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Applying for a Visa

Terms to Know

F-1 visa: Nonimmigrants temporarily in the United States to study full-time at an academic or language institute (a sticker in your passport)

I-20: Immigration document issued for F-1 students that show enrollment at a university

ISSS: University of Minnesota International Student and Scholar Services office. If you have questions about visas, please contact this office. 

CBP: Customs Border Protection

USCIS: United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System): All students and scholars with F-1 status have a record in the U.S. SEVIS immigration database. By law, ISSS must report to SEVIS regularly and provide specific information about each student and scholar at the University.

Steps to Apply for a Visa

After being accepted as an exchange student, you will receive an I-20 document which you will use to apply for your F-1 student visa. Caution: Do NOT enter the United States in visitor status (B1/B2 or Visa Waiver). Individuals with these immigration statuses are not eligible to register for an academic course of study. If you have questions about any other visa types, contact ISSS

1. Pay the SEVIS Fee.

Once you have your I-20 document in your possession, you must pay the SEVIS fee before applying for an entry visa or entering the United States. This fee is charged by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and it is not administered by the University of Minnesota. To pay the fee, visit

2. Locate the Nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Your Home Country

Embassy and consulate information (including locations and document requirements) is available at

 3. Schedule Your Visa Interview Appointment

Your local embassy or consulate will have specific instructions for scheduling an appointment. Waiting times for an appointment can be lengthy (up to several weeks or longer), especially during the busy summer months. Schedule your appointment as soon as possible after receiving your visa documents.

4. Prepare Documents For Your Visa Interview

All visa applicants must provide the following documents to the U.S. embassy or consulate at the time of their application:

  • Valid passport
  • I-20 document
  • Admission letter (or print out of electronic admission notification)
  • Documented proof of financial support for, at least, one year (scholarship or assistantship letter, bank statement, etc.)
  • Receipt of SEVIS fee payment
  • Visa application forms (available from the U.S. embassy/consulate)
  • Any documents requested by embassy/consulate
5. Practice for Your Visa Interview

We recommend practicing your visa interview with a family member or friend!

Importance of Name Consistency

To avoid problems or delays in obtaining your visa and entering the United States, ensure that the name printed on all of your immigration documents is written exactly as it is shown in your passport (specifically, the Machine Readable Zone on the bottom of the biographical page). Always write your name clearly, and:

  • Do not use punctuation (such as hyphens, apostrophes, periods, or commas), numbers, or non-English letters or markings.
  • Do not use “nicknames” or shortened names.
  • Do not include prefixes or suffixes (such Dr, Mr, Ms, II, Jr, MD).
  • Spaces can be used between multiple names, and always use them consistently.
  • If you only have one name, write your name in the Surname/Primary Name field and leave the Given Name field blank.  

Visa Denials

If your visa is denied, ask the consular official to provide a written explanation of the denial, and then contact GO Minnesota for assistance.

Administrative Processing and Security Clearance Checks

Some visa applicants will be subject to additional screening that will delay the issuance of the visa. This is NOT a denial. Most applicants who are subject to administrative processing or a security clearance check will receive a visa within one to two months (although, it can take longer). You cannot prevent additional screening or security clearance, and ISSS or GO Minnesota cannot intervene to speed up the process. 

Maintaining Your Legal Status

Maintaining Your Legal Status

As a student, it is your responsibility to maintain your immigration status and to inform the University and/or International Student and Scholar Services when there is a change in your situation, such as a change in program information, registration, personal information, or dependent information. For more information about maintaining your legal status in the U.S., visit the ISSS website or meet an advisor at the ISSS office.

You must maintain your legal status at all times while you are in the U.S. F-1 students who allow their legal status document (I-20) to expire and do not reinstate or apply for an extension within the prescribed grace period (60 days for F-1) are “overstayers.” If you become an overstayer, you are in violation of your legal status and your U.S. entry visa stamp may be canceled, and this may affect your ability to re-enter the U.S. in the future.

When you travel around the U.S. or leave the country temporarily, be sure to carry your passport and I-20 with you.

If you plan to leave the country for any period during your program, you must notify ISSS staff. 


If you have questions regarding your immigration status, you can speak with an advisor in International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).

Visa Considerations Prior to Returning Home

Visa Considerations Prior to Returning Home

F-1 visa holders can stay in the U.S. for up to 60 days after the end date on their I-20. Students who wish to travel within the U.S. for a longer period of time should consult with an ISSS advisor to discuss legal options. Be aware that if you exit the U.S. during the 60-day grace period, you will not be allowed to re-enter the country because your student visa status will have expired.