Apply for your F-1 visa

Once you receive your form I-20 from Barnard, you must apply for F-1 student status.

The information below is provided to help you get to Barnard in appropriate immigration status in compliance with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations.

How to Apply for an Initial F-1 Entry Visa

A special note for Canadian Citizens: Canadian citizens do not require an entry visa to enter the U.S. from Canada, but do require an I-20, passport, financial documentation and proof of SEVIS fee payment and must follow certain procedures. See Important Information for Canadian Students on how to enter the U.S. in F-1 status.

A special note for transfers: If you plan to travel outside the U.S. after completing your studies at your previous institution but before starting your program at Barnard, you must use Barnard 's I-20 to re-enter the U.S. If you have a valid, unexpired F-1 visa in your passport, you do not need to apply for a new visa. You may use the visa you have, even though the previous school's name is on it. If your visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa but you are not required to pay the SEVIS fee again. Go to the SEVIS SEVIS fee website for confirmation that you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee.



Step 1: Make an appointment at a U.S. Consulate to apply for an F-1 Student entry visa.

You will require the I-20 form from Barnard College at the time of your appointment. DO NOT MAKE AN APPOINTMENT UNTIL you have received the I-20 or are sure that you will have the I-20 in time for the appointment. While the U.S. Consulate will not issue the student entry visa until 120 days before the reporting date on the I-20 or the start date of your DS-2019 program period, you should apply for your visa as soon as possible. Check the following websites for more information on visa appointments.

Find the U.S. Consulate at which you will apply at and carefully read its instructions for applying for a visa (including links to required forms). Application procedures and requirements vary so be sure to pay attention to the specifics for the Consulate at which you apply. Make a list of documentation required for the interview and make all fee payments as instructed on the Consulate's website.

Step 2: Check your form I-20 for completeness and correctness!

Your I-20 indicates that we have created a record for you in SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), a national database for international students and scholars. Your unique assigned SEVIS ID number is in the upper right corner of page 1. Check to see that all information is correct and that your expected completion date is in the future.

Step 3: Make sure your passport is valid.

When you apply for a visa or enter the U.S., your passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future. Some countries are exempt from this requirement and have their passports automatically extended for 6 months, which means that you can use your passport up until the written expiration date. Please check in with the appropriate consulate or embassy to determine if you qualify for this exemption.

Step 4: Pay the SEVIS fee and print the receipt.

Go to the I-901 payment site at and follow the instructions. You will need the I-20 available because the SEVIS ID number is required. Print copies of the receipt -you will need one with you for the visa interview and you should keep one for your own records. You can only access the receipt at the time of payment so be sure your printer is working before paying the fee. You will not be able to get a receipt later.

If you have been a student in the U.S. and are transferring schools or beginning a program at a new level of study, it is possible you may not have to pay the SEVIS fee. Refer to information posted at SEVIS website.

Step 5: Complete the required Department of State application form DS-160.

Everyone applying for a non-immigrant visa must complete this form. Be sure to print and keep the DS-160 barcode page.

Step 6: Refer to step one and follow instructions for paying any visa fees required in advance of your appointment.

Procedures may vary from country to country, and even post to post within the same country. Note that application and issuance fees are based on reciprocity and generally reflect your country's policies in granting visa privileges to visiting U.S. students.

Step 7: Bring a passport-size photo less than six months old.

Check U.S. Department of State Visa Photo Requirements for details.

Step 8: READ! Prepare for your interview appointment by learning what to expect.

You will be applying for an F-1 student visa, a non-immigrant classification. According to U.S. immigration law, "Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a non-immigrant status." This means you need to establish that you have no intention of staying in the U.S. permanently, but are coming here for a temporary purpose, i.e. to pursue your educational objective. While the consular officers are aware that it may be difficult for students to demonstrate strong professional and economic ties to their home countries, you should still bear this in mind as you prepare for your interview.

In advance of your interview, please read the following:

Step 9: Checklist of what to take with you to your visa interview

____ A passport valid for at least 6 months

____ Form I-20 (sign the form under Item 11)

____ Barnard admission letter

____ Completed DS-160 visa application bar code page

____ A photograph in the prescribed format (see Step 7)

____ A receipt for the visa application fee

____ A receipt for the SEVIS fee payment

____ 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 demonstrates your intention to return to your home country after finishing your studies in the U.S. This may include proof of property, family, or other ties to your community.

Step 10: After the visa is processed, make sure you got what you requested!

Check your passport to be sure you obtained an F-1 visa. Also, be certain that the I-20 was returned to you, as you must have the original with you when you arrive in the United States. Sometimes, the document is returned to you in a sealed envelope, which must be presented to the immigration inspector when you arrive.



Important Information for Canadian Students

Obligation to Comply with Immigration Regulations

In terms of immigration regulations, the only difference between Canadians and other international students coming to the United States is that Canadian citizens are not required to apply for an entry visa at a U.S. consulate.

Some Canadians have mistakenly assumed that other regulations that apply to international students do not apply to them. Canadians are subject to the same regulations regarding employment in the United States, requirement for full-time study and all other provisions for maintaining status. Other than applying for a visa, it is important that you read about and abide by all other provisions relating to F-1 status. It is especially important for Canadian students to be vigilant about entering the United States in proper student status, as immigration inspectors are accustomed to admitting Canadian citizens as visitors.

Obtaining F-1 Student Status

To enter the U.S. in F-1 student status, Canadians must present the items listed below to the immigration inspector:

  • Form I-20 from Barnard College
  • Valid passport
  • Supporting financial documents submitted to obtain the Form I-20
  • Proof of SEVIS Fee payment
    To pay the SEVIS fee, click here and follow the instructions. Be sure to make a copy of the receipt for your own records.

After the immigration inspector reviews your documents, you will be given an I-94 Admission/Departure card to complete. Be sure to look at your I-94 card before you leave the inspection area to ensure that it has the notations "F-1 D/S" written on it. ALL international students, including Canadian students, must have a correctly annotated I-94 card to confirm current F-1 status. If your I-94 card does not have "F-1" "D/S", you are considered to be in Visitor (B-2) status, a status which does not permit study in the U.S.