Visa Application Process

Applicants for a student visa should generally apply at the U.S. embassy or consulate having jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence.  A personal interview with the consular official may be required.  For information on F-1 visa application requirements, go to http://www.unitedstatesvisas.gov and locate your consular office.  Each applicant’s case is unique, and visa issuance may be delayed in the event special clearances are required.  When the visa is issued, the consular office will return the Form I-20 to the applicant in a sealed envelope, to be opened only by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspector at the U.S. port of entry.

When you appear for your Visa, you must supply the following:

  1. Original Form I-20, issued by the U.S. institution at which you plan to enroll (Rider University) 

  2. Completed application Form DS-156, together with a Form DS-158.  The required forms can be obtained at: http://evisaforms.state.gov/ 

  3. A passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States 

  4. One (1) 2x2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in nonimmigrant photograph requirements 

  5. A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee, a visa issuance fee if applicable (Please consult the Visa Reciprocity Table) and a separate SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.While all F visa applicants must pay the MRV fee, including dependents, only the F-1 principal applicants must pay the SEVIS fee.

You should also be prepared to supply:

  1. Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended 

  2. scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc. financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study. You should bring copies of the information provided to Rider University with you to your appointment

DHS SEVIS Fee

Before making an appointment at the embassy or consulate you must first pay the Department of Homeland Security's SEVIS I-901 Fee to cover the costs of the operation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), an internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on nonimmigrant students, exchange visitors, and their dependents. 

This fee is generally required of most F-1 and J-1 visa applicants who will be studying in the U.S. for the first time, as well as those changing to F-1 status.  More specific information is available at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement web site. Students must have a receipt from payment of this fee in order to apply for a Visa; Canadian students must have this receipt when they arrive at the U.S. border.

The required fee ranges from $180 to $200 and can be paid by mail or online:

Pay By Mail

  • Obtain a Form I-901 "Fee Remittance for Certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrants." Download the form from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: SEVIS I-901 OR, if inside the U.S., request the form by phone at 1-800-870-3676.
  • Complete the Form I-901. Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on the I-20 or DS-2019 form.
  • Prepare a check, international money order or foreign draft (drawn on US banks only) in the amount of $200 USD (F-1 visas) or $180 (J-1 visas), made payable to "The Department of Homeland Security."
  • Mail the completed I-901 and payment to:  (P.O. Box listed on Form I-901).
  • A Form I-797 receipt notice should be mailed to you within 3 days of processing the fee.  Be sure to make copies of your receipt and keep it with your other important immigration documents.

Pay Online

  • Access the Form I-901 "Fee Remittance for Certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrants” at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: SEVIS I-901.
  • Complete the form online and supply the necessary Visa, MasterCard, or American Express information.  Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.
  • Print a copy of the online receipt.
  • Be sure to make a few additional copies of your receipt and keep them with your other important immigration documents.

Tips for the Visa Application Process

  1. Please be sure to plan as far in advance as possible, as visa wait times can be lengthy.  A list of current wait times is available at: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/tempvisitors_wait.php

  2. Your visa can be issued no more than 120 days before the start date listed on your I-20.  If you apply before this point, your application will be held, but any special clearances will be worked on. 

  3. Be sure to pay your SEVIS fee and have the receipt with you when you appear for your Visa appointment. 

  4. You may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before the start dates listed on your I-20.  Consider this carefully when making your travel arrangements. 

  5. Check your I-20 carefully when you first receive the form to be sure the information exactly matches that on your passport.