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How to Become a Student or Exchange Visitor
Most students arrive to the United States on a student (F-1) visa. To secure an F-1 visa, students must present their I-20 Certificate of Eligibility For Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student to their American Consulate and satisfy the U.S. Consulate regarding their financial support while in the United States as well as provide evidence of health insurance. Please read more on visas and read more on tips for students and exchange visitors. 

Arrival in the U.S.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has published an interim final rule in the Federal Register to automate Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. Form I-94 provides nonimmigrants evidence that they have been lawfully admitted to the United States. Nonimmigrants traveling to the United States by air or sea will no longer need to fill out a paper Form I-94.  

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will continue to require applicants to submit a paper copy of Form I-94 when requesting certain benefits.  Other government agencies, such as State Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs), also require a paper copy of Form I-94. Moreover, nonimmigrants who are authorized to work may present a paper copy of Form I-94 to their employers during the employment eligibility verification process. You may generate a paper copy of your I-94 by submitting your information onto the I-94 Admission Number Retrieval webpage.


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a database to keep track of all F-1 students called the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). All schools that admit F-1 students are required to use this database to issue forms and report certain events to DHS. DHS began collecting a SEVIS fee as of September 1, 2004, to cover the costs of running the SEVIS program. 

As an F-1 student coming to UW-Parkside, you are required to pay this I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee prior to obtaining your F1 visa, or for citizens of Canada, Bermuda or the Bahamas, prior to entering the U.S. as an F-1 student. 

This fee is charged to all F-1 students whose form I-20 was issued on or after September 1, 2004 to begin a new program. The fee is generally not charged to those transferring from one program to another. Family members accompanying the principal F-1 students as an F-2 spouse are not required to pay this fee.  

  • Timing the Payment of the SEVIS Fee
    You must pay the SEVIS fee sufficiently in advance of your visa appointment to allow for verification of the fee payment. If you pay the fee via credit card over the internet, you should print a receipt as proof of payment.  If you use the Western Union Quick Pay option, be sure to get a receipt from Western Union.  Note that you cannot pay the SEVIS fee before you receive the I-20 because you need to know the SEVIS number from the form. That number is located in the top right corner of the form and begins with the letter "N". If you decide to pay the fee by mail, make sure you pay for it as early as possible. The fee payment will take about 3 business days to post in SEVIS, so you should make sure your mail-in payment arrives at least 3 business days prior to your visa appointment. However, you should have a notice of receipt with you at the time of your visa appointment, so we strongly recommend paying early enough for the receipt notice to get to you before your appointment. 

  • To Pay By Check
    Prepare a check, international money order or foreign draft (drawn on US banks only1) in the required USD amount, made payable to "The Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement."  Many foreign banks are able to issue checks or money orders drawn on a U.S. bank. You may therefore obtain a check from a bank operated in the United States, a foreign subsidiary of a U.S. bank, or a foreign bank that has an arrangement with a U.S. bank to issue a check, money order, or foreign draft that is drawn on a U.S. bank

  • To Pay Online
    Complete the form online and supply the necessary Visa, MasterCard or American Express information. *Be sure to write your name exactly how it appears on your I-20 form. Print a copy of the online receipt. Be sure to make copies of your receipt, and keep it with your other important immigration documents.

Preparing for an F-1 Visa Interview  

This information is for students who plan to enter the United States for the first time to study. For information on bringing dependents to the U.S., returning to continue studies, renewing your visa, or for more details on how to apply for a student visa, refer to the U.S. Department of State.  


  1. Contact your local U.S. Consulate or Embassy to ask about how to get an F-1 international student visa.
  2. After you receive an I-20 form from UW-Parkside, follow the U.S. Embassy/Consulate's instructions to schedule an interview for your F-1 student visa. It is important to apply for your student visa as far in advance as possible. Many consulates recommend that appointments be made no more than 90 days from the intended date of travel, but some can make earlier arrangements for interviews.
  3. Pay the visa application fee by following your local embassy instructions
  4. If your I-20 was issued on or after September 1, 2004 , and is marked for "initial" attendance (see #3 on your I-20 form), you will also need to pay the SEVIS fee and provide proof of payment
    • You must bring the receipt of fee payment with you to the interview. If you have lost the receipt, the Visa Officer should be able to view your payment history in his or her database.
    • If you are transferring schools, extending your program, applying for an F-2 dependent visa, or have paid this fee and been denied a visa within the last twelve months, you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee.
  5. Complete the following forms:
    • DS-156 Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form
    • DS-158 Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant
    • If a male between the ages of 16 and 45, DS-157 Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application

Prepare and bring to your visa interview the following:
  1. A passport valid for at least six months
  2. Form I-20 (sign the form under Item 11)
  3. UW-Parkside admission letter
  4. Completed visa applications (DS-156, DS-158, and, if applicable, DS-157)
  5. Two 2"x 2" photographs. View requirements from the U.S. Department of State.
  6. A receipt for the visa application fee
  7. A receipt for the SEVIS fee.
  8. Financial evidence that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period you intend to study.
  9. Any information that proves that you will return to your home country after finishing your studies in the United States. This may include proof of property, family, or other ties to your community.
  10. Remain calm and answer all the Visa Officer's questions openly and honestly.

If F-1 Visa is Denied

If your F-1 visa is denied, and you decide to try to obtain the visa again for a later semester (for the same program academic program) you will not have to pay this SEVIS fee again for the 12 months following the date of denial of the visa.  If you are an undergraduate student (admitted to a bachelor degree program), please contact the Office of Admissions at UW-Parkside to request a deferral.  If you are a graduate student (admitted to a master's program) please contact your specific department to request a deferral and/or notify that you will arrive at a later date depending on when the visa is received. Once you have notified your department, ask to also notify the Office of Admissions and the International Student Services (ISS). The Office of Admissions will need to re-send you a new Form I-20.  

If you do not receive a visa, by the beginning of the semester, we encourage you to try again for the next semester.


900 Wood Road · P.O. Box 2000 · Kenosha, WI 53141-2000 P 262-595-2345