embassy/ Consulate instructions to schedule your visa interview appointment. Apply as far in advance as possible.

STEP TWO: Pay the SEVIS fee. F-1 visa applicants entering the U.S. for the first time must complete the SEVIS Form I-901 and pay the SEVIS fee before their visa appointment. After paying, print a copy of the online receipt.

STEP THREE: Pay visa application fee. Follow the instructions found on the U.S. Embassy/Consulate website.

STEP FOUR: Gather documents for visa interview:

  • A passport valid for at least six months into the future I-20 (Be sure to sign the bottom of the form)
  • John Jay College admission letter
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • The visa application fee receipt
  • Two 2”x 2” photographs in the prescribed format on the website
  • Original bank statements showing sufficient funds to cover your expenses as listed on I-20
  • Documents that prove you will return to your home country after finishing your studies in the U.S. These may include proof of property, family, or other ties to your community.
  • Any additional documents that might be requested, such as transcripts or test scores
  • Confirm with appropriate U.S. Embassy/Consulate that you have prepared all required documents.


STEP FIVE: Prepare for the visa interview. The interview generally lasts only 2-3 minutes. Under U.S. law, all nonimmigrant visa applicants are viewed as intending immigrants unless they convince the Consular Officer otherwise. You must show your reasons for returning to your home country following your studies:

  • Be prepared to use English and speak for yourself.
  • Answer all of the Officer’s questions concisely and honestly.
  • Be able to explain how studying in the U.S. relates to your future career plans.
  • Know that lengthy supplemental documents cannot be quickly read or evaluated.
  • Be prepared to address how your dependents, if any, will support themselves in your absence.


People from certain countries and those studying certain technology majors may experience processing delays due to security background checks. Remember that the purpose of a student visa is to study and return home, not to work in the U.S. 

Keep a positive attitude. If denied, understand the reason why and what to do the next time.

STEP SIX: Attend the visa interview. Arrive early; remain calm!

1. Special situations such as transferring between U.S. schools or applying for a dependent visa may not require paying the SEVIS fee. Check with the U.S. Department of State for details.

2. F-1 students who are not required to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. must still pay the SEVIS fee. An example of this is a Canadian citizen.

3. For additional information on bringing dependents to the U.S., returning to the U.S. to continue previous studies, or renewing your visa, refer to the U.S. Department of State website.

To learn more about a student visa, please visit here for more information.

Contact us

Inga Mezale
Deputy Director of International Student & Scholar Services, Designated School Official & Responsible Officer