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Applying for a Student Visa

Photo of a WatchIf you received a form I-20 from the University of Central Missouri, you will apply for an F-1 student visa. If you received a form DS-2019 from the university, you will apply for a J-1 exchange visitor visa. If you are confused about what type of form you have received, please look in the bottom left corner on the first page of the form.

The Consulate or Embassy will not issue an F-1 student visa more than 120 days before the start date on the I-20. You may be able to schedule an appointment before that 120-day period, but you will not get the visa approved until you are within 120 days of your start date on our campus. You also need to be aware that you may not enter the United States more than 30 days before the start date on the I-20, so make your travel arrangements with that 30 day period in mind. For information on applying for the visa and visa appointment wait times, please visit the U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

The following information is for people who plan to enter the United States for the first time to study. For information on bringing dependents to the U.S., returning to continue studies, or renewing your visa, or for more details on how to apply for a student visa, refer to the U.S. Department of State website at:

STEPS: There are several steps to apply for the visa.  The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply.

1.Contact your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to ask about how to get an international student (F-1) or exchange visitor (J-1) international student visa. Click Here for a list of Consulates and Embassies.

2. Schedule a visa interview as soon as possible. After you receive the FormI-20 (for F-1) or DS-2019 (for J-1) from the school that you want to attend, follow the U.S. Embassy or Consulate's instructions to schedule an interview for your F-1 or J-1 student visa. It is important to apply for your student visa as far in advance as possible. Many Embassies or Consulates recommend that appointments be made no more than 120 days from the intended date of travel, but some can make earlier arrangements for interviews.

3. Pay the SEVIS (I-901) fee. Cost for F-1: $200. Cost for J-1: $180.  Be sure to print a copy of the online receipt to show to the Consulate during your interview and to keep with you when you travel. To pay the SEVIS fee online, go to .  More details about the fee, methods of paying it, processing times, and other frequently asked questions can be found at .


NOTE: If you are transferring schools, extending your program, applying for an F-2 dependent visa, or have paid this fee and been denied a visa within the last twelve months, you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee. The fee is transferable to another I-20 or DS-2019 as long as it is still in your name. To find out about transferring your SEVIS fee, read the following::

4. Complete the following form(s):

  • Form DS-160 "On-line Nonimmigrant Visa Application". 
  • Upload a recent photo while completeing this form. Click Here for photo requirements.
  • Form DS-157 "Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application" (for males between the ages of 16 and 45)


5. Pay the visa application fee by following instructions on your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate's web site.

6. Gather the following documentation before your visa appointment.

  • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States
  • Form I-20 or DS-2019 (make sure to sign the form)
  • School admission letter
  • DS-160 application form confirmation page
  • The receipt for the visa application fee, if you are required to pay before your interview.
  • The receipt for the SEVIS (I-901) fee. If you do not have a receipt, the consulate may be able to see your payment electronically if your fee payment was processed at least 3 business days before your interview.
  • Financial evidence that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period you intend to study.
  • 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.
  • Evidence of your academic preparation such as transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or test scores                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

7. Remain calm and answer all the Consular Officer's questions openly and honestly. Some tips for a successful interview:

  • Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English.
  • Interviews are generally very brief.
  • Keep answers to the officer’s questions short and to the point.
  • Do not take family members or friends with you to the interview.
  • Maintain a positive attitude: be friendly, courteous and confident that you will receive the visa.
  • Be prepared to show strong ties to your home country.
  • Organize your supporting documentation so that it can be logically presented without hesitation or fumbling through a briefcase.
  • Be prepared to show evidence that sufficient financial resources (at least equal to the amount indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019) are readily available for your support.
  • If you are married, especially with children, and your family is remaining behind in your own country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence.
  • Be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstance, be employed in the U.S.  You must show sufficient financial resources to support dependents.
  • Share information about your academic achievements, thus far, in your own country.
  • Be prepared to discuss what you expect to get out of your education.