The Visa Process

Helpful Links:
U.S. embassies abroad
SEVIS Fee
Change of status

If you are currently in the U.S. and would like to change your visa status in the U.S., please go to the Change of Visa Status section.  If you will apply for a visa outside the U.S. please carefully read the following information. 

All international students must have a valid entry visa before entering the U.S. You cannot apply for a student visa until you have received your immigration document (I-20 or DS-2019). Please note that the following steps may differ from those of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for your visa. Always consult the embassy or consulate for exact instructions and guidelines.


VISA- visa pages rotating pic 1Citizens of Canada, Bermuda, Bahamas and residents of certain other islands do not need a visa to enter the U.S., but must show their I-20 or DS-2019 when entering the United States. Be sure to pay and process the SEVIS fee before appearing at the U.S. Port of Entry; you will not be able to pay this fee at the Port of Entry.

  • Make an appointment with your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate (hyperlink) to apply for your visa. Check here for an estimated wait time for your visa appointment.
  • Complete the online form DS-160 https://ceac.state.gov/genniv (Pay the visa application fee by following instructions on your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate web site.)
  • If you are beginning a new F-1 or J-1 visa status, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee. Students studying under the F visa are required to pay $200. Students studying under the J visa must pay $180. If you are applying for J-1 status and you are sponsored by the U.S. government, you are not required to pay the SEVIS fee. If you are transferring schools, extending your program, applying for an F-2 or J-2 dependent visa, or have paid this fee and been denied a visa within the last twelve months, you do not need to pay.  You must bring the receipt of SEVIS fee payment with you to the visa interview.
  • Prepare and bring to your visa interview the following:
    (a) A passport valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay in the U.S.
    (b) Form I-20 (sign the form under Item 11) or DS-2019
    (c) School admission letter
  • (d) Transcripts from previous schools attended and scores of standardized tests (TOEFL/GRE, etc)
    (d) Completed visa applications
    (e) Two 2 inch x 2 inch (or 51 mm x 51 mm) photographs in the prescribed format.
    (f) A receipt for the visa application fee
    (g) A receipt for the SEVIS fee, either the one you received in the mail or the one you can print from the Internet, depending on which method of payment you used.
    (h) Financial evidence that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period you intend to study.
    (i) Any information that proves that you will return to your home country after finishing your studies in the U.S. This may include proof of property, family, or other ties to your community.

If you are in the US on another visa status and are interested in applying for a student visa, view change of status information here, or contact International Student Services for more information on changing status.
Students wanting to enter the U.S. on another visa status should confirm that they can legally study on that visa type before entering the United States. If you enter the U.S. on a B visa or an F-2 visa, you will NOT be able to pursue a course of study. Please email any questions to iss@sc.edu