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Obtaining an F-1 Visa

The Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status), evidence of the ability to finance your studies, a copy of your letter of admission to FIT, and a valid passport are necessary to apply for an F-1 visa at a US Consulate. Once you have been admitted to a full-time degree program, FIT will issue you an I-20 ten working days after you have provided financial documents showing adequate funds to study at FIT and paid the $150.00 Tuition Deposit. Your properly completed ISFS (International Student Financial Statement), with all the necessary documentation, must be filed with the Office of International Student Advisors (OISA). Do not submit the ISFS before you have been admitted to FIT as it will be returned.

Download International Student Financial Statement

Once you have received your I-20, call the US Consulate to inquire about visa application procedures. The US State Department has implemented security clearance procedures that may result in an extensive delay in visa issuance; please allow for this when planning your arrival to FIT. Click on US Consulates for a list of US Consulates around the world, US State Department for important instructions on applying for an F-1 visa, and Form DS-160 to access the online visa application form. Those consulates not yet accepting the DS-160 may ask you to submit the former F-1 Visa Application (Form DS-156) along with Form DS-158. Male applicants 16 to 45 years of age who are unable to submit the electronic Form DS-160 must also submit Form DS-157 to the US Consulate.

Effective October 27, 2008, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved the collection of a $200.00 SEVIS fee. Monies from this fee fund the maintenance of DHS’s Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which houses the immigration records of all international students studying in the US.

The following do NOT have to pay the $200 SEVIS fee:

  • Students applying for an Extension of Stay
  • Students transferring their F-1 status from one institution to another, or changing their educational program within FIT
  • Students applying for Practical Training
  • Students applying to renew their F-1 visas to return to the US to resume study who have not been absent from the US for more than 5 months
  • Students reapplying for their F-1 visas within 12 months of a denial from the US Consulate
  • F-2 dependents

The following MUST pay the $200 SEVIS fee:

  • Students applying for an F-1 visa to begin studies in the US for the first time (in addition to the visa application fee). The fee must be paid to DHS prior to issuance of the visa.
  • Canadian nationals; receipt of payment must be shown on initial F-1 entry to the US.
  • Students who hold valid F-1 visas but have been absent from the US for more than five months and not engaged in an FIT-sanctioned study abroad program; receipt of payment must be shown on reentry to the US.
  • Individuals already in the US seeking a change to F-1 status
  • Students in the US who have been out of F-1 status for more than 5 months and wish to apply for reinstatement

Instructions on payment of the fee may be found by clicking on SEVIS fee. When filling out Form I-901, be sure to enter FIT’s School Code in #14 (NYC [214F] 00743000). Your SEVIS number, a 10-digit number beginning with “N,” can be found in the upper-right corner of your I-20; this is the answer to #15. In #17, check off box “A. F/M only: ($200).” For more information on SEVIS, consult the US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) web site.

If you already hold a valid F-1 visa and have been in F-1 status in the past 5 months, you do not need to obtain another one. Even if another school's name is on your valid F-1 visa, it may be used with the I-20 issued to you by FIT to enter the US, provided you have been in F-1 status within the past five months. However, if you have an I-20 that has been issued by another school, you may not use that I-20 to enter the US to study at FIT. Click for more information from the US Department of State if you have not been in F-1 status in the past 5 months. Also, do not enter the US on a visa other than F-1 if the primary purpose of your visit is to study as a student admitted to FIT.

If your F-1 visa has expired, and you are outside the US, or are a current FIT student who plans to travel abroad and return to FIT, it needs to be renewed at a US Consulate in your home country. If you already hold a valid I-20 from FIT, you will not be required to get another to renew your visa.

Students who wish to have their spouse and/or unmarried children accompany them while studying may also be issued an I-20 to apply for an F-2 dependent visa at a US consulate. To obtain a dependent I-20 form, the student must complete Section 9 of the International Student Financial Statement (ISFS) and submit it to the OISA along with financial documentation covering the total cost of the student's educational expenses, including dependent living expenses for one year. The dependent I-20 issued will then allow dependents to apply for an F-2 visa at a US consulate, which will enable them to accompany the student to the US.

Children who enter the US in F-2 status may engage in study at the kindergarten through high school (or secondary) level, but they may not study at institutions at the post-secondary level of education (college or university). A spouse may only engage in avocational or recreational study while in F-2 status, and no one in F-2 status is allowed to engage in employment.

Citizens and certain legal residents of Canada are not required to obtain an F-1 visa at a US Consulate. Instead, students must surrender all three pages of the I-20 to the Immigration inspector at their ports of entry to the US and show proof of payment of the SEVIS fee on their initial entry as F-1 students (see above for more details).

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