What is an F-1 Student Visa?

The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant, student visa that enables international students to enter the U.S. to study in full-time degree programs. Please carefully review the information below to better understand the F-1 visa application process and to prepare for your F-1 visa interview.

Applying for an F-1 Visa

For comprehensive information about the F-1 student visa application process, please visit the U.S. Department of State website.

Students are encouraged to apply for their F-1 visa as soon as they receive their Northeastern Form I-20. U.S. Embassies or U.S. Consulates are able to issue F-1 entry visas up to 365 days before the program start date listed on your I-20.

In most countries, student visa applicants must appear in person for the visa interview. However, each U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures. Students should consult the specific embassy website or call for application instructions.

The following documents are typically required for the F-1 visa application:

  • Online Non-immigrant Visa Application Form (DS-160) confirmation page
    • See below if you do not yet have a local U.S. address
    • For a contact person, you can put the name of the person who signed your I-20. You can find this information under “School Attestation” on your I-20.
  • Visa application fee payment receipt (visit the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate website for specific instructions)
  • Form I-20 issued by OGS at Northeastern University
  • Valid passport (the passport should be valid for at least six months after your date of entry into the U.S.)
  • Evidence of financial support (proof of sufficient funds for estimated cost of one academic year)
  • Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-901 fee payment receipt
  • A copy of your acceptance letter to Northeastern University
  • One photograph (see the U.S. Department of State website for photo requirements)

All applicants should be prepared to provide additional information, such as transcripts or diplomas from previously attended institutions, or documents which demonstrate that the applicant intends to return home after their studies. Dependents will receive their own I-20 with their own unique SEVIS ID to apply for the F-2 visa. Dependents are not required to pay the SEVIS fee.

No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore, final travel plans or the purchase of non-refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued. After the visa has been issued, please be sure the F-1 visa stamp in your passport is accurate and that your original I-20 has been returned to you as you will need to have it in hand when entering the U.S.

Note: Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not need to apply for an F-1 visa but they are required to have the I-20 and pay the SEVIS I-901 fee before entering the U.S. to study.

U.S. Address

If you do not have a U.S. address yet for the online non-immigrant visa application form (DS-160), you can use the Northeastern University address and phone number for your specific campus below:

  • Boston campus: 
    360 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115
    [email protected] / 617.373.2310
  • Seattle campus
    401 Terry Avenue N., Suite 103, Seattle, WA 98109
    [email protected] / 617.373.2310
  • Silicon Valley campus: 
    4 North 2nd Street, San Jose, CA 95113
    [email protected] / 617.373.2310
  • Oakland campus: 
    5000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland CA 94613
    [email protected] / 617.373.2310
  • NU/The Roux Institute: 
    100 Fore St, Portland, ME 04101 
    [email protected] / 617.373.2310
  • Arlington campus
    1300 17th St North, Arlington, VA 22209
    [email protected] / 617.373.2310
  • Miami campus
    230 NW 24th St., Miami, FL 33127
    [email protected] / 617.373.2310

The F-1 Visa Interview

During your F-1 visa interview or at the Customs Control at the port of entry you may be asked questions about your studies, your university choice, how you are planning to pay for your education, your post-graduation plans, and more. Here are some of the common questions that you may expect.

  1. What’s your purpose for going to the U.S.?
  2. Why did you choose to study in the U.S.?
  3. Which University will you attend?
  4. What will be your degree and major?
  5. Did you go to a University at your home country?
  6. What is your occupation at the moment?
  7. Why don’t you continue your studies in your home country?
  8. How many universities did you apply to and in which countries?
  9. How many universities sent you an admittance letter?
  10. Have you ever been to the U.S. before?
  11. Why did you choose a university in Boston?
  12. Where will you be staying while in the U.S.?
  13. What do you know about U.S. educational system?
  14. What is your English test score?
  15. What is your GPA from your previous institution?
  16. How will you deal with the cultural differences?
  17. Who will support you financially while you are in the U.S.?
  18. What do your parents do for a living?
  19. Have you received any scholarships for your education?
  20. How much is the cost of your education in the U.S.?
  21. What are your plans after you finish with your studies in the U.S.?
  22. Do you have relatives or friends in the U.S.?
  23. Do you have a career that you want to pursue after you finish with your studies?
  24. Tell me a little bit about your family. Do you have any siblings?

Please use this guide from NAFSA for your reference: 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Student Visa.

Visa Application Outcomes

Congratulations! The majority of F-1 visa applicants are approved. You may be informed in the interview of the approval or after. They may keep your passport for a period of time to add the visa stamp before returning it to you.

Although F-1 visa denials are rare, the most common visa denial is under 214(b), which means the applicant did not demonstrate to the consular officer that they have non-immigrant intent, and/or did not fully demonstrate they have sufficient ties to their home country (family, job, education, property) that indicate they will not immigrate to the U.S. and instead will return home after their students and any qualifying periods of post-completion OPT or STEM OPT.

The F-1 visa application is a personal application that depends mostly on your oral responses to a consular officer’s questions and is typically not a document-driven process. Therefore, when an F-1 visa applicant receives a visa denial under 214(b), Northeastern and OGS are typically not able to intervene or provide documentation in the way of support letters to overcome the denial.

If your F-1 visa application is denied under 214(b), you should request documentation of the denial from the consular officer. Most individuals are eligible to apply again for the F-1 visa, but you should be prepared to present new information that addresses the previous concerns with your potential immigrant intent in order to overcome the previous denial.

You can also review the Department of State website for more information and guidance about visa denials.

The outcome of some F-1 visa applications is a refusal under 221(g) or what is commonly referred to as “Administrative Processing.” Administrative Processing can take anywhere from several days to several months. In these cases, the consular officer will let you know if they require additional documentation or information, or whether the case requires additional internal administrative processing. Please note that this is not a visa denial. You should follow the instructions listed on the 221(g) notice and provide any requested information or documentation to the embassy.

If the 221(g) requires any information directly from Northeastern, please contact OGS by calling +1-617-373-2310. You will be instructed to share the 221(g) notice with an OGS advisor for further review.

Please refer to the Department of State website for more detailed information about visa refusals and administrative processing.

Expedited Visa Appointments

U.S. Embassies/Consulates overseas may be able to expedite your F-1 visa interview date if your I-20 program start date is within 60 days, and there are no available visa interview slots prior to your start date.

The process to request an expedited F-1 visa interview varies by location. You should refer to the instructions on the website of the Embassy or Consulate Visa Section where you will interview, or on their online appointment scheduling site. You will need to provide proof of the need for an earlier appointment (such as your I-20 showing a program start date within 60 days).

Please note: You must first submit the online visa application form (DS-160), pay the application fee, and schedule the first available interview appointment. Only at this point will a consular section consider your request for an expedited appointment.

Entering the U.S.

When preparing for your arrival to the U.S., you should plan your travel according to the information provided by your college. According to immigration regulations, F-1 student visa holders can enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the program report date on the I-20.

Students transferring to Northeastern University in F-1 status from another institution or changing their degree level at Northeastern may stay in the U.S. or travel between programs. And, they may enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the new program start date listed on your I-20.

Documents to Bring When Entering the U.S.

  • Valid passport with an official F-1 visa stamp
  • Your original I-20 issued by Northeastern University
  • I-901 SEVIS fee receipt
  • Financial documents
  • Admissions letter

At the U.S. port of entry, you will be required to present your passport and I-20 to the immigration officer who will stamp your passport. In most cases, the officer notes “D/S” (Duration of Status) on your passport pages. This means you are allowed to stay in the U.S. for the length of time indicated on your I-20, provided that you maintain full-time enrollment and a valid F-1 visa status.

Ensure your passport is properly stamped before exiting the immigration inspection area. Do not enter the U.S. in visitor status (B-1/B-2, WT, or WB). This status does not permit full-time study in the U.S.

After your arrival, print your Admission (I-94) number at cbp.gov/I94 and keep a copy of all travel documents (I-94 information, F-1 visa, and I-20) for your personal records. Ensure your I-94 print out contains the correct information, including F-1 visa status and “Duration of Status.”

Video: Applying for an F-1 Visa

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