In order to enter the U.S., you must obtain the appropriate entry visa from a U.S. Embassy/Consulate. A U.S. visa gives you permission to apply for admission to the United States in a particular status. DO NOT use a tourist visa or the visa waiver program to enter the U.S. if you are not coming here to be a tourist. Obtain a visa for the correct status.


Applying for a Visa

To apply for an F-1 visa from a U.S. Embassy/Consulate you will need to submit the following documents to the consular officer at the interview:

  • PCC I-20
  • PCC acceptance letter
  • Visa Application (Form DS-160) and visa fee receipt (available on U.S. Embassy/Consulate website)
  • A passport that is valid for at least 6 months after your proposed date of entry into the United States
  • One (1) 2"x2" photograph
  • SEVIS I-901 fee
  • Evidence of financial support from sponsor indicated on I-20
  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions (optional)

Visa Information and Regulations

Fees and duration

For information on the cost and duration of visas, consult the Visa Reciprocity Tables

Must attend school indicated on visa

If you are coming to the U.S. for the first time to study, you must use a visa that indicates the school you will be attending. That means that if you obtained an F-1 visa with another school's I-20 but you have decided to attend Pasadena City College, you must go back to the Embassy/Consulate and have the notation on your visa changed to indicate the Pasadena City College. (Current students who have attended another school in the U.S. prior to coming to PCC may use the original visa if it is still valid.)

Processing time

All visa applications require a face-to-face interview with a US consular officer. The visa application process can take up to 6-8 weeks, so plan accordingly. The earliest that an F-1 visa can be granted is 120 days before the reporting date listed on your I-20 Form. You may apply for an F-1 visa earlier than 120 days before the start date to allow for visa processing and security clearance delays, however, the consulate cannot actually issue the visa until 120 days before the program start date.

Appointments are required for all non-immigrant visa applicants. Visit http://www.usembassy.gov to locate the embassy or consulate near you. Visit http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html for visa appointments and wait times. For additional information you may wish to visit the new website by the Department of Homeland Security - http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov.


Meeting with Consular Officer

Applying for an F-1 student visa can be complicated and frustrating. There is no guarantee that the visa officer at the U.S. Embassy or the Consulate will issue you a visa. You will need to convince the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that you are a serious student who will study full time and earn good grades. You must also show sufficient financial support and demonstrate evidence that you will return to your home country after you have completed your studies. Here are some tips for a successful interview:

  • The Consular officer will speak to you in English.
  • When answering questions, be concise and to the point. You must make a good impression in a very short period of time.
  • To help make a good impression, dress well. You should approach this interview as if it was an official job interview.
  • Speak for yourself; do not rely on another person to speak for you.
  • The Consular officer will also look at your financial ability to afford your stay in the U.S. and your intention to return to your home country at the conclusion of your activity in the U.S.

What to do if Your Application is Denied

Most students obtain U.S. visas easily, but unfortunately, some students have been denied visas. If you are denied, make sure the consular officer gives you information in writing as to the reason for the denial. Then, please contact the International Student Center as soon as possible.

Before scheduling your visa interview, you may wish to review these points:

  • Ties to your home country
    Under U.S. law, all applicants for non-immigrant visas, such as F-1 visas, are viewed as "intending immigrants" until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. Thus, you should be able to demonstrate that you have significant ties to return to your home country rather than to remain in the U.S. A "tie" to your home country may be your place of residence, job prospects, family, investments, bank account, etc.
  • Know the academic program that you have been accepted to
    We recommend that you review our website for curriculum information on your program of study. You should be able to explain how completing a degree in the U.S. relates to your future professional career plans.

**PLEASE NOTE Canadian citizens are not required to obtain a visa stamp; however, they must show proof of financial support in addition to their visa document(s) at the port of entry upon arrival to the U.S. Visit http://canada.usembassy.gov/visas/visas/student-and-exchange-visas.html for more information.


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