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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, receipt showing payment of the $200.00 SEVIS fee, and a valid passport are necessary to apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate. Once you have been admitted to a full-time program of study, FIT will issue you an I-20 within five 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 International Student Services (ISS). Do not submit the ISFS before you have been admitted to FIT as it will be returned.

Download International Student Financial Statement (.pdf)

Once you have received your I-20, contact your local U.S. Consulate to inquire about visa application procedures. The U.S. 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 U.S. Consulates for a list of U.S. Consulates around the world, U.S. State Department for important instructions on applying for an F-1 visa, and Form DS-160 to access the online visa application form. 

In addition to the visa processing fee charged by the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires 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 MUST pay the $200 SEVIS fee:

  • Students applying for an F-1 visa to begin studies in the U.S. for the first time (in addition to the visa application fee) or seeking to enter the US on a new SEVIS record for which the fee has not been paid. 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 U.S. 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 U.S.
  • Individuals already in the U.S. seeking a change to F-1 status
  • Students in the U.S. who have been out of F-1 status for more than 5 months and wish to apply for reinstatement

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 U.S. to resume study who have not been absent from the U.S. for more than 5 months
  • Students reapplying for their F-1 visas within 12 months of a denial from the U.S. Consulate
  • F-2 dependents

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 Identification Number, a 10-digit number beginning with N, can be found in the upper-left 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 and paying the SEVIS fee, consult the Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) web site, Study in the States

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 U.S. to study at FIT. Click for more information from the U.S. Department of State if you have not been in F-1 status in the past 5 months. Also, do not enter the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. consulate. To obtain a dependent I-20 form, the student must complete Section 10 of the International Student Financial Statement (ISFS) and submit it to ISS 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 U.S. consulate, which will enable them to accompany the student to the US.

Children who enter the U.S. 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, recreational, or part-time 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 U.S. Consulate. Instead, students must surrender the I-20 to the Immigration inspector at their ports of entry to the U.S. 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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