Applying for an F-1 visa

All full-time nonimmigrant students are required to have a valid F-1 visa in their passports to be allowed entry into the United States. After obtaining an I-20 document, you will need to make an appointment for a visa interview at a United States consulate or embassy to get your visa. Visas cannot be obtained within the United States. For general information about getting an F-1 visa, see the Department of State website.

Canadian Citizens

Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a visa to enter the United States as an F-1, but must still pay the SEVIS Fee and present the Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) at the United States port of entry. However, if you have "Landed Immigrant" status in Canada, you must obtain a United States visa.

Steps to Obtain an F-1 Visa

Getting an F-1 visa involves four main steps:

  1. Obtaining your I-20 (F-1) from UC Davis Extension. The I-20 is the certificate of eligibility for the F-1 visa. It will be processed and mailed to you upon acceptance
  2. Paying the SEVIS fee. Click here for a tutorial. 
  3. Applying for the F-1 non-immigrant visa and scheduling an interview. To do so, go to the U.S. embassy or consulate website for your jurisdiction to pay the visa (MRV) fee and complete a DS-160 for you and each accompanying F-2 dependent. View a list of embassies.
  4. Attending the visa interview at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate, and wait for visa issuance. Refer to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will go for your interview for country-specific instructions.

Visa Wait Times

While the U.S. Consulate will not issue the F-1 visa sooner than 120 days before the start date on your I-20, you should apply as soon as possible. There may be long waiting periods for appointments, especially during May through August. However, consulates may give priority to F-1 student applicants if requested.

Learn more about current visa appointment processing times. 

Visa Interviews

When you go for your visa interview, in general you will need:

  • Passport (valid at least six months into the future)
  • Certificate of Eligibility I-20 (F-1)
  • Proof of acceptance by UC Davis (your enrollment or admissions letter)
  • Evidence of your financial support
  • SEVIS (I-901) fee receipt
  • Visa application forms and fees. Find the U.S. consulate/embassy at which you will apply here and carefully read its instructions for applying for the F-1 visa, including links to required forms

Some consulates may require additional documentation, so check the consulate website for visa application instructions. Visa application forms and fees can be also be found on the consulate website.

Frequently Asked Questions regarding your F-1 Visa 

Transferring to UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education from another school in the United States 

To transfer from another school, college or university to the UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education, F-1 students must be maintaining their F-1 status. After being accepted into one of our programs, transfer-in students will need to:

  1. Have the Designated School Official (DSO) at the school that the student was last authorized to attend fill out the UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education Transfer-in Form
  2. Bring or send the completed Transfer-in Form to the Immigration Services office at UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education
  3. Instruct the DSO at the student's last school to release the student's SEVIS record to UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education after confirming the student's good standing as an F-1 visa holder
  4. UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education Immigration Services will then access the student's SEVIS record and issue an I-20 to the student. Note: Please contact UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education Immigration Services if you will be departing and re-entering the United States prior to starting your program at UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education. If you will be departing the United States prior to the start of your program at our university, you should re-enter with a transfer-in I-20 issued by our university.

Maintaining Lawful Status

To maintain legal F-1 status while in the United States, students should be aware of their responsibilities in the following areas:

Maintain Required Documentation

F-1 students are required to have the following documents:

  • Valid I-20 (UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education students must have a UC Davis I-20 that has a future program end date or practical training end date)
  • Valid passport. It is each individual's responsibility to extend it through his/her consulate before it expires
  • Valid I-94

Duration of Status (D/S)

F-1 students are admitted to the United States for duration of status (D/S). Duration of status means:

  • The period during which you are pursuing a full-time course of study in an educational program prior to the completion date on the Form I-20
  • Plus any authorized period of practical training
  • Plus 60 days after completion of studies or practical training in which to apply for a change of status or transfer or to depart the United States

It is extremely important to comply with immigration regulations in order to maintain lawful status. Immigration law has instituted severe penalties for "overstays" and "unlawful presence" in the United States.

Orientation Attendance

Students participate in a mandatory immigration orientation at the beginning of the program.

Full Course of Study

F-1 students are required to register for and complete a full course of study each term except during a pre-authorized vacation. Under enrollment may be permitted due to medical reasons or legitimate academic reasons. If you plan to enroll less than full-time, you must obtain written approval from the Immigration Adviser before the beginning of the term.

Annual Vacation

F-1 students may take one term of vacation each year provided they have been enrolled full-time for one academic year and intend to register for the next term. Please email to determine if you qualify.

Extension of Stay

If you are unable to complete your studies before the program completion date on the I-20, you must apply for an extension at least 30 days prior to the expiration date of your I-20 and meet the following criteria:

  • Have continually maintained your status
  • Have compelling medical or academic reasons, other than probation or suspension, for the delay in completion

Contact Immigration Services at UC Davis Extension at least 30 days before your I-20 expires and provide documentation of financial support so that we can issue a new I-20 to you.


F-1 students may work on-campus part-time (no more than 20 hours per week) while school is in session and full-time during school vacations. Off-campus employment is not permitted during the first academic year in most cases. After the first year of study, restricted off-campus employment authorization may be requested. Students enrolled in an English language program are not eligible for off-campus employment. Off-campus work authorization will require USCIS permission. Working off-campus without specific written authorization is a serious violation of F-1 status.


Dependents (spouse and/or unmarried children under 21 years of age) who accompany F-1 students to the United States are admitted in F-2 status. F-2 dependents may not be employed in the United States, and they may enroll in less than a “full course of study.” F-2 children may engage in full-time study at the elementary or secondary school level only (K-12th grades).


Necessary documents for F-1 and F-2 travel outside the United States and for reentry to the United States include a valid passport, a valid F-1 or F-2 visa stamp, and an unexpired UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education I-20 with a recent travel signature from an Immigration Adviser (within the last six months). It may not be necessary to extend an expired visa when traveling to Canada or Mexico for fewer than 30 days.


Students must maintain a valid passport at all times. It is the student's responsibility to renew it before it expires.

Current Address

United States government regulations require that students notify UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education Immigration Services of any change of address within 10 days. This should be done through an email to

Failure to do so is considered a violation of immigration status. Therefore, it is very important to remember to report changes of address as soon as they occur.

Please note: Students who are not United States citizens or permanent residents of the United States must obtain an F-1 student visa in order to attend UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education. Non-United States citizens entering the country with a visitor visa (B-1/B-2) or under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are not permitted to engage in full-time study. Learn more.


If you have any questions please contact UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education Immigration Services Our Immigration Services staff will also provide you with additional information at the mandatory immigration orientation. Read more about studying in the United States.