I-20 Form and Student Visa Information | Study English in the USA

What is the purpose of a student visa?

If you are coming to the US primarily to study and if your course of study is 18 hours or more per week, you will need a student visa, also known as an F-1 visa. For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on obtaining a visa to study English in the USA, please visit the US Department of State Student Visa web page.

Steps to obtaining a student visa

Follow the steps below to obtain an I-20 form from LCI and receive your student visa:

  • • Register with LCI. We will send you the I-20 form and acceptance letter
  • • Pay the SEVIS fee online at www.fmjfee.com
  • • Schedule a visa interview at the US embassy or consulate in your home country
  • • If approved, you will receive your student visa

For more details on the process, please review the information below:

About the F-1 Student Visa

What is an F-1 Visa?

An F-1 visa is an official US government-issued document which allows a foreign citizen to travel to the United States to study full-time for a temporary amount of time.

Does LCI issue F-1 Visas?

All visas are issued by the US Department of State at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad. LCI issues the I-20 form that is required to obtain a student visa.

What documents must I provide to receive an F-1 Visa?

For a complete listing of the items required by the US Embassy or Consulate for an F-1 Visa, please visit the US Department of State Student Visa web page.

How much time does it take to receive an F-1 Visa?

The amount of time it takes varies from country to country. Please see the US Department of State website page Visa Appointment & Processing Wait Times or you may contact the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country for more precise information.

What if I want to change my status?

You may have to change your nonimmigrant status if you are already in the United States on a valid nonimmigrant visa for a purpose other than attending school (such as for tourism) and you want to study at a US school.

You have two options:

You may file for Change of Status by yourself or with the help of an immigration attorney. For more information on this process, please see the Department of Homeland Security Study in the States page Change of Status.

About the I-20 Form

What is an I-20 form and why do I need one?

The first and most important step in obtaining an F-1 student visa to study English in the USA is to receive the I-20 form. An official US government form, the I-20 is a visa-qualifying document issued by a US Educational Institution. Every foreign student who plans to study in the USA must receive this form through the learning institution that he/she plans to attend in order to receive an F-1 visa. LCI will provide this document to you. Furthermore, F-1 students must maintain a valid I-20 by studying full time to be permitted to reside legally in the US after they start their educational program.

Does everyone need an I-20 form?

Everyone that plans to study in the US must first obtain an I-20. You cannot obtain a student visa without this form.

How do I get an I-20?

LCI will provide you with an I-20 upon receipt of the following:

Why does LCI request copies of my bank statement?

The US government requires that you provide financial proof that you can cover the costs of studying English in the USA.

Can I provide more than one bank statement?

Yes, you can demonstrate funds to the US government by providing statements from multiple accounts if you like.

I’d like to bring family members with me when I travel to the US. Is that allowed?

Yes. You need to provide this information to LCI, so that we can state this data on your I-20 form. Please provide the full names (as stated on passports), date of birth and relationship to you for all family members who plan to accompany you.

I want to transfer my I-20 form to your school. What do I need to do?

Please follow the steps below:

What happens if I become out of status as a student?

LCI is authorized to apply for reinstatement for students who are out of status. If you become out of status, contact LCI and we will review your request. We handle each request on a case-by-case basis.

About SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)

What is SEVIS?

SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. SEVIS is an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents. SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State. LCI is responsible for entering your information for the I-20 form into SEVIS. You are responsible for paying a SEVIS I-901 fee for each program of study.

Who pays the SEVIS fee?

When do I pay the SEVIS fee?

The fee must be paid at least 3 business days prior to applying for your visa, or applying for admission at a US port-of-entry for those exempt from the visa requirement (Canadian citizens). The fee must be paid prior to submission of a change of status petition or reinstatement application.

What about my F-2 dependents?

F-2 dependents do not have to pay the fee.

How do I pay the fee?

The fee can be paid online at www.fmjfee.com or by mail. It can be paid by you or by a third party, inside or outside the US.

To Pay Online (Recommended)

Alternative Payment Methods

For other payment methods, please see: Paying the I-901 SEVIS Fee.

Can I pay the SEVIS fee at a university, consulate or port of entry?

No. The SEVIS fee can only be processed by the Department of Homeland Security online or via one of the other payment methods.

For more information regarding the SEVIS fee requirement, visit I-901 SEVIS Fee Frequently Asked Questions.

About the Visa Interview

Why do I schedule a visa interview?

As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section in your country is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate.

What should I keep in mind as I’m scheduling my visa interview?

The waiting time for a visa interview appointment for applicants can vary from days to months, so contacting your embassy or consulate to schedule the interview early is strongly encouraged. Please see our “Tips for the Visa Interview“ section below.

Tips for the Visa Interview

For more tips, check out the Study in the States blog post Prepare for Your Visa Interview.

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