What is the purpose of a student visa?
If you are coming to the US primarily to study and if your course of study is more than 18 hours a week, you will need a student visa, also known as an F-1 visa. For the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on obtaining a visa to study English in the USA, please visit the US Department of State website.
Steps to obtaining a student visa
Follow the steps below to obtain an I-20 form from LCI and receive your student visa:
• Register with LCI. We will send you the I-20 form and acceptance letter
• Pay the SEVIS fee online at www.fmjfee.com
• Schedule a visa interview at the US embassy or consulate in your home country
• If approved, you will receive your student visa
For more details on the process, please review the information below:
About the F-I Student Visa
About the I-20 Form
About SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System)
About the Visa Interview
What is an F-1 Visa?
An F-1 visa is an official US government-issued document which allows a foreign citizen to travel to the United States to study full-time for a temporary amount of time.
Does LCI issue F-1 Visas?
No, all visas are issued by the US Department of State at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad. LCI issues
the I-20 form that is required to obtain a student visa.
What documents must I provide to receive an F-1 Visa?
For a complete listing of the items required by the US Embassy or Consulate for an F-1 Visa, please visit
the US Department of State website.
How much time does it take to receive an F-1 Visa?
The amount of time it takes varies from country to country. Please see the US Department of State website
page Visa Appointment & Processing Wait Times or you may contact the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country for more precise information.
What if I want to change my status?
You may have to change your nonimmigrant status if you are already in the United States on a valid nonimmigrant visa for a purpose other than attending school (such as for tourism) and you want to study at a US school.
You have two options:
• Leave the United States and follow the same process to apply to come to the US from your home country to
study. LCI will provide you with an acceptance letter and an I-20.
• Remain in the United States and submit an application with US Citizenship and Immigration Services
(USCIS) to change your nonimmigrant status. LCI will provide you with an acceptance letter and an I-20. You
will also need to file a Form I-539 “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.”
You may file for Change of Status by yourself or with the help of an immigration attorney. For more information on this process, please see the Department of Homeland Security Study in the States page Change of Status.
What is an I-20 form and why do I need one?
The first and most important step in obtaining an F-1 student visa to study English in the USA is to receive the I-20 form. An official US government form, the I-20 is a visa-qualifying document issued by a US Educational Institution. Every foreign student who plans to study in the USA must receive this form through the learning institution that he/she plans to attend in order to receive an F-1 visa. LCI will provide this document to you. Furthermore, F-1 students must maintain a valid I-20 by studying full time to be permitted to reside legally in the US after they start their educational program.
Does everyone need an I-20 form?
Everyone that plans to study in the US must first obtain an I-20. You cannot obtain a student visa without this form.
How do I get an I-20?
LCI will provide you with an I-20 upon receipt of the following:
• LCI registration form
• A copy of your passport
• A copy of your bank statement (this serves as proof that you can provide funding to study in the US)
• Payment of the application deposit (payment may be made to LCI via wire transfer or PayPal)
How long does it take to receive an I-20?
Most schools take approximately two weeks to issue an I-20, but LCI will provide you with your I-20
in just 24-48 hours after receiving your application and payment.
Why does LCI request copies of my bank statement?
The US government requires that you provide financial proof that you can cover the costs of studying English in the USA.
Can I provide more than one bank statement?
Yes, you can demonstrate funds to the US government by providing statements from multiple accounts if you like.
I’d like to bring family members with me when I travel to the US. Is that allowed?
Yes. You need to provide this information to LCI, so that we can state this data on your I-20 form. Please provide the full names (as stated on passports), date of birth and relationship to you for all family members who plan to accompany you.
I want to transfer my I-20 form to your school. What do I need to do?
Please follow the steps below:
• Contact LCI to let us know that you’d like to transfer.
• Inform your current school that you plan to transfer.
• Complete an LCI registration form and a transfer form (available by contacting our office), and
provide advanced payment for your first academic term.
• LCI will then send a transfer form to your current school and subsequently issue you an I-20.
What happens if I become out of status as a student?
LCI is authorized to apply for reinstatement for students who are out of status. If you become out of status, contact LCI and we will review your request. We handle each request on a case-by-case basis.
What is SEVIS?
SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. SEVIS is an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents. SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State (DOS). LCI is responsible for entering your information for the I-20 form into SEVIS. You are responsible for paying an SEVIS I-901 fee for each program of study.
Who pays the SEVIS fee?
• Prospective students with "initial attendance" I-20s who are applying for an "initial" F-1 visa from
outside the US
• Prospective students with "initial attendance" I-20s who are applying for a change to F-1 status from
another visa category
• Current F-1 students in the US filing for reinstatement after being out of status more than 5 months
When do I pay the SEVIS fee?
The fee must be paid at least 3 business days prior to applying for your visa, or applying for admission at a US port-of-entry for those exempt from the visa requirement (Canadian citizens). The fee must be paid prior to submission of a change of status petition or reinstatement application.
What about my F-2 dependents?
F-2 dependents do not have to pay the fee.
How do I pay the fee?
The fee can be paid online at www.fmjfee.com or by mail. It can be paid by you or by a third party, inside or outside the US.
To Pay Online (Recommended)
1. Find Form I-901 at www.fmjfee.com.
2. Complete the form online and give the necessary credit or debit card information.
3. *Be sure to type your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 form.
4. Print a copy of the online receipt.
5. Make copies of your receipt, and keep it with your other important immigration documents.
Alternative Payment Methods
For other payment methods, please see: Paying Your I-901 SEVIS Fee.
Can I pay the SEVIS fee at a university, consulate or port of entry?
No. The SEVIS fee can only be processed by the Department of Homeland Security online or via one of the other payment methods.
For more information regarding the SEVIS fee requirement, visit I-901 SEVIS Fee Frequently Asked Questions.
Why do I schedule a visa interview?
As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section in your country is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate.
What should I keep in mind as I’m scheduling my visa interview?
The waiting time for a visa interview appointment for applicants can vary from days to months, so contacting your embassy or consulate to schedule the interview early is strongly encouraged. Please see our “Tips for the Visa Interview“ section below.
Tips for the Visa Interview
• LCI recommends that you take some time to prepare for your visa interview.
• Give some thought about how you will answer the questions regarding why you want to study English
in the USA and how studying English in the USA will prepare you for future opportunities in
your home country.
• Go to the interview well dressed—it’s important to present yourself well.
• Be on time to the interview.
• Smile and be friendly.
• If you’re employed, bring a letter from your employer.
• Provide copies of transcripts for previous institutions attended.
• If you or your family maintain any properties in your home country, please bring documentation.