Do I need a student visa?
If your primary intent for coming to the United States is to study in a full-time course (more than 18 hours per week), you must obtain an F-1 (student) visa to enter the U.S. However, the U.S. State Department has said that if you are coming to do a short course of study of less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so on a visitor visa. Students from visa waiver countries signing up for our 20 lessons/week Standard, TOEFL and TOEIC course do NOT need to get a student visa.
How do I get a student visa?
1. In order to apply for an F-1 student visa you will need a Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20) issued by our school.To receive a form I-20 you must do the following;
- Complete and submit your application to CISL;
- Pay the tuition (see our refund policy);
- Submit documents showing that you have enough money to pay for all of your tuition and living expenses while you are studying at CISL. These documents can be any one of the following:
- Evidence of financial means (for example, a copy of a recent bank statement) to pay your tuition and living expenses for the duration of your course;
- A letter of financial responsibility from your parent or legal guardian accompanied by evidence of their financial means (for example, a copy of their recent bank statement); or
- A letter of sponsorship from your company or organization together with evidence of financial means.
2. When we have received your application and documents we will mail you your I-20 form and a letter of acceptance. When you receive it you should sign it and write the date at item 11 on page 1.
3. As of September 1, 2004, all students who want to come to the U.S. on a student visa must pay a $200 fee to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This fee is called the SEVIS fee and is separate from the visa application fee that you will pay to the U.S. consulate or embassy.(See information about the SEVIS fee below) This fee must be paid before you arrive to the consulate or embassy for your visa interview. Please read carefully our SEVIS fee information document to learn how to pay this fee.
4. You must contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in your area to schedule an interview. A list of embassies and consulates is available at the following web site: http://usembassy.state.gov It is important to schedule your appointment as soon as possible.
5. Follow the instructions of the embassy and consulate to do the following:
- Pay the visa application fee; and
- Complete the visa application forms.
6. Prepare for your visa interview by having all of the following documents:
- You passport (it must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of your arrival in the U.S.)
- The Form I-20 issued by CISL
- Letter of acceptance from CISL
- Completed visa application forms
- A receipt for the payment of the visa application fee
- A receipt for the payment of the SEVIS fee
- Documents showing that you have enough money to pay for all of your tuition and living expenses while you are studying at CISL
- Two passport size photographs (2 x 2 inches) in the format required (see http://travel.state.gove/visa/tempvisitors_info_photo.html)
- Any information you have that demonstrates that you will return to your home country after finishing your studies.
How long may I stay on my visa?
When you enter the United States on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport expires while you are in America. After you have completed the course of studies shown on your Form I-20, you are allowed an additional 60 days, to prepare for departure from the U.S.
SEVIS Fee Information
What is the SEVIS fee?
The U.S. Government has a system known as SEVIS (the Student Exchange Visitor Information System). This system keeps track of foreign students from the moment that a school issues the I-20 form. The administrative computers at our school are connected to the U.S. SEVIS system by internet. For the past several years, the I-20 forms issued by schools in the U.S. have been produced by using this system.
When the SEVIS system was created, the law required that the system be paid for by a fee to be charged to students and certain exchange visitors. However, there have been delays in implementing this fee.
Who must pay the SEVIS fee?
You must pay the SEVIS fee if:
- You were issued a Form I-20:
- One of the following conditions applies to you:
- You are seeking an F-1 or F-3 visa from a United States embassy or consulate for first-time attendance in a language training program. In this case, the SEVIS fee must be paid BEFORE visa issuance; or
- You are applying for reinstatement to student status, after being out of status for more than 5 months; or
- You are seeking a change a of status to F-1 or F-3; or
- You have prospective student visa and you are in the U.S. applying for a change to F-1 student status using an I-20 issued on or after September 01, 2004; or
- You hold a valid F-1 or F-3 visa, have been absent from the United States for a period of more than 5 months (not working on your studies during this time with the prior approval of your school), and will re-enter the U.S. for a new program of study. In this case, the SEVIS fee must be paid BEFORE re-entry to the U.S.
Your family members with F-2 visas (the spouse and dependents of the F-1 visa student) are not required to pay the SEVIS fee,even if the I-20 that they use is issued on or after 9/1/2004.
How much is the SEVIS fee?
The SEVIS fee is $200. This fee is separate from and in addition to the CISL visa application fee. The SEVIS fee must be paid by the Internet or by mail. It cannot be paid at a U.S. embassy or consulate and it cannot be paid at port of entry. CISL offers students a SEVIS Fee payment service allowing applicants to have CISL collect the fee up front and pay the fee for them. s
How do I pay the SEVIS fee?
- On the internet, by completing a form I-901 and paying with a credit care (Visa, Master Card, or American Express):
- Find the Form I-901 at www.FMJfee.com.
- Complete the form online and supply the necessary credit card information (Visa, Master card or American Express). **Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 form.
- Print a copy of the online receipt. (*Be sure to do this!)
- Be sure to make a copy of your receipt, and keep it with your other important immigration documents
Can someone else pay the fee for me?
Yes. You can pay the fee yourself, or a third party such as a friend, family member, or other interested party can pay the fee on your behalf through the same means described above.
You may also choose to use CISL’s SEVIS Service to expedite and ensure a receipt of payment. Then CISL will pay the fee on your behalf and mail your SEVIS receipt with your acceptance letter and Form I-20 so that you can be prepared for your visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consular office. The SEVIS fee will be added to your invoice.
When should I pay the fee?
When you pay the SEVIS fee by Internet, your payment is processed immediately and, at the time you make payment, you can print a receipt directly from your computer. This computer-generated receipt can be used to verify to an embassy, consular post, or port-of-entry that you have paid the SEVIS fee.
Internet payments must be submitted at least 3 business days in advance of the interview if you will rely on electronic fee verification at the consulate.
Will I get a receipt?
Yes. You must be able to prove that you have paid the fee! If you use the CISL SEVIS Fee Service, CISL will mail you your SEVIS receipt with your I-20 and acceptance letter,
When you pay the fee by the Internet you can print a on-line receipt immediately. Don't forget to do this! In addition, you will receive a paper receipt later by mail.
A paper receipt is not required in order for you to be issued a visa or to be admitted to the U.S. embassies and consular posts will be able to verify your fee payment without a receipt in most circumstances if you pay the fee far enough in advance of your visa interview. Just remember to pay on time! Internet payments must be submitted at least 3 business days in advance of your interview if you will rely on electronic fee verification at the consulate. Mailed payments must be sent in a manner that assures arrival at the DHS address listed on the I-901 at least 3 business days before the scheduled interview.
Is SEVIS refundable if I am denied?
No. Once paid, the SEVIS fee is non-refundable, unless paid by mistake, even if your visa is denied or, subsequent to issuance of the visa, you choose not to come to the United States.
However, if you reapply for a new F-1 visa within 12 months of the denial, you will not have to pay the fee again.
If I change schools, do I pay again?
No. If you have been accepted to more than one school and paid the fee using the SEVIS ID number of a school you will not be attending, you will not have to pay the fee again. Bring the I-20s of both the school for which you paid the fee and the school you will be attending, as well as your SEVIS fee payment receipt, to the consulate.
Who is not required to pay SEVIS ?
1. A student who continues to maintain his/her student status and is using an I- 20 which was issued before September 01, 2004.
2. A student applying for a visa to return to the U.S. to continue a program of study, in which he/she has maintained student status, and which has not been completed. This includes returning to the U.S. to resume studies after a temporary absence of less than 5 months.
3. A student transferring between schools at the same educational level.
4. A student applying for an extension of stay because additional time is needed to complete the program.
5. If you have already paid the fee and you are reapplying for a student visa within 12 months of having been denied one.
6. A student applying for reinstatement of student status - if the student has not been out of status for more than 5 months.
What is ESTA?
ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. ESTA is an online application system developed by the United States government to pre-screen travelers before they are allow to board an airplane or ship bound for the United States. Starting on January 12, 2009, any person entering the United States under the visa waiver program is required to hold an approved ESTA Travel Authorization. Please visit the ESTA web site for additional information or apply here at the US Department of Homeland Security web site.
ESTA Frequently Asked Questions
Need more information about SEVIS?
Please contact CISL Student Services