Applying for an F-1 or J-1 Visa

How to Apply for an F-1 or J-1 Visa to Enter the United States

All international students coming to study in the United States must hold valid student visas (F-1 or J-1). * To apply for a visa, please contact the nearest U.S consulate and schedule your visa interview. The State Department's Visa website provides links to various consulates around the world and other up to date information related to visa processing. Please keep in mind that you can apply for a visa up to 3 months prior to the program start date on your I-20/DS-2019 form and arrive in the U.S. up to 30 days prior to that date. Many students experience long delays in visa processing, therefore, it is important to apply ahead of time. Please contact the U.S. consulate nearest you for specific information regarding scheduling of visa interviews, procedures, processing times, and visa fees.

*Please note that citizens of Canada are exempt from the visa requirement. Canadian admission to the U.S. is granted at the port of entry by presenting an I-20/ DS-2019 form, proof of funding, proof of payment of the SEVIS fee, admission letter and passport to the immigration officer. Canadian landed immigrants must, however, apply for a student visa at the U.S. consulate.

The following documentation is required when applying for a student visa:

  1. Non-immigrant visa application forms and application fees are available at the consulate or at the State Department's Visa website.
  2. Form I-20, if applying for an F-1 visa, or form DS-2019, if applying for a J-1 visa issued by the University of Nevada, Reno.
  3. Passport and passport size photographs.
  4. TOEFL scores and admission letter.
  5. Evidence of financial support listed on the I-20/DS-2019 form such as a bank statement, affidavit of support or scholarship letter.
  6. Evidence that you have no intention of abandoning residence in your home country such as: strong family ties, pre-arranged job when you return, business enterprise or property.
  7. Proof of payment of the SEVIS fee


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires all new international students to pay the SEVIS fee. This fee is being collected to fund the operation of SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. Please Note: the fee must be paid prior to your visa appointment and you must present the proof of payment at your visa appointment. Only F-1 and J-1 students are required to pay the fee, dependents are exempt. The SEVIS fee should be paid directly to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at least 3 days prior to applying for a visa and it cannot be paid at the consulate! Go to I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee website for fee and payment information. There are 3 ways to pay:

  1. Online using a credit card (Visa, MasterCard or American Express accepted). You will be able to print out an electronic receipt immediately and use it as a proof of your payment at the consulate.
  2. Check, money order, or foreign draft drawn on a financial institution in the U.S. and payable in U.S. currency to be mailed in along with the paper Form I-901 to the DHS address on the form. You should then wait for an official paper receipt (Form I-797) confirming the payment and use it as the proof required for your visa appointment.
  3. Western Union Quick Pay option is also available in many countries and it allows the payment of SEVIS fee in a local currency through Western Union offices.

In all cases DHS will mail an official paper receipt (Form I-797) which you should keep and present at the port of entry. If you are unable to make this payment, another person (a friend or family member) can pay the fee on your behalf. Please note that DHS will not refund the SEVIS fee if you are not granted a visa or choose not to come to the U.S. The proof of payment is valid for 12 months during which you can re-apply for a visa.

Arrival in the United States

Students must arrive in the United States no later than the reporting date indicated in section 5  of the Form I-20 or section 3 of the Form DS-2019. If you attempt to enter after the reporting date, you may be denied entry.

Upon arrival in the U.S., you must show your passport, entry visa, Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, and evidence of financial support to the immigration official. If you intend to enroll in courses at the University of Nevada, Reno, it is important that you present the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 issued to you by the University. Do not present an I-20 or DS-2019 issued by another institution.

When you are admitted to the United States, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will scan your passport in order to generate an electronic arrival record for you. The CBP has the electronic Form I-94 available on their website. You may visit this website to print the electronic I-94 when needed. We advise that you check your electronic I-94 after your arrival to verify all the information is correct. If any of the information is incorrect, please see an OISS advisor as soon as possible.

If arriving by land, a paper Form I-94 will be issued and your information will not be available electronically. CBP will stamp the inside of your passport and Form I-94. Keep both your Form I-94 and Form I-20 in a secure place and be sure to bring them with you to your check-in meeting at OISS.

School Transfer

If you are currently enrolled as an F-1 or J-1 student at another institution located within the United States, you must "transfer" your immigration status to the University's F-1 or J-1 program. This can be done in 2 ways:

  1. If you travel outside of the United States before beginning classes at the University of Nevada, Reno, you need only to enter the U.S. and present your passport, valid visa, UNR Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, and evidence of financial support to the immigration inspector at the port of entry. The immigration inspector will process your UNR I-20 or DS-2019 and your transfer will be complete.
  2. If you will not travel outside of the U.S. before beginning classes at the University, you must complete a Transfer Verification form. The form must be completed by the international student advisor at the institution you are currently attending. The advisor must verify that you are in status to transfer to another institution in the United States. You may mail that form to our office or fax it to the number on the form. Once transfer and original  financial documentation are verified, a transfer I-20 or DS-2019 will be issued from the University of Nevada, Reno. The OISS will notify immigration of the transfer.

Spouse and Children

A dependent spouse and/or unmarried minor children (under 21) may accompany an F-1 or J-1 student to the United States. With certain exceptions, dependents must also hold valid entry visas. Please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain specific instructions on how your spouse and/or children may obtain "F-2 or J-2" entry visas. In general, your spouse and dependent children will be accorded F-2 or J-2 visas provided they establish that they have sufficient funds to cover their expenses and that they intend to leave the U.S. upon the termination or completion of your F-1 or J-1 student status.

Learn and Comply with Immigration Regulations

It is your responsibility to learn and obey U.S. immigration regulations. Please read carefully the "Instructions to Students" on page 2 of your Form I-20 or page 2 of your DS-2019, which outlines the most basic rules. Please note that failure to comply with immigration regulations will result in the loss of your student status.

Office of International Students and Scholars

The OISS provides a variety of services to the University's international student and scholar community. Advisors coordinate check-in meetings and provide visa services; develop cultural, educational, and social programs; and offer other support services, including health insurance advisement and taxpayer education.