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 Certificate of Eligibility document, you will need to pay the I-901 (SEVIS) fee and 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 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 from UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education. The I-20 is the certificate of eligibility for the F-1 visa. It will be processed and mailed to you upon acceptance to the program.
  2. Paying the I-901 SEVIS fee. Click here for a tutorial. 
  3. Applying for the F-1 non-immigrant visa and schedule an interview. To do this, go to the website for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to pay the visa fee and complete a DS-160 for you and each accompanying F-2 dependent. The visa fee is an administrative fee to the embassy. It is separate from the I-901 SEVIS fee. 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. embassy or 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, embassies and 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
  • Proof of acceptance by UC Davis (your enrollment or admissions letter)
  • Evidence of your financial support
  • I-901 (SEVIS) 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 embassies or consulates may require additional documentation, so check their website for visa application instructions. Visa application forms and fees can be also be found on the embassy or consulate website.

Frequently Asked Questions regarding your F-1 Visa 

Transferring from another school in the United States 

F-1 students may apply for transfer between schools, colleges, and universities in the United States. The students must be in good standing regarding their visa in order to transfer schools. After being accepted into one of our programs, transfer-in students will need to:

  1. Provide the UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education Transfer-in Form to their Designated School Official (DSO) at their current school. The DSO is usually the international advisor.
  2. Bring or send the completed Transfer-in Form to the Immigration Services office at UC Davis Division of Continuing and Professional Education.
  3. After reviewing the Transfer-in Form, UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education will instruct the DSO at the student's current school to release the student's SEVIS immigration record.
  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. If you will be departing the United States prior to the start of your program, 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 their consulate before it expires.
  • Valid I-94

Duration of Status

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 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

There are specific guidelines regarding F-1 students and annual vacation. Please email immigration@ucde.ucdavis.edu 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.

Employment

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

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. They may enroll part-time in an academic program or take full-time recreational classes.F-2 children may engage in full-time study only at the elementary or secondary school level only (K-12th grades).

Travel

F-1 and F-2 visa holders will need the following documents for international travel and reentry to the United States:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 or F-2 visa stamp
  • 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.

Passport

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 immigration@ucde.ucdavis.edu.

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 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. Foreign 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.

Questions?

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