Obtaining an F-1 Student Visa and Entering the United States
Your Form I-20 is necessary to obtain an F-1 Student Visa. This visa permits you to enter the United States for the purpose of studying at Lasell University. If you enter the U.S. on a tourist visa, you will be required to leave the U.S. in order to enter on a proper student visa. You must be enrolled as a full-time student to obtain an F-1 student visa.
Do not buy plane tickets before you receive a visa! You may only enter the U.S. 30 days before the Program Start Date and should arrive before the first day of classes.
- U.S. Department of State - important information about visas and forms.
- Education USA - information for international students planning to study in the U.S.
- Homeland Security - explains the rules and regulations governing the nonimmigrant student process in the United States.
Visa Application Checklist
- Immigration Form I-20; by signing it you acknowledge that you have read page three and agree to comply with the terms and conditions of your admission.
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
- A Passport that is valid at least six months beyond the intended period of stay in the United States.
- One 2×2 photograph.
- A receipt to show payment of the visa application fee.
- The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt
All applicants should also be prepared to provide:
- Admission letter to Lasell University.
- Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended.
- Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, IELTS, etc.
- Proof of sufficient funds to cover all your expenses for the duration of your stay in the U.S. If sponsored by an agency, be prepared to show a letter of award. If your support is from personal and/or family funds, be prepared to show bank statements, certified letters of credit and proof of your annual salary and/or your total available or anticipated assets of that of your immediate family. At a minimum, you must prove to the satisfaction of the U.S. Consul that you have sufficient funds for at least one year of study. You will not be allowed to work off-campus during your time at Lasell and jobs on-campus are limited.
- Supporting documents that strengthen your claim that you will return to your country after completing your studies.
Consulates vary in the amount of time they require to issue a visa and the fees charged. It is important to contact the specific consular office where you intend to apply to ask about specific local procedures.
Obtaining a Visa
- If you do not have a passport, you must obtain one from the appropriate office of your government. Your passport must be valid for at least six months into the future at all times. It is your responsibility to be aware of the expiration date of your passport and to renew it at the appropriate time.
- We recommend that you schedule an appointment at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as possible.
- Read carefully all the information on Form 1-20. Check for spelling errors or mistakes (in your name, birth date, or course of study) and make sure it matches your passport. Contact us immediately at email@example.com if it needs to be corrected. Carefully read page 3 of your I-20 as this will explain your legal responsibilities as an F-1 student in the United States. Sign the Student Certification (#11) on page 1 of Form 1-20, and provide the information requested if under the age of 18.
- With the required documents listed above, schedule an appointment to deliver (or mail) the materials to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The U.S. Consular Officer will review your papers, and if all is in order, issue an F-1 student visa permitting you to enter the U.S. for the purpose of studying at Lasell University.
- If you have received an I-20 from more than one school, be sure to use the I-20 of the school you plan to attend when applying for your visa. The Consular Officer will only issue the visa for one Form 1-20 and will cancel all other I-20s in SEVIS (the electronic Student and Exchange Visitor Information System).
The Visa Interview and Questions
The Immigration and National Act has a strict set of requirements that must be met by applicants to qualify for the student visa. At the visa interview, the consular officer will be able to determine in a few minutes whether you qualify for the visa or not. It is important that you are prepared and know the qualifications for obtaining a student visa. You must:
- Have a residence abroad with no immediate intention of abandoning that residence;
- Intend to depart from the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
- Possess sufficient funds to pursue the proposed course of study. You should expect the interview to be conducted in English and not in your native language. Since time is limited, keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point. Be confident and polite because the initial impressions you create are critical to your success.
If you are denied a student visa, request the reasons you were denied in writing and ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal. Contact the Office of International Services if we would be able to help or if you will need to defer your I-20 to a future term.
Arriving at a U.S. Port of Entry
- You should expect to go through immigration and customs inspections at the U.S. port of entry upon arrival. Allow enough time (a few hours to be safe) for immigration and customs procedures to make any connecting flights.
The following documents should be carried with you: passport, visa, I-20 form, admission letter, SEVIS I-901 fee receipt, and evidence of financial resources. Present these documents to the immigration officer. Be sure to carry these documents with you and do not place them in your checked baggage.
Be prepared to state the reason you wish to enter the United States and your final destination. An appropriate response is "to attend Lasell University in Newton, Massachusetts".
- Note for transfer students: If you are traveling while transferring from another US school, your Lasell SEVIS I-20 may read "transfer pending from" and the name of your previous school. If you are questioned about the "transfer pending" notation, inform the immigration officer that Lasell has advised you that your transfer will be completed once you arrive on campus and register for courses.
- Answer all questions asked by the immigration officer politely and briefly. Do not offer any information that goes beyond the extent of the question asked you. The officer will return the documents to you after stamping the I-20 and passport page with an arrival stamp. Make sure all the documents are returned to you, and do not exit until you double check everything.
- You may be asked to go to secondary inspection if your documents or situation need additional review or processing. Immigration officers will carefully look at your documents and run additional computer checks. This is normal but may take additional time.
- After the immigration area, you will collect your baggage and pass through customs. A customs inspector will ask you to declare what you have brought into the country (such as money or gifts), inspect your bags for forbidden or restricted items, and review the customs form you filled out on the airplane.
- The immigration inspector will issue you an electronic I-94 number that corresponds with your admission to the United States. Look up your I-94 number
You must check-in with the Office of International Services at International Student Orientation to complete your immigration check-in. If you are unable to check-in at Orientation, please contact the Office of International Services as soon as possible after your arrival on campus.