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Obtaining an F-1 Visa and Entering the US

How to Obtain an F-1 Visa

February 2017: As a result of January's Executive Order on Immigration and the subsequent legal procedures that leave its implementation in flux, we recommend that all students plan their visa application and interview appointment well in advance of the expected arrival date.

The visa process can be complicated and time-sensitive and every consulate or embassy has its own rules which can vary. In addition to carefully reviewing the information here, you should check with the US consulate or embassy in your home country to receive country-specific guidelines for obtaining an F-1 student visa. You should also carefully read information provided by the U.S. Department of State.

You are encouraged to begin the visa appointment process as soon as you receive your I-20 document, as visa appointments may take several weeks or more. Most embassies do not permit you to schedule a visa application appointment until you have your MassArt I-20 in hand. It is highly recommended that you wait until you receive the document before making your visa appointment. Please note, MassArt cannot be responsible for appointments missed because they were made prior to receipt of your I-20 document.

  1. Become familiar with the documents and processes required for the visa application process:
    • Normally family members are not allowed into the visa interview room
    • Be prepared to answer questions about why you chose MassArt, what program you have chosen and why, and what your longer term plans are after you graduate (see below information on demonstrating ties to your home country and non-immigrant intent)
    • Be prepared to present transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended and TOEFL scores, etc.
    • Be prepared to present an original set of bank documentation and sponsorship documentation to the embassy. These documents must have a current date on them
    • While you must only certify a specific amount of funding to receive a MassArt I-20, it may be helpful for you to provide bank statements in greater amounts when possible, depending on your country and your personal financial situation 
    • Many documents can be used to demonstrate "ties to the home country" such as home country salary statements, property deeds, and investments
    • Note: If you do not have a passport, you must obtain one from your government. Your passport must always be valid at least six months into the future. It is your responsibility to be aware of the expiration date and to renew it when appropriate.
  2. After receiving your MassArt Form I-20, schedule an appointment at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as possible. Processing times for visa issuance vary and may require additional time due to security checks. Your local US embassy or consulate will also have information on visa processing and required materials specific to your country
    • Important Note: It is your job to prove to the interviewing officer that you DO NOT plan to stay permanently in the United States by demonstrating "ties to the home country" (below) and non-immigrant intent. You will be denied a visa if the Consular Officer believes you intend to stay in the U.S. after your studies. To demonstrate that you will return to your home country, you should show that:
      • You have sufficient funds to cover expenses for the duration of your stay in the U.S. MassArt requires proof of one year of funding, but you are advised to provide proof of as much funding as possible, including additional proof that the funds will be available throughout your studies (through salary statements and employer letters, etc.)
      • You are planning to return home when you finish your program, by showing "ties to the home country." Possible documentation might be the property and deeds of your family; proof that all or most of your family is not already in the U.S.; letters indicating that you will have a job or good job prospects in your country after getting your degree; etc.)
  3. In addition to the standard visa application fee, you must pay a SEVIS fee prior to applying for your visa. You will not be authorized to pay the SEVIS fee until you have your Form I-20 in hand. Please note, both sites are accessible using your mobile devices and fees can be paid online in most cases. For more information about the SEVIS fee visit Study in the States.

Important note to citizens of Canada: Canadian students do not require application to the U.S. consulate for an entry visa. However, at the port of entry, Canadian Students must present their I-20, proof of financial support and passport to the immigration officer. The immigration officer may ask for the documents and answers to the questions that are required at the visa appointment so you should review all guidelines in this letter and on listed websites.

Section 2: Planning for Orientation and Arrival

You are allowed to enter the US on an F-1 visa 30 days or less prior to the Program Start Date on your I-20 document. If you plan to enter the US more than 30 days prior to your start date, you must enter the US as a visitor and then leave and return as an F-1 student once you are within 30 days or less. The MassArt International Education Center will help you with all immigration-related matters during your studies at MassArt, but it is your responsibility to maintain your F-1 visa status by following all F-1 visa regulations. Study in the States has further information about getting and maintaining F-1 International Student Status.

Your F-1 visa status requires that you attend MassArt's Orientation for New International Students. Please check back for final orientation dates before booking your ticket. At this time you will receive important information about your F-1 visa responsibilities and helpful resources regarding MassArt's international student services.

Summer Studios Students on F-1 visas: You will not attend a new student orientation. However, you are required to check-in with the International Education Center within 3 days of when you arrive here.

Special note for those who will be living in MassArt On-Campus Housing: The move-in date for international students is normally scheduled for the day prior to Orientation/Regulations for New International Students. Please plan to arrive at your residence hall no earlier than this date, as early arrivals cannot be accommodated.

Upon arrival in the U.S.: When you enter the United States, you must show your passport, your I-20 Form, your SEVIS receipt, and your financial documentation.

Carry these papers with you and NOT in checked luggage. A Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) Officer will look at your papers, and may ask questions, much like the Consular Officer did.

The CBP Officer will stamp your passport to show your date of admission, class of admission (F-1), and the date that you are admitted until (DS). DS means you are admitted for Duration of Stay and are able to be here for as long as you are attending classes at MassArt and abiding by all F-1 rules and regulations.

If you have any issues entering the United States, please advise Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials to call this number: 617.879.7810. A member of MassArt's Public Safety team will be available to assist CBP in verification of your student status at MassArt.

Upon arrival on campus and during your time here: It is critical that you follow the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations and procedures to maintain F-1 student immigration status. Some of the regulations you must follow include:

  1. Check in with the International Education Center in-person at International Student Orientation. You should bring information about your local address and phone numbers, as well as your I-20 and passport to our meeting
  2. Remain registered for a full-time course load at all times during your tenure at MassArt Ensure you have a valid travel signature from your international student advisor on your I-20 whenever you travel outside of the US
  3. Notify your international student advisor within 10 days of any change of address or change in your educational program
  4. You are not permitted to work or intern off-campus. Please note that on-campus (paid by MassArt) work is allowed for up to 20 hours per week, but may be difficult to find. Please see your international student advisor with questions