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Obtaining a Visa Stamp and Entering the United States

A non-immigrant U.S. visa is issued as a stamp in your passport by a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States. A visa stamp indicates that you are eligible for entry and reentry to the United States in the immigration category indicated (F-1, J-1, H-1B, TN, etc).  Below are the steps for obtaining your F-1 visa stamp and entering the U.S.

Review your Form I-20

Carefully review Form I-20 and if any information is incorrect, contact Immigration Services immediately. Please note that the spelling of your name and your date of birth must be exactly the same as reflected in your passport. The same is true for your dependents. If all of the information is correct, complete item 11 “Student Certification” on page one. Please use blue ink when completing this item. 

Pay the SEVIS fee (required ONLY for initial F-1 visa stamp)

F-1 students in must pay this fee at least three business days before reporting to the Consulate to submit the visa application and undergo a visa interview. Canadian citizens must pay it at least three business days before applying at the port of entry for admission to the United States. F-2 dependents are not required to pay the SEVIS fee. A completed Form I-901 must accompany all SEVIS fee payments. Form I-901 may be completed and submitted on-line at and the SEVIS fee may be charged to Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. Print a receipt and bring it with you to the U.S. Consulate at the time of visa application. It should also be carried and shown upon arrival in the United States to immigration officials at the airport or border.

A third-party may pay the fee for you. When submitting the payment, the third party must enter the correct SEVIS ID number (listed in the upper right corner of your Form I-20) and write your name exactly as it appears on the Form I-20 and in your passport. A reliable address must be listed for mailing of the receipt. Or, the receipt should be printed immediately from the web and sent to you. More information about the SEVIS fee.

Schedule your F-1 visa interview 

To make an appointment at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy, go to the U.S. Department of State’s website. Please keep in mind that it may take a few weeks to schedule an appointment, so you should initiate your visa application as early as possible. The F-1 is a nonimmigrant visa, and the consul who issues the visa stamp must be satisfied that you do not plan to permanently immigrate to the United States. The burden of proof will be on you to show you have a residence in your home country which you do not intend to abandon and that you qualify for the F-1 visa category.

To apply for the F-1 visa stamp, you will need to submit the following documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate:

  • Nonimmigrant visa application form(s): Appropriate forms and instructions can be found on the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for your F-1 visa stamp.
  • Application fee and reciprocity fee (if applicable): Check with the Consulate for the fee amount and how it must be paid or review the information on the U.S. Department of State website.
  • One photograph (2 inches square [51 x 51 mm], showing full face, without head covering, against a light background. Photo specifications.
  • Passport: must be valid at least six months beyond the date you plan to enter the U.S.
  • Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status (Form I-20) from UMass Chan.  
  • Proof of payment of the SEVIS fee (for initial entry only)
  • Admission letter from the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UMass Chan.
  • Documentation of financial support (typically included in admission letter)
  • Up-to-date Curriculum Vitae (CV).

We recommend that you review the information on the Embassy or Consulates website to determine how long the visa process may take and if any additional documents are required.

Travel and Admission to the U.S.

You can schedule your initial F-1 entry to the U.S. up to 30 days before the reporting date listed in item 5 of your Form I-20. If you are unable to arrive at UMass Chan by the program start date listed on your Form I-20, please notify the graduate school as this may affect your ability to register for classes. In addition, the Immigration Services may not be able to validate your SEVIS record, as required, if your arrival at UMass Chan is late.  

Be sure to carry all the documents listed above with you at all times during your travel. During your trip to or upon entry to the United States, you will complete a Form I-94 Arrival/Departure record. Using a pen, print the information requested on this form, making certain to spell your name exactly as it is spelled in your passport and on your Form I-20.

When you arrive at the airport or border, present your Form I-20 and SEVIS fee receipt along with your I-94 card, passport and F-1 visa stamp to the immigration examiner, and request to be admitted in F-1 immigration status.

Canadian Citizens

Candian Citizens are not required to carry a Canadian passport (although it is advisable) unless they are entering the United States from outside the Western Hemisphere, and are never required to obtain a visa stamp from a consular officer. However, they are admitted in a specific immigration status and must present the Form I-20 and SEVIS fee receipt at the border or port of entry in order to be admitted in F-1 status and be given a Form I-94 with the correct notations. Canadians are typically asked to pay a $7 border-crossing fee related to the Form I-94.

When you initally arrive at UMass Chan

You must report to Immigration Services as we are required to validate your arrival in SEVIS within 30 days of the start date inidated on your Form I-20. Typically, your appointment with Immigration Services will be made prior to your arrival at UMass Chan. If it is not, please contact us upon arrival to arrange a meeting. Please see information about other steps to take upon your arrival at UMass Chan.