F1 Visa
Oct 6, 2022

F-1 Student Visa Process Overview

F-1 Student Visa Process Overview

It is important to be familiar with all steps of the F-1 Student Visa lifecycle before starting the F-1 application process:

  1. Before beginning the F-1 Student Visa process, students must be accepted by a school (SEVP-certified institution) and get a form I-20 from the school.

    The student’s visa application is processed after the U.S. institution accepts SEVP certification. The student should apply to the university, be accepted, and work directly with the University’s Designated School Official (“DSO”) to coordinate the necessary paperwork needed to apply for the F-1 Student Visa. The student will then receive the I-20 form from the university. The I-20 contains details about the student’s U.S. stay and study plan. The I-20 will include:

    -The student’s SEVIS ID number

    -The program start and end dates

    -The intended program of study

    -The source of funds

    -Cost of attendance

  2. Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee

    All prospective F and M students must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee to apply for a visa to enter the United States. If you are from a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program, you must still pay this fee before entering. Students will need to pay the $350 processing and maintenance fee at the designated government website.

  3. Complete the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application

    To be eligible for an F-1 Student Visa, prospective international students must next submit a DS-160. The DS-160 is a comprehensive online application for nonimmigrant visas that includes the applicant's biographical details and travel plans. Additionally, the student must pay a $160 MRV fee with their application.
  4. Schedule the F-1 interview

    The student must arrange an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate after completing Form DS-160. The interview is a mandatory step before an F-1 Student Visa can be issued on your passport. It is strongly advised to submit an application at the closest consulate in their country of origin. It is crucial to book the appointment as early as possible as visa appointment wait times can differ by country and by consular post.
  5. Attend the interview and obtain the visa

    A series of basic questions will be posed to you in order to ascertain the validity of your anticipated activities in the US, as well as if you are adequately funded and intend to return home after the study program is complete. If the interviewing officer approves you for the visa, you will provide your passport to the consulate for visa stamping as well as make arrangements for your passport’s return. Once you have received your passport back from the U.S. Consulate you can travel to the U.S. to begin your study program.

F-1 Student Visa Processing Time


The school or institution will ultimately determine how quickly the F-1 application is processed. While some schools estimate that processing I-20s will take a few weeks, others estimate that it may take several months. To learn more about your petition, get in touch with the DSO at the University or Institution you wish to apply.

Interview appointment time: it might take up to two months to book once applicants submit the DS-160 application. The appointment can be set for a week or two in the future.

Once the F-1 visa has been approved, applicants may check the processing time here to get an idea of when it will be available for pick-up or delivery.

Note: F-1 Visa is not eligible for premium processing.


Robert Wees
Robert Wees
U.S. Immigration Counsel

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