Obtaining an F-1 Visa
Students looking to attend school in the United States must obtain an F-1 Visa prior to coming to the United States. The information below outlines important information you will need to know in obtaining an F-1 Visa. For more information about obtaining a student visa, please visit the U.S. Department of State website.
Instructions for Obtaining an F-1 Visa
When your acceptance for admission to Grand Canyon University (GCU) is complete, you will be sent an I-20 form and letter of acceptance. Follow these steps to apply for an F-1 Visa:
1. Make an appointment with a U.S. Consulate.
- Find the nearest U.S. Consulate at Download appropriate forms you will be asked to complete (like DS-160)
- Arrange for appointment as soon as possible. You may apply 120 days before the program start date, but you will not be able to enter the U.S. until 30 days before the program begins.
2. Complete the SEVIS I-901 form and pay the fee.
The fee must be paid at least 3 business days before you apply for visa.
3. Prepare for visa interview
Keep in mind, the F-1 is a non-immigrant visa which means you need to show proof that you do not intend to immigrate to the U.S. but plan to return to your country. Please see Preparing for the F-1 visa interview.
The interview will be very brief, so be organized and express your educational plans in a complete but concise manner.
A. Organize Papers
- Application for F-1 visa (see website of the consulate you will visit)
- Unexpired passport
- Letter of Admission
- Receipt of I-901 SEVIS fee payment
- Proof of financial support
- Proof of ties to home country
- Academic records (for example if coming for Graduate program have diploma and transcripts from Bachelors degree)
B. Have a Plan - prepare a cover sheet for your application expressing your plan for study in the U.S. with short sentences in bullet format with career goals upon return to your country.
C. Learn about GCU - you will likely be asked why you chose this school and how it fits with your educational and career plans.
4. Let us know when you receive your visa
5. Canadian students
Are not required to apply for an F-1 visa stamp, but will apply for F-1 status at the port of entry. Take same documentation listed above.
IMPORTANT! If you are denied an F-1 visa, do not enter the U.S. on a tourist or business (B-1/B-2) visa. It is not legal to study full time on this type of visa. Let us know as soon as possible so we can advise you.
Form I-901 and SEVIS Fee
Prior to applying for an F-1 visa and for initial entry to the US, students must complete a Form I-901 and pay a $200 Student and Exchange Visitors Information System (SEVIS) fee to cover the cost of administration and maintenance of the system. [form link - http://www.fmjfee.com/]
You must submit the form and pay the fee in time to have it processed before a consular official must make a decision about your visa. The form can be submitted on-line or by mail and the fee can be paid in one of three ways as listed below.
The fastest and most efficient way to submit the form and pay the fee is to do it over the internet with a credit or debit card using the web site listed above. When completing the form, be sure to type your name exactly as it is on your I-20 and print a copy of the on-line receipt once it has been submitted and accepted. The Web site will allow students to see that their fee payment has been received and provide them with an estimate as to when they can reasonably expect the consular office to be able to independently verify the SEVIS fee payment in their system.
2. Western Union
Another option is to pay the fee through Western Union Quick Pay. The website for instruction is http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901. It is recommended that you print the instructions on how to complete the form and take it with you. Find the nearest Western Union at www.payment-solutions.com/agent.asp and request the Blue Form.
The last option, which is not recommended, is to print the I-901 form and mail it with the fee. Carefully follow the instructions on the form and mail to the address provided. The fee must be paid by check or money order made in U.S. dollars and drawn on a bank located in the U.S. The fee should be made payable to the "I-109 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee." There is an option to send by courier, but be sure to send it to the correct address for this process. Checks are subject to collection. If the bank on which it is drawn does not honor the check, you will be charged a $30 fee.
Preparing for the F-1 Visa Interview
In order to successfully apply for an F-1 student visa, applicants must prove to the consular official the following:
- The sole (not just "primary") purpose of travel is to pursue a full-time program of study.
- The ability and intention to be a full-time student in the United States. Applicants must prove that they have been unconditionally accepted to the school's accredited academic program by providing an I-20 form issued from the school and a letter of acceptance. Applicants should also prove that they have the skills and background necessary to complete the program including documents such as diplomas, transcripts listing courses they have taken and grades received, TOEFL score reports, if applicable.
- There is adequate funding to cover all tuition, living expenses, books and insurance. Applicants must prove that they have enough funding for tuition, living expenses, books and health insurance. If a scholarship has been awarded, the applicant should provide the letter issued from the school. If personal funds will be used, there must be adequate funding for the entire course of study. If a family member or some other person is supplying the funding, an affidavit of support should be included.
- Sufficiently strong social, economic and other ties to compel departure from the United States upon completion of the program of studies. Applicants must prove that they intend to return to their home country after the completion of their course of study in the United States.
10 points to remember in preparation for the interview
- Ties to home country - Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. Therefore, you must be able to show that you have more compelling reasons to return to your home country than stay in the U.S. "Ties" to your home country are the things that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence such as job, family, property, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. An interviewing officer may ask a prospective student about these and long-range plans and career prospects in your home
- English - Expect the interview to be conducted in English and not in your native language. If you are coming for the American Language Program (Intensive English) be prepared to explain how the program will be helpful for you when you return to your country.
- Speak for yourself - Do not take parents or family members with you to the interview - the consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. It may give a negative impression if you cannot speak on your own behalf.
- Know the program and how it fits your career plans - Learn as much as you can about the school's program and be able to explain how studying in the United States and GCU in particular will benefit you in your future professional career when you return home.
- Be concise - Consular offices are under time pressure to give quick interviews because of the volume of applicants. What you say first and the initial impression you create will be critical to your success. Answers to questions should be kept simple and to the point. You may want to have your plan typed on a page with bulleted points.
- Supplemental documentation - It should be clear at a glance to the consular officer what written documents you have and what they represent, so have the documents neatly organized. Avoid lengthy written explanations which cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Keep in mind most interviews last only 2 - 3 minutes.
- Not all countries are equal - Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or countries from which many students have remained in the United States as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Be aware of your country's status, and be prepared to answer questions about job opportunities at home after your study in the United States.
- Employment - Your main purpose in coming to the United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While some students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education, and is done only with special permission. Be prepared to articulate your plan to return home at the end of the program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents CANNOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, be employed in the United States. Volunteer work and attending school part-time, however, are permitted activities.
- Dependents remaining at home - If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence, especially if you are their primary source of income. If the consular officer gains the impression that you will have to remit money from the United States to support them, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If they decide to join you later, it is helpful if they apply at the same consular post where you applied for your visa.
- Maintain a positive attitude - Do not argue with the consular officer. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents they would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.