I Got Accepted to A School in the U.S.! What’s next?

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

Well the good news is that the hardest part is behind you - Common App essays & school supplements are a thing of the past! Now comes the time to plan your trip to the United States. The process is straightforward, but you need to make sure that you check off all the items on your list. So read on to discover just what your next steps are to make sure that your education in the U.S. will be smooth sailing!

What do I need?

All students studying in the United States will need a J-1 or F-1 visa. The main difference is that the J-1 is an “exchange visitor visa” which means that after your time studying in the United States, you will have to return to your home country for at least two years. The F-1 visa, instead, allows you to live, study and even work in the U.S. during your educational program. Most American universities will sponsor you for an F-1 visa.

Where do I start for my F-1?

The process will be kicked off once you are accepted by a school. Your school will register you to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and then issue you an I-20, a form that proves the school’s support for your visa request. They will also provide information on how to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee, which is $350.

What next?

After that, you’ll have to deal directly with the U.S. government. You should complete the DS-160 form, which is nothing more than your formal visa application. The form is quite lengthy and asks for personal information about yourself, your travels and some other characteristics. At the end of the form, you’ll have to pay a $160 fee and book your interview at a U.S. consulate near you. Consulates will often be quite busy, so make sure that you do this way before your departure!

Do I need to prepare for the interview?

Yes, but mostly just documentation. You’ll have to bring:

  • I-20

  • DS-160 confirmation page

  • Receipt of visa application fee

  • Receipt of SEVIS I-901 fee payment

  • Passport

  • Recent photograph (2 x 2 inches / 51 x 51 mm)

  • Academic transcript & proof of financial ability (not required, but helpful)

At the interview, a consular officer will take your fingerprints, examine your documents, and ask you some questions to ensure that you qualify for a visa. Those questions tend to be about yourself and your plans during/after your studies in the U.S.. If all goes well, you’ll be granted a visa!

Great, I made it!

Not quite! When you actually reach the U.S., there will be a customs border patrol officer that will check your documentation at the airport. This officer has the authority to deny you entry. This is unlikely, but it could happen.

To pass through customs swiftly with no hiccups, make sure you have the following documents:

  • Passport

  • I-20

  • Receipt of SEVIS I-901 fee payment

  • Acceptance letter from school

Also remember that after your study program finishes and your OPT & CPT (wait… what is this? Look out for a future article!) expires, you’ll have 60 days to leave the U.S.. Make sure to respect this requirement, as overstaying a visa can make it more difficult to request future visas.

We hope this review of your steps to reach the U.S. is helpful! Let us know in the comments if you’ve already gone through the process and if you have any helpful tips for those that are yet to move! Also stay tuned for future articles where we’ll guide you through how to live your best life in the US while on your F-1!

Source: U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs, ICE


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