Visa Application & Entry to the United States

How to Apply

After receiving your Form I-20 from UCI Division of Continuing Education (UCI DCE), you must make an appointment to visit the U.S. Embassy/Consulate to apply for an F-1 student visa. This can be done by telephone, mail, over the internet, or in person. Schedule an appointment as soon as possible. To find the nearest U.S. Embassy/Consulate near you, visit the Official List of Embassies from the U.S. Department of State.


Apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy in your home country. Only schedule a visa appointment after you receive your Form I-20 from UCI Division of Continuing Education. The SEVIS ID Number on your Form I-20 is required to schedule a visa appointment. For more information regarding visa application requirements and to schedule a visa interview, visit the Department of State Travel. To find a U.S. Embassy located in or nearest to your home country, visit the Official List of Embassies from the U.S. Department of State. F-1 student visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date. However, the earliest you may enter the United States in F-1 visa status is 30 days before your program start date.

I-901 Sevis Fee

You must pay the mandatory $350 SEVIS I-901 fee by visiting Department of Homeland Security Form I-901 after you receive your Form I-20. Enter your SEVIS ID number found at the top of your Form I-20, which will start with the letter “N” followed by 10 numbers (i.e. N0012345678). Print a copy of your SEVIS fee payment receipt and bring it with you to your F-1 Visa appointment at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate office and when entering the United States.

Form I-94

Your I-94 record is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) arrival/departure record issued when you are admitted to the U.S. The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer at the port of entry provides an admission stamp in your passport that shows the date of admission, class of admission and admitted until date. This stamp in your passport indicates that you legally entered the United States as an F-1 student. After you enter the United States, check your I-94 record to ensure that you were admitted in F-1 status for Duration of Status (D/S). Various government agencies may request a copy of your I-94 record, so you will want to print a hard copy of your Form I-94 at U.S. Customs and Border Protection Arrival/Departure Forms.

Tips for retrieving your I-94 record can be found at NAFSA Electronic I-94 Record Retrieval Tips.

If you have trouble retrieving your I-94 or your I-94 record does not indicate F-1, see an International Student Advisor.

Adding Your Dependents

Students who are maintaining F-1 status may request dependent Forms I-20 for their spouse and/or children under the age of 21. Parents, or any other relative, of the student cannot be issued dependent Forms I-20. If you would like your spouse and/or children to accompany you to the United States, follow these steps:

  1. Complete the “Dependent Information” section of the international programs application.
  2. Include passport copies of each dependent you wish to add (spouse and children) under the age of 21 only)
  3. Add an additional $2,500 per dependent on your bank statement
  4. If you have already applied to a program and did not originally include your dependent information, email to request to add your dependents and include passport copies for each dependent

After our office receives and approves your request, dependent I-20s will be issued for your spouse and/or children. The dependent(s) will apply for an F-2 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate in their home country with their F-2 dependent I-20, along with other supporting documents as required by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate. The dependent(s) will need the F-2 visa stamp, a valid passport, and a valid F-2 dependent I-20 to enter the United States and accompany the F-1 visa holder.

Important notes for the F-2 visa holder:

  1. As long as the F-1 visa holder is maintaining their F-1 status at our school, the F-2 visa holder may travel with valid F-2 immigration documents as they wish. It is not mandatory for F-2 visa holders to remain in the United States for the entire duration of the F-1 visa holder’s program.
  2. The F-2 dependent’s Form I-20 will follow the F-1 visa holder’s Form I-20 in whatever course of action the F-1 visa holder takes (i.e. transfer-out, complete program, I-20 termination). The F-2 status is dependent on the F-1 visa holder maintaining F-1 status in the United States.
  3. Dependents maintaining an F-2 visa may study part time only (less than 18 hours per week in ESL or less than 12 units in academic certificate study).
  4. F-2 dependents may NOT engage in unauthorized work in the United States.

For more information about adding dependents, visit U.S. Department of Homeland Security Study in the States.

Change of Status Applicants

If you are currently in the U.S and are planning to change your visa status to F-1 to enroll in a full-time international program, visit USCIS I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status for more information. We strongly recommend you consult with an immigration lawyer to determine if applying for a change of status is right for you, and to assist you with the process.

If you are changing your visa status from B-1/B-2 to F-1, read these special instructions at USCIS Changing to a Nonimmigrant F or M Student Status.

The change of status application can take several months to be reviewed. You may not depart the United States while your change of status application is pending with the U.S. Government, or your application will be automatically denied. If you need to depart the United States at any time after your change of status has been approved, you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy outside of the United States.

If your change of status application is still pending by your program start date as listed on your Form I-20, email on your program start date to postpone your program to our next available session.

Other Visa Types

To study full-time, we recommend you apply for an F-1 student visa. If you are on a visa type other than F-1, we recommend that you check the chart on “Nonimmigrants: Who Can Study?” to ensure that you are allowed to study either part or full time while you maintain your current visa status.

We recommend you consult with your current visa sponsor to ensure that they will support you in pursuing both part- or full-time study and that you are following all the rules pertaining to your current visa. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are legally able to study while you are maintaining your status in the United States.