Applying for a visa to study in the US can seem complicated. The steps outlined here will help you navigate the process smoothly.
These steps are for full-time undergraduate and graduate students who will enroll in a degree-granting program at BU. If you will apply for a visa other than F-1 or J-1, read the International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) guidelines for other visa types.
Pay your BU enrollment deposit.
Pay your enrollment deposit prior to paying your SEVIS fee. Once you have paid your deposit, BU will issue your Form I-20.
Your program may require an enrollment deposit prior to issuing your Form DS-2019. Check with your school or college admissions office.
Read your Form I-20 or DS-2019.
Once you have paid your enrollment deposit, you will receive a Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) form with your ID number and visa instructions. For F-1 visa applicants (most undergraduate students), this is a Form I-20. For J-1 visa applicants (most graduate students), this is a Form DS-2019. Make sure all the details of the form are correct—especially that your name matches the one on your passport.
Check your passport dates.
Your passport expiration date should be at least six months from your arrival date in the US. For example, if you come to the US September 1, 2014, make sure your passport is valid until March 1, 2015, or later.
Pay the SEVIS fee.
Before you can get your visa, you must pay the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee. Canadians (who don’t need a visa to study here) must also pay this fee.
How to pay
Apply for your visa with your U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
You’ll apply for your visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate closest to you. Apply as early as you can so you have plenty of time for the interview and processing—in many cases you can apply 120 days prior to your academic program start date shown on your I-20 or DS-2019. Check the Consulate or Embassy’s website for application instructions. The US Department of State lists appointment and processing wait times.
Travel to the US.
When you have received your F-1 or J-1 visa, you can arrange your travel. You can enter the US as early as 30 days before the program start date on your I-20 or DS-2019 (but no earlier).
Make sure you have the following items with you at all times:
- Your passport, valid for at least six months from your entry date
- Your I-20 or DS-2019
- Proof of SEVIS fee payment (receipt or Form I-797)
- Admission letter from Boston University
- Original financial documents proving sufficient funding, as reflected on your I-20 or DS-2019
- Medical records: certificates of immunizations and vaccinations, and any prescriptions or necessary medical documents
- Documents demonstrating your intent to leave the U.S. once you’ve completed your studies at BU
- Contact information for your student advisor in case you need to call. (Call 617-353-3565 for an advisor on call.)
Pass through Immigration at your US port of entry.
Once you arrive in the US, you’ll go through Immigration and speak with an officer. Be prepared to show your documents and answer questions about your program of study, your family ties, and your intent to return home. Verify that the US entry stamp in your passport is clear and shows your status (F-1 or J-1) and duration of that status (D/S). Read more about what to do when you arrive in the US.
Get to Boston University.
There are several options for getting from Logan International Airport to our Charles River Campus. Probably the easiest way is by taxi—you can get one from the marked queues at the airport and in 20 minutes, you’ll arrive at BU. If it’s after 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or a weekend, you should go to your residence. View other ways to get to campus.
Check in with the ISSO.
Once you’ve arrived, check in at BU’s International Students & Scholars Office to keep your SEVIS record updated and make sure everything is ready for beginning your program of study. The ISSO will also help you maintain your status, travel with your student visa, or renew any of your documents.