Students applying for F-1 or J-1 visas for initial attendance at a university must first pay the I-901 SEVIS fee of $350 for F-1 students and $220 for J-1s. We recommend that you pay the fee on-line. This fee should be paid prior to making a visa appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. F-2 and J-2 spouses and dependent children DO NOT have to pay this fee. You must take your fee receipt for proof of payment to your visa appointment. Payments can be made on-line by using a credit card, by mail or by Western Union. If paying by Western Union or mail, please keep in mind that it will take several weeks to get a receipt; please pay this fee early to avoid delays. Please visit www.fmjfee.com to pay the fee and complete an I-901 form.
Hints for filling out the I-901:
- Double-check that the information on the I-20 or DS-2019 is correct.
- If it is not correct do NOT PAY THE FEE and contact CU Denver’s International Student & Scholar Services to correct the I-20 or DS-2019.
- The school code is DEN214F00301000 (for F-1s) or P-1-03858 (for J-1s).
- Your SEVIS number is in the top, right-hand corner and begins with N00.
- Print at least two copies – one to take to the Embassy or Consulate and one for your records.
If you have applied to more than one school, you must decide which school you will attend and pay the SEVIS fee using that school’s information. If you are denied a visa, you cannot get a refund of your SEVIS fee. If you decide to reapply for a visa within the next 12 months, you will not have to pay the fee again.
Student Visa Application at the US Consulate
You should also make an appointment as soon as possible with the US Consulate where you will be applying for your student visa. You must enter the country BEFORE the reporting date on your I-20 or DS-2019. In fact, you can enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the reporting date. Arriving early will allow you time to settle into the Denver area before the start of school. You can go to the Department of State website to see the estimated wait time for the Embassy or Consulate nearest you. The visa can be issued up to 120 days before the reporting date on your documents.
Be prepared for the visa interview. The officer must assume that each prospective student is planning on staying in the U.S. It is your job to prove otherwise. Any ties to your country – family, jobs, land ownership, etc – will help show that you do plan to return to your home country after you are finished with school. Take any documents that you think will help your case including your original financial documents or letter of sponsorship, but don’t be surprised if the officer does not ask to see anything. The officer will probably spend less than a few minutes with you as well.
You should take:
- Proof of having paid the SEVIS fee
- Evidence of financial resources
- Evidence of English ability
- Evidence that you intend to depart the U.S. upon completion of your studies
- Form DS-160
- Passport-sized photographs
- Proof of payment of Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee
- Visa reciprocity fee (if applicable)
- Transcripts, test scores (GRE, TOEFL, etc)
You can find specific information about the consulate, appointment process, application forms, and visa fee at the Department of State website.
Arriving at the US Port of Entry
After you receive your visa, you may enter the U.S. up to 30-days before the reporting date listed on your immigration document. Make sure that you pack all your important documents in your carry-on luggage.
This should include:
- Evidence of financial resources
- Evidence of student status, such as recent tuition receipts, transcripts or proof of registration
- Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee, Form I-797
- Name and contact information for your Designated School Official
You can also read more about what will happen at the Port of Entry at the ICE website.
Traveling to the US with a sufficient amount of money:
When you travel to the U.S., be prepared with enough of U.S. currency to pay for your first meals, transportation, and incidentals. A credit card that you can use in the United States will also be helpful. Study the US exchange rates prior to your trip to the US so you are prepared to handle your travel and settling expenses.