University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

New Students


It is very important to enter the United States with the proper visa. You must apply for an entry visa sticker in your passport so that you can enter the U.S. in student status. F and J entry visas can only be obtained outside of the United States at a U.S. embassy or consulate. To apply for an entry visa, follow these steps:

1. Determine the type of visa you need

Most University of Minnesota students should apply for an F-1 student visa. For some students, the J-1 visa is more appropriate. J-1 student visas are usually used in formal exchange programs; or when a student will receive most or all of their funding from their home government, a US government agency or in some cases the University of Minnesota.

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 US agency, such as ISEP, Fulbright, IIE, 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 US in visitor status (B1/B2 or WB/WT-Visa Waiver) or in F-2 (dependent of F-1) status. Individuals with these visa statuses are not eligible to register for classes. If you have questions about any other visa types, please contact ISSS.

2. Pay the SEVIS fee

Most new students must pay the SEVIS fee before applying for an entry visa or entering the United States. This fee is assessed by the US Department of Homeland Security and is not administered by the University of Minnesota. For more information about how to pay the fee, visit

3. Locate the nearest US embassy or consulate in your home country

Embassy and consulate information is available on-line at or at

4. Schedule an appointment for your visa interview

Your local embassy or consulate will have specific instructions for scheduling an appointment. Keep in mind that 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. Approximate visa wait times at consular locations can be found at the Department of State website.

5. Prepare documents for your visa interview

All visa applicants must provide the following documents to the US embassy or consulate at the time of the application:

  • Valid passport
  • I-20 or DS-2019 document
  • Documented proof of financial support for at least one year
  • Proof of SEVIS Fee payment (Receipt)
  • Visa application forms (available from the US embassy/consulate)
  • Any other documents requested by your embassy/consulate

6. Practice for your visa interview:

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 confidently and clearly in English:

  • Your area of study
  • Your reason for wanting to study in the U.S.
  • Proof of sufficient funds and how your funds are able to cover all of your expenses for a minimum of one year
  • Your good reasons for returning home after you complete your studies. You must be able to provide documentary evidence where possible of the strong ties you have to your country. It could include having all of your family in your country, having a job offer awaiting you when you return, or proof of property ownership. Other facts to emphasize are specific future educational, employment or career goals that will be carried out in your home country. Do not emphasize relatives who live or study in the U.S.

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

Canadian Citizens

Canadian citizens are eligible to enter the US without obtaining 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 US. Upon entry, you must present to immigration your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, proof of financial support for at least one year, and proof of SEVIS fee payment.

Canadian Landed Immigrants: You are required to obtain a visa. See your nearest American Consulate for more information.


Your spouse and children under 21 are eligible to accompany you to the US with a dependent visa (F-2 or J-2). You must request a dependent I-20 or DS-2019 document for each of your eligible dependents. For more information, contact the office responsible for your visa document. Be aware that F-2 visa holders may not work in the US, nor may they be a full-time student at a University or other post-secondary institution in the US.

Advanced Tuition Payments

Occassionally, an embassy or consulate requires that you make an advanced payment to the University for your tuition. Please read the information about advanced tuition payments in the EXPENSES section.

Importance of Name Consistency

To avoid problems or delays in obtaining your visa and entering the US, ensure that all of your immigration documents reflect the same name, exactly as it appears in your passport. Do not use “nicknames” or shortened names on any of your documents, including your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, entry visa sticker, I-94 card (land border entry only), or automated, online I-94 (air and sea arrivals only) and any additional documents that you acquire after your arrival in the US. Automated, online I-94s should be checked for accuracy after entry at CBP website.

Deciding between multiple schools

You MUST attend the 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-20s or DS-2019s to the school or agency that issued them to you.

Questions about your documents

If you have any questions about your DS-2019 or I-20, or if you need to correct or change any information on your documents, contact the office or agency that issued it:

I-20s are issued by your college admissions office:


  • Issued by the University of Minnesota:
  • Issued by another agency: Your agency’s contact person

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.

Technology Alert List

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.

Visa Denials

If your visa is denied, ask the consular officials to provide you with a written explanation of the denial, then contact ISSS for assistance. Email and write “Visa Denial” in the subject line.

Security clearance checks

Many visa applicants are subject to additional security clearance checks that will delay the issuance of your visa by 1 to 2 months. This is NOT a denial. Most applicants who are subject to clearance will eventually receive the visa. You cannot prevent a security clearance, nor can ISSS or your department intervene to speed up the process.


You are considered a “Transfer Student” if you hold F-1 or J-1 immigration status at another institution in the US and plan to remain in that status. Your SEVIS record must be transferred to the University of Minnesota.

F-1 Transfer Students

Instructions for Transferring Your F-1 status to the University of Minnesota

You are considered a “Transfer Student” if you hold F-1 status at another institution in the U.S. Your SEVIS record must be transferred to the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities campus. Students at University of Minnesota Coordinate Campuses (Crookston, Duluth, Morris, and Rochester) as well as students in the Minnesota English Language Program (MELP) are also considered transfer students and must transfer their SEVIS records to the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities.

  1. Submit a Transfer Release form to International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS)
    1. Complete section #1 of the Transfer Release form. Remember to include your mailing address outside of the U.S. if you plan to travel outside of the U.S. before beginning your program at the University.
    2. Contact the international student advising office at your previous school and inform them of your intent to transfer. Your international student adviser must:
      • Complete section #2 of the Transfer Release form
      • Fax the form to ISSS at (612)626-7361
      • Electronically send your visa record to the University after you finish classes at that school

    *ISSS cannot process SEVIS before your SEVIS record has been sent to the University.

  2. A University of Minnesota “Transfer Pending” SEVIS record will be created within 2-3 weeks after the record from your previous school has been received.   A “Transfer Pending” I-20 may be issued if it is needed for travel outside the U.S.  If you have questions about your Transfer Pending I-20, undergraduates and professional school students should contact ISSS.  Graduate School students should contact the Graduate School Admissions office.
  3. Visit ISSS for Document Check
  4. Upon your arrival at University of Minnesota, you must report to ISSS so that we can review your documents. At this time we will discuss additional details about the transfer process.

  5. Update your “Current Mailing Address” on the Personal Information Quick link on the One Stop website
  6. Register full-time for courses at the University of Minnesota
  7. You will receive an email from ISSS indicating your University of Minnesota “Transfer Completed” I-20 is available for pick up in 190 Humphrey Center.

You have now completed the transfer process.

Important Note: A “Transfer Completed” I-20 is your official University of Minnesota I-20 and you are required to obtain this documentation.  You must completed all of the steps listed above, including obtaining your Transfer Completed I-20.  Failure to do so could put your F-1 status at risk.

J-1 Transfer Students

  1. Meet with a J-1 adviser at your current school to discuss your intent to transfer to the University of Minnesota and to determine a SEVIS transfer “effective date.”
  2. Complete and submit to ISSS the appropriate J-1 student DS-2019 Application Form in section DS.
  3. Ask the J-1 adviser at your current school to transfer your SEVIS record to the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
  4. Once your transfer becomes effective, meet with Eric Kroetsch at ISSS within 25 days of the effective date for document check (p.13) and to obtain your University of Minnesota DS-2019.

Traveling during the Transfer Process

If you intend to reenter the U.S. to begin study at a new school, you must follow the same procedure as above. However, you need to obtain a new I-20 or DS-2019 before departure or arrange to have the I-20 or DS-2019 mailed so you will be able to enter the U.S. with your new I-20 or DS-2019. The transfer process will be completed after you have reported to an adviser at ISSS and enrolled as a full-time student. If you are reentering the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1 student, you must have a valid entry visa in your passport. An F-1 entry visa for a different institution can be used for your new school.