Becoming an F-1 Student
Obtain Your F-1 Student Visa
The Form I-20 is the document that you must present at the US Embassy or consulate in order to apply for your F-1 visa. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you intend to apply and review the interview wait time for the location where you will apply. F-1 visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your program start date. Allow sufficient time to obtain your visa by requesting your Form I-20 as soon as possible. To request your Form I-20 complete all the required steps on the International Student Data (ISD) form. (Note: You will not be able to access the ISD until your Intent to Enroll/Deposit has been processed.)
All persons who intend to visit the United States (US) temporarily to pursue a full course of study at an academic institution must be classified as an alien in F-1 student-visa status. The Form I-20 is the document you will present to the US Embassy or Consulate abroad when making application for a student visa, and also when making application for admission at the US port of entry.
For complete information on visa appointment wait times for U.S. consulates and embassies worldwide, please visit the US Travel website.
The sole authority to approve or deny visa applications is given to consular officers at US Embassies and Consulates. If a consular officer finds you are not eligible to receive a visa under US law, your visa application will be denied (refused), and you will be provided a reason for the denial. In most cases, you may reapply. Some of the most common reasons for visa ineligibilities are explained below. For more information, contact the US Embassy or Consulate where you applied.
The visa applicant:
- Did not fully complete the visa application and/or provide all required supporting documentation - INA section 221(g)
- Did not establish eligibility for the visa category being applied for or overcome the presumption of being an intending immigrant - INA section 214(b)
- Was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude - INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)
- Was convicted of a drug violation - INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II)
- Has two or more criminal convictions for which the total sentence of confinement was 5 years or more - INA section 212(a)(2)(B)
- Did not demonstrate proof of adequate financial support in the United States; therefore denied under public charge - INA section 212(a)(4)
- Misrepresented a material fact or committed fraud to attempt to receive a visa – INA section 212(a)(6)(C)(i)
- Previously remained longer than authorized in the United States - INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)
If you reapply for a visa after being found ineligible, with the exception of 221(g) refusals, you must submit a new visa application and pay the visa application fee again. If you were found ineligible under section 214(b) of the INA, you should be able to present evidence of significant changes in circumstances since your last application. Department of State visa case records are confidential under INA section 222(f), so information can only be provided to visa applicants, with some exceptions. Certain information can be provided to US sponsors, attorneys representing visa applicants, members of Congress, or other persons acting on behalf of and with the permission of applicants.
What does a visa denial under INA section 221(g) mean?
A visa denial under section 221(g) of the INA means that the consular officer did not have all of the information required to determine if you are eligible to receive a visa. This means you are not eligible for the visa now, but your case is pending further action for one of the following reasons:
- Your application is incomplete and/or further documentation is required - Applicants whose application forms or other documentation are incomplete are refused. If further documents are required to complete your case, you will be informed what is needed and how to provide it to the embassy or consulate. You will also be given a letter stating your application has been denied under 221(g) and listing which documents you need to provide. You have one year from the date you were refused a visa to submit the additional information. Otherwise, if you do not provide the required additional information within one year, you must reapply for the visa and pay another application fee.
- Administrative processing - Further administrative processing of your application is required before a decision can be made regarding your eligibility for a visa. You will be given a letter stating this and next-step instructions after the administrative processing is complete. Processing times can vary based on individual circumstances. For more information, review Administrative Processing.
What does a visa denial under INA section 214(b) mean?
A visa denial under section 214(b) means that you:
- Did not sufficiently demonstrate to the consular officer that you qualify for the nonimmigrant visa category you applied for; and/or
- Did not overcome the presumption of immigrant intent, required by law, by sufficiently demonstrating that you have strong ties to your home country that will compel you to leave the United States at the end of your temporary stay. (H-1B and L visa applicants, along with their spouse and any minor children, are excluded from this requirement.)
What are considered strong ties to my home country?
While conducting visa interviews, consular officers look at each application individually and consider the applicant's circumstances, travel plans, financial resources, and ties outside of the US that will ensure the applicant's departure after a temporary visit. Applicants for a student visa, for example, must establish to the consular officer's satisfaction that their stay in the US will be temporary and for the sole purpose of completing a program of study.
What does a denial under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) mean?
A visa denial under section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) means that you were considered to have been unlawfully present in the US because:
- You stayed in the US after your failure to maintain lawful visa status or after the expiration date for the period of stay authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) without the required authorization to extend your stay; or
- You entered and were present in the US without receiving the required authorization from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
When denied a visa for unlawful presence, you are ineligible for a visa for the following length of time:
- When unlawfully present in the US for 180 days or longer but less than one year, you are ineligible for a visa for 3 years after departure from the United States; or
- When unlawfully present in the US for one year or longer, you are ineligible for a visa for 10 years after departure from the United States.