Visa Information

The F-1 Visa

Most of the international students who enroll in St. Paul Preparatory School come into the country on an F-1 visa. The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows international students to study at colleges, universities, language-training programs, and academic high schools in the U.S. The F-1 visa is not intended for students who study at public high schools.

F-1 visa students are each given a form called an I-20 by their school (you will be sent this form after you have been accepted to study at St. Paul Prep). You will take your I-20 with you to the consulate when you apply for your visa and will use it every time you enter or leave the U.S. for the duration of your program. Once you have arrived in the U.S. it is this document, not your visa, that governs your studies.

Features of the F-1 visa:
  • You can spend multiple years in the U.S. on this type of visa as long as you are enrolled as a full-time student in a program that is authorized to issue I-20s.
  • You can travel in and out of the U.S. or remain in the U.S. until the completion of your studies.
  • After you graduate from St. Paul Preparatory School, you can transfer your I-20 to a college or university in the United States (and will not need to obtain a new visa unless you return to your home country after your visa expires).

Applying for a Visa

Applicants for student visas should generally apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for a visa outside the country of your permanent residence.

Required Documentation for your Visa Interview

All applicants for a student visa must provide:
  1. A completed online Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant, Form DS-160. You must: 1) Complete the online visa application and 2) Print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
  2. A passport valid for travel to the United States and with an expiration date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the U.S.
  3. Photo - You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. One "2X2" square photograph (taken within the last six months) of your full face, without head covering, against a light background (there are strict guidelines for visa photos, so you will want to have it taken at a place that specializes in this).
  4. Your signed Form I-20 (three pages).
  5. A receipt for your visa application fee payment.
  6. A SEVIS I-901 receipt (This is another fee that must be paid prior to your interview. It can be paid for either by mail or online).
  7. Evidence of sufficient funds to cover the cost of your tuition and living expenses (equal to amount stated on I-20).
  8. Your St. Paul Preparatory School acceptance letter and scholarship award notification (if applicable).

Other Documentation

Student visa applicants must be established to the satisfaction of the consular officer that they have binding ties to their home country, that they have no intention of abandoning, and that they will depart the United States after they have completed their studies. It is impossible to specify the exact type of documentation that you should provide because applicants' circumstances vary greatly. For more information, you should contact the consulate in your area.

Arriving at a U.S. Port of Entry

Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspectors have authority to deny admission. Also, the period for which the student is authorized to remain in the United States is determined by CBP, not the consular officer.

You no longer need to complete the paperwork version of the Customs and Border Protection Form I-94. CBP gathers your arrival/departure information automatically from your electronic travel records. Upon arrival, a CBP officer stamps your passport with admission date, the class of admission, and the date that you are admitted until.

Other Important Visa Facts

You should be aware of the following regulations regarding your visa:
  • If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., you do not need to leave the country. A visa is only used for entry into a country. Therefore, as long as your Form I-20 is valid, you do not need to worry about an expired visa. However, if you want to travel outside of the country and then return, you must obtain a new visa.
  • You may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of your program (the date on your I-20).
  • When you have finished your program, you have 60 days to leave the country or transfer to another school (such as the college or university you will be attending).
  • If you are expelled from school, there is no grace period during which you can leave the country. You are required by law to leave immediately.

Additional Resources

There are several steps involved with applying for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you intend to apply.

Visit these websites for more information about obtaining an F-1 visa and traveling to the U.S.:
  • Study in the States
    This page provides information about how to study in the United States and how to maintain your visa status.
  • U.S. Embassies and Consulates
    Follow this link to locate the nearest Embassy or Consulate.
  • U.S. Department of State – Student Visas
    This site provides detailed information about visa regulations and how to apply for a student visa.
  • Visa Application Forms
    Visit this site to obtain the necessary visa application forms.
  • I-901 Fee Processing
    This website allows you to pay your I-901 fee online and print a receipt to take to your visa interview. You can access this site once you have the student ID number that is listed on your I-20.
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