F-1 Students: Applying for a Visa and Entering the U.S.

Getting a U.S. Visa and entering the United States does not have to be challenging. Please review the steps outlined on this page for guidance and links to appropriate resources.

Step 1: Receive Your I-20 Form

What is Form I-20 and how do I get it?

Receiving a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, is your first step to coming to the United States to study. 

Click here for more information on Form I-20 and its uses.

Students should first contact either the Undergraduate Admissions, Graduate Admissions, or Law Admissions office. When you have completed the enrollment process, the appropriate Admissions office will contact RWU's International Student Services office. Within five (5) business days of receiving all of your documentation, International Student Services will issue you an initial I-20 form via email.

Upon receiving your I-20 form, please do the following:

  • Check your form for errors and print and sign in black ink. 
  • If there are any problems with your personal information, please contact International Student Services immediately at international@rwu.edu. 
  • There is no need to return your signed I-20 to International Student Services. 
  • Keep your I-20 form safe. It is wise to keep your I-20 form in a safe folder with your passport and other immigration documents.
What other documents do I need to submit to receive my I-20 form?
  • A clear, scanned color image of the information page of your passport
  • Scans of any current or past U.S. visa stamps
  • Verification of financial forms (must be current, within 12 months of admission to RWU)
    • A prospective student must have financial evidence showing that they or a sponsor has sufficient funds to cover tuition and living expenses during the period of intended study. Evidence of financial ability includes but is not limited to:
      • Family bank statements
      • Documentation from a sponsor
      • Financial aid letters
      • Scholarship letters
    • Please view the following page at StudyintheStatesfor further information.

After you receive your I-20 form, you are eligible to apply for a U.S. visa. Once approved, you may enter the United States within 30 days of the program start date. Please review the following tabs for further information regarding the visa application process as well as guidance on entering the U.S. and traveling to Bristol, Rhode Island.

Step 2: Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee

What is SEVP and SEVIS?

As an F-1 International Student who has received their I-20 form, you are now enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). This program, operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is in place to track international students and help them maintain nonimmigrant status in the United States. SEVP uses the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to record and update information. This is a Web-based system that is used to create your I-20, among many other things. The Designated School Official is the person who is authorized to access SEVIS and produce I-20 forms. Your DSO will show you your SEVIS information page when you check in at RWU.
For more information on SEVP and SEVIS, please view this link at StudyintheStates.

Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee

Before you are able to apply for you F-1 visa, you must pay the prerequisite fee to activate your student record in SEVIS. 

Step 3: Obtain F-1 Student Visa

Visa Application Procedure

All non-immigrants coming to the United States for the purpose of studying must obtain an F-1 student visa in order to proceed through U.S. customs and enter the country. 

  • Every country has a different visa process, and for most countries the visa process can be very lengthy. 
  • It is advised that you begin as soon as you receive your I-20 form. 

View the following information for general guidance as well as links for you to research the country from which you are applying.

Apply For a Nonimmigrant Visa: You must complete the online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160).
You must pay a $160 processing fee, which is separate from your $350 I-901 SEVIS Fee. Keep the confirmation of completion from both the DS-160 and the I-901.

Schedule Your and Attend Your Visa Interview: You must contact a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find out how to schedule your in-person visa interview. Your first step is to visit the embassy or consulate website of the country from which you are applying.

  • Some countries do not require in-person interviews. Inquire directly at the appropriate consulate or embassy to learn more.
  • Search for your country by visiting usembassy.gov.
  • Visit travel.state.gov for general information about student visas, including information regarding fees.
    • On the travel.state.gov website, you can view estimated wait times for the visa process. Scroll down to the "Appointment Wait Time" section and input your embassy or consulate.

Visa Application Resources
Visit these links for resources to help you with your U.S. visa interview:

Required Documents for a Visa Interview

You are generally required to present the following documents when applying for your visa:

☑️ Passport: Must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States.
          Example: If you plan to arrive in 08/2023 and plan to graduate in 05/2027 (4-year program), your passport must be valid until at least 11/2027.There are many exceptions which allow for visas to be issued for passports valid just for the intended period of stay. See the Six-Month Passport Validity Update web page.
☑️ Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160) confirmation page
☑️ Application Fee Payment Receipt: If you are required to pay before your interview.
☑️ Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status (Form I-20) and Confirmation of SEVIS Payment (Form I-901)
☑️ Photo: You will upload your photo while completing the online DS-160. See the following page on Digital Image Requirements. If your upload fails, you will have to bring a photo with your to your visa interview.
☑️ Proof of Finances: You will be asked for proof of your ability to cover the cost of your program. You will have already provided these documents to RWU Admissions. These same documents can be used.

Additional Documents

The following documents may be requested to establish your qualification to apply for F-1 Status. You may consider preparing these documents when you apply for your visa.
☑️ Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended.
          For students transferring credits from a university outside of the U.S.: Before arriving at RWU, we cannot determine exactly how credits will transfer to RWU's Registrar. Therefore, the "end date" listed on your I-20 is an estimation.
☑️ Scores from tests required for admission, especially English Language Ability scores such as the TOEFL.
☑️ Standardized test scores

Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from visa stamp requirements. However, these students must still have F visa status.

Visa Stamp vs. Visa Status
  • Visa Stamp: Physical document that is inserted into a passport. It looks like a sticker, and includes a photo, name, and other identifying information. Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not need an F-1 visa stamp in order to enter the U.S.
  • Visa Status: Even citizens who do not need a stamp require approval for F-1 visa status in order to enter the U.S. for the purpose of studying.

Step 4: Enter the United States

Entering the United States

Students with an "Initial Status" I-20: You may enter the United States no more than 30 days prior to the start date of your program. Your EARLIEST ADMISSION DATE is listed in the PROGRAM OF STUDY section of your I-20 form. 

You MUST report to the International Services office at RWU in person within the 30 day period before the start date of your program.

  • When your visa is issued to you, you must first verify that all of your information is correct. Contact your embassy or consulate immediately if there are errors. Having a valid visa stamp in your passport permits a nonimmigrant to enter the United States, but it does not guarantee entry. At a port of entry into the United States, you will request permission to enter the country at U.S. Customs.
  • Officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are authorized to permit or deny admission into the U.S. When proceeding into U.S. Customs at a Port of Entry, 
    • Do not forget to behave respectfully and answer questions honestly. 
    • You will be asked what your purpose is to enter the U.S., where you will be staying, for how long you will be staying, and questions about your intentions after your program ends. You may encounter similar questions as were asked to you during your F-1 Visa Interview.
  • You must have the following documents in your possession when you enter the United States:
    ☑️ Valid Passport
    ☑️ Valid F-1 Visa
    ☑️ Original Form I-20 If you are required to pay before your interview.
    ☑️ RWU Letter of Acceptance (recommended)
    ☑️ Documentation/Evidence of Financial Support (recommended)

For further information on Entering the United States, please visit the "Getting to the U.S." page at StudyintheStates.com.

Step 5: Attend RWU New Student Orientation

New Student Orientation

Roger Williams University routinely hosts five orientation sessions, four of which are in June and one in August. August orientation includes the Global Scholars Track, intended for international students coming to the U.S. for the purposes of studying. Attendance at Roger Williams University's New Student Orientation is mandatory. F-1 students and J-1 scholars will attend required sessions on immigration responsibilities that must be upheld for the duration of study. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires you to check in at RWU, which occurs during these sessions. RWU's Immigration Check-In occurs ONLY during the August orientation, prior to the start of classes.

There should be no reason why you cannot attend this orientation. The only exceptions are events out of your control such as flight cancellations or medical emergencies. Please contact the International Student and Scholar Services office at international@rwu.edu if you know you will be unable to attend the New Student Orientation.