It is very important to enter the United States with the proper visa. You must apply for an entry visa sticker, so you can enter the United States with student status. You must have a visa document AND entry visa stamp in your passport to enter the United States with student status. Please note:
Most U of M students should apply for an F-1 student visa. For some students, the J-1 student visa is more appropriate. J-1 students are usually in formal exchange programs or receiving most or all of their funding from their home government, a U.S. government agency or, in some cases, the University.
If you received an “I-20” document from the University, you will apply for an F-1 visa. If you received a “DS-2019” document from the University or another U.S. agency, you will apply for a J-1 student visa. If you think you received the wrong type of visa document, please contact ISSS.
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.
New students 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 UMN. Keep in mind that you will not be able to pay the fee until you have your I-20 or DS-2019 in your possession. For more about how to pay the fee, visit www.fmjfee.com.
Embassy and consulate information, including locations and coument requirments, is available on-line at www.embassyworld.org.
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.
All visa applicants must provide the following documents to the U.S. embassy or consulate at the time of their application:
When applying for your non-immigrant visa, the U.S. Consular Officer interviewing you will assume that you plan to immigrate permanently to the U.S unless you prove otherwise. During the interview you will need to prove that you will only study temporarily in the U.S. and will return home after your studies are complete. Answer all questions truthfully but only provided information related to the question asked. Be prepared to answer the following confidently and clearly in English:
We recommend practicing your visa interview with a family member or friend!
Canadian citizens can enter the United States without having an entry visa in their passport. However, Canadian citizens must obtain an I-20 or DS-2019 and pay the SEVIS fee before entering the United States. Upon entry, you must present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, admission letter, proof of financial support for at least one year, and receipt of SEVIS fee payment.
Additionally, if you are a Canadian citizen who is currently in the United States in F-1 or J-1 visa status and plan to remain in that same visa status, you must transfer your F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record to the UMN.
To avoid problems or delays in obtaining your visa and entering the United States, ensure that all of your immigration documents reflect the same name, exactly as it appears in your passport’s MRZ (Machine Readable Zone - the lines on the bottom of the biographical page).
Do not use hyphens or non-English letters or markings. Spaces can be used between multiple names. Single names must use the U.S. Department of State visa format—put in Surname/Primary Name field and leave the Given Name field empty. Do not use “nicknames” or shortened names on any of your documents, including your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, visa, or any additional documents that you acquire after your arrival in the United States.
You MUST attend the initial school that is indicated on the I-20 or DS-2019 that you use for your visa application. If you received more than one visa document, you should NOT apply for a visa until you are certain which school you would like to attend. Once you have made a decision and applied for your visa, return any unused I-20 or DS-2019 documents to the school or agency that issued them to you.
If you have any questions about your DS-2019 or I-20, or if you need to change any information on your documents, contact the office or agency that issued it.
I-20s are issued by the following:
Major: The major field of study listed on your admission letter and the major field of study listed on your I-20 may not appear exactly the same. This is due to a coding discrepancy and is not a cause for concern.
T.A.L. was created by the U.S. government as a guideline for consular offices to use in reviewing visa applications. The purpose is to prevent the export of goods, technology, or sensitive information. The list of T.A.L. specific fields is classified however a general overview of categories is available at the Department of State website.
If your visa is denied, ask the consular officials to provide you with a written explanation of the denial, and contact ISSS for assistance. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and write “Visa Denial” in the subject line.
Many visa applicants are subject to additional security clearance checks that will delay the issuance of your visa by one to two months. This is NOT a denial. Most applicants who are subject to security clearance will eventually receive the visa. You cannot prevent a security clearance, nor can ISSS or your department intervene to speed up the process.