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Visa Information

Learn what visa you will need and the steps to apply for your student visa

The Visa information provided is general information and is subject to change at any time. For more detailed information, we recommend you contact your nearest US Embassy or consulate, or visit the following DHS websites: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/faq and https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/


What Type of Visa Do you need?

The majority of our students require an F-1 Student Visa. To secure your F-1 Student Visa you will need to take an I-20 eligible program at ELS. ELS Intensive English and Semi-Intensive English study programs are considered full-time study programs and are eligible for an I-20.

ELS’s American Explorer program and Youth Program are not eligible for an I-20. These programs are considered recreational study and students should apply for a Visitor (B) Visa or other non-student visa.

Steps to Secure Your US F-1 Student Visa

To obtain an F-1 student visa, you will need to present to the U.S. Embassy or U.S. consulate certain documents to demonstrate your intent to study in the United States and, after completion of your studies, return to your home country. The documents you need include an I-20 obtained from ELS, proof of financial certification, a valid passport, and evidence of ties to your country. Prospective and current F-1 visa students should visit Study in the States (https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students) to learn about the process and rules for studying in the United States as an international student.

STEP 1: Get accepted at ELS & receive your I-20 form

After you’ve submitted your ELS online application form and provided all of the necessary supplemental info and payments required, ELS will provide you with the Form I-20. You will use this form to apply for your visa. You will also need to show this form when entering the USA. If you have dependents joining you, ELS will also issue them I-20 forms so that they may apply for F-2 dependent visas.

STEP 2: Pay your SEVIS fee

All F-1 students must pay a one-time SEVIS fee prior to applying for the visa, and at least 3 days prior to attending the visa interview. If you have dependents joining you, they do not need to pay the SEVIS fee. Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website to learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS I-901 Fee, or see our FAQs below.

STEP 3: Complete your DS-160 Visa Application

The easiest way to apply is using the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160). The US Department of State also provides an extensive list of Frequently Asked Questions about the DS-160 that you may find helpful.

STEP 4: Schedule a visa interview

Find your nearest US consulate or embassy and schedule a time for your visa interview. Visa interview wait times vary and can be long so make sure to book your appointment early. We recommend that you make an appointment for your interview at least 60-120 days before the date you intend to begin your studies.

STEP 5: Attend your interview

The interview is to assess that you are coming to the US to study as a legitimate student. You will need to prove that you have enough funds to cover you living expenses in the USA and confirm that you will return home after completing your studies. After successfully completing your interview, you will be granted your F-1 Visa.

Frequently Asked Questions
About Securing An F-1 Student Visa

The Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20) must be presented when applying for a student (F-1) visa. You should sign and date the Student Attestation section of the I-20 and take it to your nearest United States Embassy or Consulate. You will also need to submit other documents (a valid passport, evidence of financial support) along with your I-20 when you apply for your student visa. We suggest that you contact the United States Embassy or Consulate before going there to be sure you have all documents required to obtain your student visa.

IMPORTANT: Please keep your passport, Form I-20, and airline ticket together. Your Form I-20 must be presented with your passport and other travel documents upon arrival to the United States. Failure to present your I-20 may affect your admission into the country.

The I-20 from ELS Language Centers shows that you have been accepted for a specific start date. If you cannot enter the United States to begin your studies on that date, you need to inform ELS of your new start date and we will send an updated I-20 to you.

To receive a new I-20, you must contact your Enrolment Advisor to advise them of the change you wish to make to your enrollment.

Please note that the request to update your I-20 must be received within one year of the date on which your first I-20 was issued. If more than one year has passed, you must re-apply by submitting a new application form and processing fee.

This SEVIS fee is required of all international students who come to the United States to attend colleges, universities, and language training programs. It is paid one time for each single educational program in which an F-1 student participates.

SEVIS fee payments are used by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to fund the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). This program makes it possible for international students and exchange visitors to attend schools in the United States.

You will need to pay the SEVIS fee if you were issued a Form I-20 AND one of the following conditions applies:

  • You are seeking an F-1 visa from a United States Embassy or Consulate for first-time attendance in a language training program. In this case, the SEVIS fee must be paid BEFORE visa issuance.
  • You will re-enter the United States using a new Form I-20. In this case, the SEVIS fee must be paid BEFORE re-entry to the United States.

The accompanying spouse and dependents (F-2 visa holders) of the F-1 visa holder are not required to pay the SEVIS fee.

The SEVIS fee is $350. This fee is separate from and in addition to the visa application fee. The SEVIS fee must be paid by the Internet, by mail, or by Western Union. It cannot be paid at a United States Embassy or Consulate and it cannot be paid at port-of-entry.

The fee can be paid by one of three means:

  • Electronically, by completing a form I-901 through the Internet at www.FMJfee.com and using a Visa®, MasterCard®, or American Express® credit card (this is the recommended form of payment).
  • By mail, by submitting Form I-901, (https://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/i901.pdf) fee remittance for Certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrants, together with a check or money order drawn on a U.S. bank and payable in U.S. currency. Sources for such checks and money orders include banks chartered or operated in the U.S., foreign subsidiaries of U.S. banks, or foreign banks that have an arrangement with a U.S. bank to issue a check, money order, or foreign draft that is drawn on a U.S. bank.
  • By Western Union, by printing out instructions at: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/wu_instructions and taking the instructions to a local participating Western Union Agent location (http://www.payment-solutions.com/agent.asp) and completing a Western Union Blue Form (requested from the Western Union Agent location).

A third party, such as a friend or family member, can pay the fee on your behalf through the same means described above.

If you pay the SEVIS fee by Internet, your payment is processed immediately and, at the time you make payment, you can print a receipt directly from your computer. This computer-generated receipt can be used to verify you have paid the fee.

Mailing the SEVIS fee does not mean you have paid it. The fee is processed when it is received by DHS. If you mail your payment rather than pay on the Internet, it can take a long time for DHS to receive the payment and for you to receive a receipt by return mail.

Whether you choose to pay the fee by the Internet, by mail, or by Western Union, a paper receipt called a Form I-797 will be mailed to the address you provide on Form I-901. You may choose to have this receipt sent to you either by regular mail or, at an additional charge, by express delivery.

A paper receipt is recommended, but not required, in order for you to be issued a visa. Embassies and consular posts should be able to verify your fee payment without a receipt in most circumstances if you pay the fee far enough in advance of your visa interview.

Electronic payments must be submitted at least three business days before the interview if you will rely on electronic fee verification at the consulate. Mailed payments must be sent in a way that is sure to arrive at the DHS address listed on the I-901 at least three business days before the scheduled interview.

If you have not received a visa, you can apply the I-901 SEVIS Fee that you already paid to another Form I-20 provided that you paid the first SEVIS fee less than a year ago. You will have to request to SEVP to move/transfer your original and unused SEVIS fee to your new I-20 form. 

Follow these directions for requesting that SEVP move your fee payment: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/faq

Once paid, the SEVIS fee is non-refundable, unless paid by mistake, even if your visa is denied or, after the visa is issued, you choose not to come to the United States.

If you applied for an F-1 visa and paid the SEVIS fee within the last year but were denied a visa, you do not have to pay the SEVIS fee again as long as you re-apply using the same Form I-20.