Most international students come to USF on F-1 or J-1 student visas. To apply for these, they need eligibility documents (I-20s for F-1 visas or DS-2019s for J-1 visas) from USF.
F-1 Student Visa – I-20 Information: The F-1 is the most commonly used student visa. Students must have a valid educational purpose for coming to the United States, be a full-time student, and provide proof of their ability to fund their education. Upon admission to a USF program and receipt of financial documentation, the student is issued an I-20 to be used to obtain the F-1 visa at a US Embassy or Consulate. The spouse or children of an F-1 student enter the US on F-2 visas and are not eligible to attend university or work in the US.
Transferring F-1 status from another US Institution: F-1 students who are already attending a US school may transfer their immigration status to USF, if they are admitted into a USF program, provide proof of financial support, and have continuously maintained immigration status while in the US. Students must enroll in courses at USF within 5 months of the last date of attendance at the previous school or the end date of OPT. After the student is admitted to USF and receives the official offer letter, they must ask the current institution to transfer the SEVIS record to USF.
Change to F-1 from another non-immigrant visa: Students who are in the US using a non-immigrant visa other than F-1 may choose to change their status to F-1 prior to beginning their USF academic program. This may be accomplished either by traveling outside the U.S. or by applying to USCIS for a change of status. Students who decide to travel to obtain their F-1 must receive an I-20 from International Services. Students who apply for a change of status should make an appointment to meet with an International Services advisor to discuss the procedures.
J-1 Student Visa – DS-2019 Information: The J-1 visa is an "exchange visitor" visa which is managed under the auspices of the Exchange Visitor Program of the US Department of State. The J-1 visa is used primarily by exchange students (non degree-seeking) and students sponsored by US government agencies. Students who meet the criteria for the J-1 visa will be issued a DS-2019 by USF or by a United States government agency (IIE, OAS, USF, etc.). The spouse or children of an J-1 student enter the US on a J-2 visa. Spouses in J-2 status may apply to USCIS for permission to work after their arrival in the U.S. Spouses and children may also attend school.
Other Visa Status Information (Non F-1 Visa Holders): Students who do not hold an F-1 (student) visa status may study at USF if their current visa status permits study in a degree seeking program. Please note that individuals in F-2 and B1/B2 (visitor) status are PROHIBITED from studying in a degree seeking program. For information about non-immigrant visas go to U.S. Department of State website.
Getting Your Non-Immigrant Visa: Upon receipt of the I-20 or DS-2019, the student should go to www.fmjfee.com to pay the SEVIS (I-901) fee required for all student visa applications. Be sure to print the receipt showing payment of this fee. Following fee payment, the student should, go to http://www.usembassy.gov/ to contact the US Embassy or Consulate to schedule a visa appointment and download visa application forms. (NOTE: Citizens of Canada are not required to apply for an entry visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate). The student should take their I-20 or DS-2019, passport, admission letter, and financial support documentation (e.g., award letter, bank statement, etc.) to the US Embassy or Consulate for the appointment. See our Tips for Applying for a Non-immigrant Visa.
Entering the U.S.: Students should carry their passport with visa stamp and I-20 or DS-2019 in their carry-on luggage on the airplane. Students will be given a WHITE arrival card (I-94) on the airplane that needs to be completed for the port-of-entry process. Information on the I-94 should be written clearly and match the information on the passport. The inspection officer should put a RED stamp on the I-20 or DS-2019 and the I-94 that includes the date of arrival, the visa status (F-1 or J-1) AND “D/S”. This refers to the duration of status/stay that is needed for the student to complete the academic program. For current government guidelines see the US Customs and Immigration Enforcement's: How to Navigate the U.S. Immigration System