Once you have received your F-1/J-1 visa, you will be able to enter the United States as an F-1 Student/J-1 Exchange Visitor in "Initial" status. In order to pass inspection by border officials at the port of entry you will travel through to enter the U.S., you will need the following documents:

  • Passport valid for at least six months past the date of your entry into the U.S.
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa, unless exempt from visa requirement (ex: Canadian citizens do not require an F-1 visa to enter the U.S. in F-1 Student status). When in "Initial" status, the name of the school on the F-1 or J-1 visa must match the name of the school on the Form I-20/DS-2019.
  • Evidence of financial support (ex.: financial aid award letter, certified bank statement, etc.)
  • Form I-20 or DS-2019, properly signed by the DSO/RO and student/Exchange Visitor
  • I-901 SEVIS fee payment confirmation

All prospective F-1 students must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before the U.S. Department of State will issue a visa. For visa-exempt prospective F-1 students, proof of I-901 SEVIS fee payment must be shown at the port of entry into the U.S. SEVIS is the Student Exchange Visitor Information System, used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to manage international student and Exchange Visitor information.

Paying the I-901 SEVIS fee (U.S. $350 for F-1 Students, $220 for Exchange Visitors)

  • Prospective F-1 students with a country of citizenship except Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Gambia can pay the I-901 SEVIS fee at www.FMJfee.com.
  • Payment instructions can be found on www.studyinthestates.gov as well as www.fmjfee.com.
  • Prospective F-1 students with a country of citizenship of Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Gambia must pay by money order, Western Union Quick Pay or certified check drawn from a U.S. bank. Prospective students without access to a credit or debit card may also use this method.
  • Detailed payment instructions can be found on the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement website.

Important Terms

DOS is a federal department that administers visa applications to the United States and oversees the Exchange Visitor Program.

ICE is a federal agency within the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security that focuses on immigration regulation enforcement within the United States.

CBP is a federal agency within DHS that safeguards United States borders and oversees transit through Ports of Entry.

USCIS is a federal agency within DHS that oversees immigration and employment of non-citizens in the United States. USCIS administers applications such as the I-765 Application for Employment Authorization.

SEVP manages schools, nonimmigrant students in the F and M visa classifications and their dependents on behalf of DHS. SEVP uses the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System to track and monitor these schools, nonimmigrant students and their dependents.

  • SEVIS is the online database that maintains information about F-1 and M-1 students and their dependents who attend SEVP-certified schools in the U.S.
  • SEVIS is also used by the Dept. of State to maintain information about J-1 Exchange Visitors, their dependents and sponsor programs.
  • PDSO and DSOs are SEVP-certified school officials who maintain student records in SEVIS and advise F-1 and M-1 students on maintaining their lawful status while they study in the United States.
  • ROs and AROs are school officials who maintain Exchange Visitor records in SEVIS and advise Exchange Visitors on maintaining their lawful status while in the United States.
  • Form I-20 is a record of an F-1 or M-1 student's information within SEVIS, and is issued by a PDSO or DSO. The Form I-20 is required to apply for an F-1 visa.
  • DS-2019 is a record of a J-1 Exchange Visitor's information within SEVIS, and is issued by an RO or ARO. The DS-2019 is required to apply for a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa.
  • POE is an airport, land crossing or port through which one enters the United States. For travelers making multiple connections within the U.S., the POE is where one goes through customs when first entering the United States.
  • Form I-94 is a record of a nonimmigrant's arrival in and departure from the United States. The Form I-94 is administered by Customs & Border Protection.