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What To Expect

It is always good to know what to expect. There will be so many things to think about in your preparation in applying for and receiving a Student VISA. There will be even more things relating to your visit to the United States. Below you will find some helpful tips and hints that may make the overall process much easier for you. And of course, you can always contact any of our campuses for additional information or advice on where to look for answers to your questions.


F-1 Academic Students enter the United States to pursue a full course of study at one of the following types of DHS-approved academic institutions in the United States:

  • Established college or university
  • Seminary
  • Conservatory
  • Academic high school (or, for F-3 students, elementary school)


Attendance at a public elementary school, a publicly funded adult education program is prohibited. Study at a public secondary school is time-limited and requires reimbursement to the local educational agency.

M-1 Vocational Students enter the United States to pursue a full course of study at one of the following types of DHS-approved nonacademic institutions (other than language training programs) in the United States:

  • Community college or junior college which provides vocational or technical training and which awards recognized associate degrees;
  • Vocational or other nonacademic high school;
  • Post-secondary vocational or business school;
  • School that provides vocational or nonacademic training other than language training;
  • School that offers both vocational and academic courses, as long as the student’s primary intent is to study vocational courses.


  • Students are encouraged to apply for their visa early to provide ample time for visa processing. Students may apply for their visa as soon as they are prepared to do so.
  • Students should note that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue your student visa 120 days or less, in advance of the course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa more than 120 days prior to your start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa. Consular officials will use that extra time for application processing.
  • Students need to be aware of the Department of Homeland Security regulation which requires that all initial or beginning students enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the course of study start/report date as shown on the Form I-20. Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to the U.S.
  • A beginning student who wants an earlier entry into the U.S. (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), must qualify for and obtain a visitor visa. A prospective student notation will be shown on his/her visitor visa and the traveler will need to make the intent to study clear to the U.S. immigration inspector at port of entry. Before beginning any studies, he or she must obtain approval for a change to Exchange Visitor status, filing Form I-539, Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status and pay the fee. Also you must submit the required Form I-20 to the Department of Homeland Security office where the application is made. Please be aware that one cannot begin studies until the change of classification is approved.
  • Continuing students may apply for a new visa at any time as long as they have been maintaining student status and their SEVIS records are current. Continuing students may also enter the U.S. at any time before their classes start.


Careful planning and preparation by students and exchange visitors can ensure that the delay based established procedure is minimal. If you are a non-immigrant student or exchange visitor, here are some things you should do:

  • Before leaving your country, confirm that your passport and non-immigrant visa are still valid for entry into the United States. The passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay.
  • Check to see that your visa accurately reflects your correct visa classification.
  • If the visa states the name of the institution you will attend or identifies the exchange program in which you are participating, verify that this information is accurate as well. If your review indicates any discrepancies or potential problems, visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain a new visa.
  • Students and exchange visitors entering the United States for the first time under their respective non-immigrant visa classification may only be admitted up to 30-days prior to the program start date.
  • When you receive your U.S. nonimmigrant visa at the Embassy or Consulate in your country, the consular officer will seal your immigration documents in an envelope and attach it to your passport. You should not open this envelope! The Customs and Border Protection Officer at the U.S. port–of-entry will open the envelope.
  • When you travel, you should carry some specific documents on your person. Do not check them in your baggage! If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will not be able to show the documents to the Customs and Border Protection Officer and, as a result, may not be able to enter the United States.


Documents you should carry on your person:

  • Passport (including attached envelope of immigration documents) with nonimmigrant visa;
  • SEVIS Form I-20AB, I-20MN, or DS-2019;
  • Evidence of financial resources
  • Evidence of Student/Exchange Visitor status (recent tuition receipts, transcripts);
  • Name and contact information for Designated School Official (DSO) or Responsible Officer (RO) at your intended school or program;
  • Writing instrument (pen).


If you are traveling by aircraft, the flight attendants on board will distribute CF-6059 Customs Declaration Forms and Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record for immigration, before you land at your initial point of entry in the U.S. Complete these forms while you are on the aircraft and submit them to the appropriate Customs and Border Protection Officer upon your arrival. If you do not understand a form, ask the flight attendant for assistance.

Upon arrival at the port of entry, proceed to the terminal area for arriving passengers for inspection. As you approach the inspection station, ensure that you have: passport, SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019; completed Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record; and CF-6059 Customs Declaration Form available for presentation to the CBP Officer. The Form I-94 should reflect the address where you will reside (not the address of the school or program sponsor).

If you are entering through a land or designated seaport, the Customs and Border Protection Officer will provide the necessary CF-6059, Customs Declaration Form and Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record at the port of entry. If you do not understand a form, ask the CBP Officer for assistance.

Like all entering visitors, you will be asked to state the reason you wish to enter the United States. You will also be asked to provide information about your final destination. It is important that you tell the CBP Officer that you will be a student or exchange visitor. Be prepared to include the name and address of the school or exchange visitor program where you will enroll/participate.

If you are authorized optional practical training, this should be reflected on page 3 of your SEVIS Form.

Once your inspection is complete, the inspecting officer will:

  • Stamp your SEVIS Form for duration of status (“D/S”) for F and J visa holders;
  • Stamp your SEVIS Form for 30-days beyond program end date for M visa holders, not to exceed one-year;
  • Stamp the Form I-94 and staple it in the passport;
  • Return the SEVIS Form.


Upon receipt of your preliminary paperwork, we will send you a Welcome Kit. This kit will provide information about the campus you have chosen, the city where you will be located, the weather, how to dress, things to do in the area and some tips about adjusting to life in a different country.

It is important to recognize that while you are in the United States you will be expected to follow our laws and regulations. You will want to learn about the culture – not because you are expected to completely change but because it will help you interact and understand the behavior of those around you. It some cases it will allow you to avoid embarrassment or being misunderstood by your new neighbors or classmates.

It will also be important to learn about the regulations and policies of the school. You will participate in a thorough orientation before you begin classes to address all of the policies and regulations of the school and to answer any question you might have.

We look forward to serving you and will help in any way we can with your preparation and in getting the most out of your time at our institution, our city and our country.

For more information contact the campus you are interested in attending.

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