Your passport is a form of identification issued by the country you’re a citizen of. It certifies your identity and nationality and is required by many countries to allow you to visit their nation. Passports expire over time, and you must keep yours current and valid during your time in the United States.

  • When you first enter the U.S., you must have a passport that is valid for at least six (6) months beyond your expected date of leaving the country. Some countries are exempt from this requirement. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol provides a list of exempt countries, which can be downloaded from their website.
  • Your passport must remain valid during your time in the United States; make sure you don’t let your passport expire!
  • If your passport is about to expire while staying in the U.S., you may visit your country’s embassy or consulate to renew it. The U.S. State Department provides a website to help you locate your consulate or embassy.

Passport application processes and wait times vary by country, so if you need to apply for a new passport, start the process early!

Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 Student Status)

The I-20 is issued by the school (in this case, UMFK) through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). It serves as proof that you are eligible to attend college in the United States. Before UMFK can issue an I-20, you must complete the following steps:

  1. Apply to, and be accepted in, one of UMFK’s degree programs.
  2. Complete the UMFK Financial Affidavit of Support Form (please see the instructions to complete the form).
  3. Complete our I-20 Request Form. When requesting an I-20, you must, at a minimum, provide electronic copies of the following documents:
    • Your completed Financial Affidavit of Support form
    • Bank statements illustrating you can cover the necessary education and living expenses for you and (if applicable) your dependents
    • Your passport
    • Your acceptance letter from UMFK

Once issued an I-20, you can use it (along with proof you’ve paid the SEVIS fee — see below) to apply for your F-1 student visa through a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Please note that the processes, timeframes, and visa application deadlines vary by country; please consult the website for your country’s U.S. embassy or consulate.

I-901 SEVIS Fee Receipt (Form I-797C)

In addition to your I-20, you must pay the SEVIS fee before applying for your student visa. The SEVIS fee, charged by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is a fee that individuals visiting the country with F-1 status must pay to cover expenses involved in administrating and maintaining the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). As of March 30, 2023, the fee assessed is $370 (excluding the $85 per person biometric fee charged for yourself and any dependents). You can pay the SEVIS fee online by credit card through the Student and Exchange Visitor (SEVP) I-901 SEVIS Fee Processing website. Make sure you enter your name exactly as it appears on your I-20.
  • When prompted for your school code, enter POM214F00108000.
  • When prompted for your SEVIS ID, enter the ID (which begins with the letter “N) at the top right section of your I-20.
  • When paying the fee, ensure you are connected to a printer to print a copy of the receipt.
Once paid, print your receipt to serve as proof of payment.

Student Visa

Once you have your I-20 and have paid the SEVIS fee, you must apply for a U.S. F-1 student visa. The visa contains your photo and biographical information and is added to your passport by the U.S. embassy or consulate once your application is approved.

An F-1 visa is applied for through your home country’s U.S. embassy or consulate and involves completing the visa application (form DS-160) and scheduling an F-1 visa interview. The precise process, application deadlines, and timeframes vary by country, so please consult your country’s U.S. embassy or consulate website. An online visa application is available, allowing you to complete and print Form DS-160, which you will bring with you for your F-1 visa interview. If your application is approved, your F-1 student visa will be added to your passport by the U.S. embassy or consulate.

  • Your visa may expire in the U.S. if your other immigration documents are valid and up-to-date.
  • An F-1 visa cannot be renewed within the U.S.; it can only be renewed outside of the United States at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • You MUST have a valid visa to enter the United States; make sure your visa will still be valid when returning to the U.S. if traveling abroad.
  • A valid visa does not reflect the duration your F-1 status allows you to remain in the U.S. Your F-1 status expires within 60 days from completing your last degree requirement or OPT. If you wish to stay in the United States beyond that period, you must enroll in another degree program or change your immigration status.

NOTE: Receiving an F-1 visa is not the same as obtaining F-1 status. An F-1 visa is one of the documents U.S. Customs requires at the port of entry to determine whether you qualify for F-1 status. F-1 status is determined at your port of entry when you first enter the United States.


Canadian Students

Canadian citizens and residents wishing to study in the U.S. do not require an F-1 visa. For more information, visit our Canadian Regulations page.

Visa Delay

While ideally, the visa application process will go smoothly and result in approval, issues may come up that lead to a delay in issuing your student visa. When the processing of a visa is delayed, it’s referred to as Administrative Processing. Several circumstances can trigger Administrative processing, such as:

  • Inconsistent spelling of your name throughout your application materials.
  • Being from a country that may trigger additional security screenings, such as North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran, or Libya.
  • Your planned course of study involves the use of or exposure to what is considered a sensitive technology.
  • You have a name similar to another person in the consular system, which may lead to further scrutiny.

As Administrative Processing is a process conducted by the U.S. government, there is, unfortunately, nothing UMFK can do to expedite the process. If a delay prevents you from coming to the United States before your I-20 start date or the start of semester classes, please contact a DSO immediately to let us know. You may need to take a leave of absence or request to be admitted for a later semester (in which case, you may also need to reapply for your visa). You must notify us within the first thirty (30) days from the start of the semester.

If you need admission to UMFK for a later semester, you’ll need to be admitted for that semester and request a change of start date on your I-20 within sixty (60) days of the start date on your initial I-20. If admitted for the later semester later than sixty (60) days, you must request a new initial I-20 and either pay the SEVIS fee again or request a SEVIS I-901 Fee transfer.

Visa Denial

If your application for an F-1 visa is denied, you will typically receive a written explanation for the denial from the embassy or consulate. In that case, please contact a DSO as soon as possible, providing a copy of the denial explanation. Denials are rare, but when they happen, the most common reason is 214(b) – Failure to Prove Non-Immigrant Intent. This indicates that you didn’t adequately prove your reason for coming to the U.S. as a student. You may be eligible to reapply for an F-1 visa or appeal the decision. Please review the U.S. State Department’s page on Visa Denials for more information to determine your options.

If your denial prevents you from entering the U.S. before the start of the semester or the start date on your I-20, you must notify us within the first thirty (30) days from the beginning of the semester. If you must request admission for a later semester, you’ll need to be admitted for that semester and request a change of start date on your I-20 within sixty (60) days of the start date on your initial I-20.

I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record)

When you enter the United States through a port of entry, a U.S. Customs officer will review your documentation and determine your eligibility for F-1 status. They will then stamp your passport and create a digital I-94 record which you can retrieve proof of through the CBP I-94 website or the CBP One™ mobile app (available from the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store). More information about the I-94 is available from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.

Download the CBP One™ App

Apple - download on the App Store Google - get it on Google Play

NOTE: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) now automates the Form I-94 process at air, sea, and land ports of entry. A paper I-94 will no longer be provided at such ports except in limited circumstances. For more information, please review CBP’s I-94 Automation Fact Sheet.