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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates

Obtaining your student visa

Preparing for an F-1 Visa Interview

This information is for students who plan to enter the United States for the first time to study. For information on bringing dependents to the U.S., returning to continue studies, or renewing your visa, or for more details on how to apply for a student visa, refer to the U.S. Department of State.


  1. Contact your local U.S. Consulate or Embassy to ask about how to get an F-1 international student visa. (Canadian students are not required to visit a Consul or Embassy as their immigration documents can be processed at a land border port of entry BUT are still required to pay the US$200 SEVIS fee BEFORE entering the United States as a student for the first time.)
  2. After you receive an I-20 form from SUNY Potsdam, follow the U.S. Embassy/Consulate?s instructions to schedule an interview for your F-1 student visa.

    It is important to apply for your student visa as far in advance as possible. Many consulates recommend that appointments be made no more than 90 days from the intended date of travel, but some can make earlier arrangements for interviews.

    Be sure to inquire about processing times for visa applications as soon as you receive your immigration documents from SUNY Potsdam.

    At the time of creating this site, U.S. Consul's and Embassies were requiring all non-immigrants to be interviewed by a government official. This interview could take place the same day or might require you to return to the Embassy for a scheduled appointment up to 6 weeks later.
  3. Pay the visa application fee by following instructions on your local U.S. Embassy's or Consulate's website.
  4. If your I-20 was issued on or after September 1, 2004, and is marked for "initial" attendance (see #3 on your I-20 form), you will also need to pay the $200 SEVIS fee. Please visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) SEVIS I-901 fee processing website for more information about the SEVIS fee and payment instructions.
  5. Complete the following forms:
    • DS-156 Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form
    • DS-158 Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant
  6. If a male between the ages of 16 and 45, DS-157 Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  7. You should check with your local Embassy to see what the particular requirements are for your home country but you should be prepared and bring to your visa interview the following:
    • A passport valid for at least six months
    • Form I-20 (sign the form under Item 11)
    • School admission letter
    • Completed visa applications (DS-156, DS-158, and, if applicable, DS-157)
    • Two 2"x2" photographs in the prescribed format
    • A receipt for the visa application fee
    • A receipt for the SEVIS fee. If you have not received an official receipt in the mail showing payment and you paid the fee electronically, the consulate will accept the temporary receipt you printed from your computer.

      If you do not have a receipt, the consulate may be able to see your payment electronically if your fee payment was processed at least 3 business days before your interview.
    • Financial evidence that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period you intend to study.Any information that proves that you will return to your home country after finishing your studies in the United States. This may include proof of property, family, or other ties to your community.
  8. Remain calm and answer all the Visa Officer's questions to you openly and honestly. Please read 10 Points to Remember When Applying for an F1 Visa (PDF) for helpful visa interview tips.

If You Are Denied a Student F-1 Visa

Please visit the United States' Department of State website to learn more about the visa denial.

If You Are Granted an F-1 Visa

The U.S. embassy/consulate will add a visa sticker with your photo in your passport. The visa allows you to enter the United States for a specific purpose in a clearly defined time frame. Students are usually given an F-1 visa. Spouses and children of F-1 visa holders are assigned an F-2 visa. Since this visa sticker is only important for entry and re-entry to the United States, you MUST have the following documents to enter the USA:

  1. Valid Passport (for at least 6 months) with a valid F-1 visa
  2. Original letter of acceptance/admission from SUNY Potsdam
  3. Valid SEVIS I-20 form issued by SUNY Potsdam
  4. Original copies of all of the financial documents (such as bank statement(s))
  5. Proof of ties to your home country (please read the tips on how to apply for an F-1 visa)

(Source, NAFSA: Association of International Educators;