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In this section, we focus on immigration issues most relevant to students entering the United States for the first time to study. These are 1) obtaining a visa; 2) entering the U.S.; and 3) employment

To see all of our resources on immigration regulations, click here.

Steps to Obtaining a Visa

1. Contact your local U.S. Consulate or Embassy to ask about how to get an F-1 international student visa.

2. After you receive your I-20 form or DS-2019 from UD, follow the U.S. Embassy/Consulate's instructions to schedule an interview for your visa. It is important to apply for your student visa as far in advance as possible. Many consulates recommend that appointments be made no more than 90 days from the intended date of travel, but some can make earlier arrangements for interviews.

3. Pay the $350 SEVIS fee.

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

5. Complete the following forms:

  • DS-156 Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form
  • DS-158 Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant
  • if a male between the ages of 16 and 45, DS-157 Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application

6. Prepare and bring to your visa interview the following:

  • A passport valid for at least six months
  • Form I-20 (F) or DS-2019 (J)
  • School admission letter
  • Completed visa applications (DS-156, DS-158, and, if applicable, DS-157)
  • Two 2"x 2" photographs in the prescribed format
  • A receipt for the visa application fee
  • A receipt for the SEVIS fee.
  • 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 United States. This may include proof of property, family, or other ties to your community.

7. Remain calm and answer all the Visa Officer's questions to you openly and honestly. 

Entering the U.S.

You may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019. Entering the U.S. more than 30 days in advance is risky. The inspectors at U.S. ports of entry have the authority to refuse your entry to the U.S., which means you would not be able to leave the airport and would have to return to your home country at your own expense.

The start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019 is based on the requirements of your academic unit and the Center for International Programs; all students beginning that program have the same start date. Start dates take into account required orientation and other preparatory programs that all students must attend. Start dates cannot be customized for the circumstances of individual students.

When you enter the U.S., be prepared to provide the following documents at the port of entry to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. CBP inspection takes place before you collect your luggage, so you must have these documents on your person. Do not put your travel documents in your checked luggage.

  • Passport
  • Visa stamp (if applicable)
  • SEVIS Form I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1)
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • Supporting financial documentation

Individuals seeking admission into the U.S. must demonstrate that they are eligible to enter. In order to be lawfully admitted into the U.S., individuals must be inspected by a CBP officer. Through the inspection process, CBP determines the admissibility of applicants for admission.

During an inspection at the border, a CBP officer will determine:

  • Why you are coming to the U.S.;
  • What documents are required for you to enter the U.S.;
  • If you have the required documents;
  • How long you should be allowed to remain in the U.S.; and
  • If you are admissible or inadmissible.

CBP makes these determinations during processes called primary inspection and, if necessary, secondary inspection. All foreign nationals seeking admission into the United States are subject to inspection. 

What can you expect at a Port of Entry Inspection?

If you are allowed to proceed, the officer will place an admission stamp in your passport and then write the visa status you are being given (F-1 or J-1) and the expiration date.  For students in F-1 or J-1 status the expiration is noted with "D/S" which stands for 'duration of status'.  If your stamp shows the incorrect status or a specific date instead of D/S, return to the inspection area and request your stamp be corrected. If this is not possible, contact our office. When you enter the country, an electronic record of your admission, known as the I-94, will also be created. You can retrieve a copy of this record here.

If you are not allowed to proceed, a CBP officer may direct you to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers. The inspector will first attempt to verify your status by using SEVIS. In the event that the CBP officer needs to verify information with your school or program, we strongly recommend that you calmly and politely ask they call our travel emergency phone number: 937-870-0477. Calling this number will ring both our main office number and one of our staff members, increasing the likelihood of reaching someone. This number is only to be called for emergencies during inspection.

Under certain circumstances, the CBP officer may issue a Form I-515A "Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor," which authorizes temporary admission into the United States for 30 days while you obtain and submit the necessary documentation to SEVP. Work with your school without delay to submit the proper documentation required by the Form I-515A.

Maintaining Status

F and J students and their dependents must maintain status after entering the U.S. There are many regulations you must follow but the two we highlight here are the most commonly misunderstood:

  • Full course of study requirement. New students must enroll for a full courseload in their first and subsequent fall and spring terms. Students starting in the summer must also study full-time. Full-time varies by level. Go to the Enrollment Requirements Page for more detail.
  • Employment. New students can work on campus immediately after arriving, provided they complete all necessary administrative processes. Students are eligible to work off campus one year (two semesters) after beginning their studies. More information about on and off campus work can be found on the Employment page.

Detailed information about these and other requirements can be found on the Current Students page. 


Center for International Programs

Rike Center
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 1701
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