Immigration Steps - F-1 Student Visa

When it comes to studying in the U.S., one of the most intimidating steps for every international student is getting through the immigration process. At DBU, our staff of experts are here to assist you through each step of the following process:

Print this Page

Step 1: Apply for I-20

After being accepted into your program at DBU, you will need to apply for an I-20. The Form I-20 is the legal document you need from a university before you can apply for the F-1 student visa.

Required Documents to Apply for an I-20:

  • Application for I-20
  • Passport Identification Page
  • Proof of Finances
  • Sponsor Affidavit (if required)
  • Dependent documents (if needed) – such as passports, marriage license, and birth certificates
  • Set up Shipping if you are unable to pick up in person – using eShipGlobal

    The F-1 student visa requires that the applicant prove adequate funds (liquid assets) to pay for at least the first year of education*. Set aside these funds and reserve them for this purpose. You may use your funds, or you may have a financial sponsor. You may also combine different sources of income to meet the total (for example, personal funds, scholarship funds, and a sponsor). The chart below will explain the various documents that we will accept.

Proof of Finances

Approved Types of Liquid Assets

Present one or more of these documents to equal the needed funds:

Approved Types of Liquid Assets
Document Approved: Yes or No
 Savings/Checking Account (bank statement or bank letter)  Yes
 Certificates of Deposit (CD), Bonds, Stocks, or Retirement Funds that can be liquidated  Yes
 Education Loan  Yes
 Scholarships (submit award letter from Financial Aid)  Yes
 Future Earnings  No

Information Required on Documents:

Financial documents must be issued by the bank or financial institution and specifically state all of the following:

  • Name of the account holder. This must match the name on the Sponsor Affidavit.
  • The date that the statement was printed.
  • Current account balance or specific knowledge that the account holds enough funds to meet the minimum.
  • Denomination or Currency type of Funds in the account. Note: The account does not need to be in USD, but the amount needs to convert to match the minimum required.

Note: Computer screenshots and ATM receipts cannot be accepted

Sponsored by a Company, Organization or Church:

If an organization wants to financially sponsor you to study at DBU, please submit an affidavit on official company letterhead and provide appropriate financial documents to show the company has reserved these funds for your education.

The affidavit should include:

  • Student’s Name
  • Promise to pay educational funds for a student to study at DBU
  • Amount of Money the company is promising to the student each year
  • Signature of person authorized to sign for the company
  • Date of signature
  • Completed on Company Letterhead

Financial documents should be held in the organization’s name. If they are in an individual's name, complete the DBU Sponsor Affidavit mentioned above.

Bringing a Spouse or Dependent Children

The F visa allows you to bring dependents with you. You may bring your spouse or dependent children if they are younger than 21 years old.

Additional documentation:

  • Spouse: Spouse's passport, your Marriage Certificate, and translation if not in English.
  • Children: Each child's passport and birth certificate showing they are your children.

You will need to show additional funds for each dependent. See the I-20 application for current amounts.

Note: If your spouse or child is a US citizen, you do not need to include them in your application

Step 2: Apply for a Visa (New Students)

Once you have your admissions packet with your I-20, here are the steps to apply for a visa:

  • Pay I-901 SEVIS fee
    • Print Receipt (I-901)

    The US government requires a fee for all forms. The Form I-20 (F student visa), and DS-2019 (J exchange visa) also requires a fee. You will pay this fee online. Note: students in, from, or born in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Gambia must pay through Western Union.

  • Apply for Visa
    • Submit the DS-160 application for the visa
      • Pay application fees online through state.gov
    • Pick the embassy or consulate nearest to you
      • Check your embassy/consulate wait times to see how long it will take to get a visa
      • Do not travel to another country for a visa appointment unless you already live there or have long term business there
    • Go to your biometric appointment and turn in the required documents
      • Each embassy will have a different process, but most will create copies of your fingerprints and require that you bring your I-20 and passport.
    • Practice for your visa appointment
      • Read our visa tips
      • Schedule a practice interview with your admissions counselor
    • Go to your visa appointment
      • Take the following documents with you:
        • All appropriate U.S. Department of State forms are required by the consulate in your home country. Verify needed forms from the Embassy/Consulate Website >>
        • A passport that is valid for at least six months into the future
        • Signed I-20 from DBU
        • Receipt for paid I-901 Visa Application Fee
        • DBU Acceptance Letter
        • Evidence of Financial Support proving enough funds for the entire length of study at DBU
        • Documents proving your intent to return to your home country upon completion of your DBU academic program and coursework
        • Arrive early, lines can be long

      You will only have 1 or 2 minutes with the officers. They may only ask one or two questions.

You will be told at your interview if your visa is approved, denied, or if they need to send it to additional processing.

Apply for your visa as early as you can. You may apply for a visa 120 days before the start date on your I-20. This will give you the best shot at getting your passport and visa back in time to complete all the steps before departing for the USA. 

Step 3: Arrival

  • Documents: Make sure you have all the documents listed below with you in your carry-on:
    • Passport
      • Ensure your passport expires at least 6 months beyond when you plan to enter the USA.
      • If it will expire, renew the passport before you start the visa process.

      While you are in the USA, if your passport is within 6 months of expiring, you can work with your embassy here in the USA to extend it or to get a new passport.

    • I-20
    • I-901 receipt
    • DBU acceptance letter
    • Contact phone number(s) at DBU in case of problems or delays

      We advise that you keep digital copies of each document in cloud-based storage so you have access to them in case you lose your phone or physical documents.

  • Immigration and Customs
    When you enter the USA, you will first pass through Immigration inspection.  You will then pick up your bags and go through Customs to inspect your belongings.
    You will go through this immigration/customs inspection at the first location you land in the USA. If you have a connecting flight, you will then need to find your next connection and check your bags back in. You will not need to go back through immigration and customs once you are in the USA.
    • Immigration will check your passport, visa, and I-20. Sometimes, they will also send you a second inspection to verify your documents and your identity.
    • Customs will check your belongings to see what you are bringing with you. After immigration, you will collect your bags and go through Customs. Please be aware:
      • If you have more than $10,000 USD in cash, you will have to report it and may be taxed. If you do not report it, they can take it away from you.
      • Do not bring in seeds, plants, animals, etc. 
  • Arrival Timeline
    • Arrival Date: You may enter the USA up to 30 days before your I-20 begins, and no later than the start date on your I-20.
      • Arriving earlier can lead to your deportation or serious immigration issues. 
    • Check-In: You must check-in immediately upon arrival.
      • Go to the International Admissions office at DBU with:
        • your passport with the visa stamp
        • I-94 printout
        • a copy of your signed I-20
        • know your local (US) address
        • local phone number (if you have one)
        • a valid personal email
      • Transfer students are required to physically check-in with us 15 days before the start of your program. Bring all your immigration documents with you and make sure to transfer your I-20 before the first day of class.
    • Orientation: Orientation is required of all students beginning a new program. You will receive information about orientation from your admissions counselor.