Once you are accepted to Southeastern, there are several steps you must follow to receive the appropriate documents that allow you to enter the United States to begin your life as a Southeastern Lion. The following information is intended to guide you through those beginning steps. Of course, once you are here you will need to maintain your non-immigrant status or have questions about general immigration issues. The International Services Office is happy to assist you with any questions you may have. You may also find helpful information at Study in the States
Applying for the F-1 Student Visa
Before you begin the visa application process, you must have the following documents:
1. Form I-20
This will be sent to you in the mail from Southeastern after you have been admitted. Your I-20 is required when applying for an F-1 student visa at an American embassy or consulate and for entry into the United States. This I-20 has been produced by Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and is an acknowledgement that your record is in the SEVIS system. The form includes your SEVIS ID number, which is the number in the upper corner above the bar code, (usually starts with an N).
2. SEVIS Fee Receipt
All new students coming in F-1 status must pay a one-time $200 SEVIS fee prior to applying for your visa. You can find instructions about paying the fee at www.fmjfee.com
3. Additional I-20 Forms
If you have family members traveling with you in F-2 status, Southeastern will mail an I-20 for their use. Each F-2 dependent should have his or her own I-20 form. Each F-2 dependent I-20 is issued their own SEVIS number but an additional SEVIS fee does not need to be paid for a dependent.
The Application Process
You must apply for your visa well in advance of your arrival, as it can in some instances take several weeks and occasionally longer, to obtain the student visa. You can watch an overview of the on-line application process called DS-160.You can find the visa wait times at your local consulate here.
To apply for a U.S. visa you will need to present the following documents at the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to you:
Your form I-20
The SEVIS fee receipt
A copy of your financial support documents, i.e. evidence that you have sufficient funds to meet the expenses of studying at Southeastern, e.g. bank statement or your scholarship or Financial aid award letter.
In addition, the application for a U.S. visa requires you to present:
A valid passport
Completed visa applications forms (visa application forms are available on the U.S. consular websites.)
An application fee and an interview will also be required. There have been (and continue to be) changes in the visa application process and these changes are usually reflected on the consular websites.
When applying for your student visa, pay careful attention to the following:
The U.S. Department of State has instructed U.S. consulates that they may issue an F-1 visa no more than 120 days in advance of the program start date. However, an application for an F-1 visa can be submitted more than 120 days in advance of the I-20 start date in order to accommodate long processing times but the visa validity will never be before the 120 day mark. Check the website of the consulate where you will apply for a visa for detailed instructions.
You may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the starting date noted on the I-20 form. If you try to enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the start date on your I-20, you may not be permitted to enter the U.S.
You must pay particular attention to the starting date noted on your I-20 form, as you must enter the U.S. by this date. If you cannot enter the U.S. by this date, please get in touch with International Services Office at firstname.lastname@example.org about the process for changing your start date.
Please Note: The expiration date on your visa may not match the end date of your degree program. If your visa expires before you complete your degree program, you will apply for a new visa on your first trip outside the U.S. after your current visa expires.