Student and Graduate Publishing

Study USA - What to Know Before You Go

Thursday, 22 May 2014 10:59

U.S. schools offer quality educational programs and infinite ways for international students to apply what they’ve learned in real world settings. This, coupled with vast cultural opportunities available in the United States, makes studying in the states a life-changing experience for students from around the globe.

Interested in Studying in the United States?
If you are interested in studying in the United States, research the school or program that is best for you. Only schools certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) are authorized to accept international students. Not sure if a school is certified? Visit the school search page on

If you are already in the United States on a valid non-immigrant visa for a purpose other than attending school and are interested in studying in the United States, you will have to change your status.

re Accepted
Once you receive acceptance to a SEVP-certified school, your designated school official (DSO) will give you a document called a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Status.” This document is a paper record of your information. Every SEVP-certified school has at least one DSO assigned to work with international students. Your DSO will enter this information into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, commonly known as SEVIS, a database that houses information on all international students and exchange visitors while they are in the United States.

Each school that accepts you will mail you a Form I-20. You only need to complete the Form I-20 for the school you choose to enroll. Check your Form I-20 against your passport information to make sure your name and date of birth are listed and spelled correctly.  If you notice a mistake, contact the school official who sent you the Form I-20 and ask the DSO to correct it.

901 Fee
Before you can study in the United States, you must select a school and pay your SEVIS I-901 fee. This must be done before the U.S. Department of State will issue you a visa.

A prospective international student with a country of citizenship or country of birth of Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria or Gambia must pay by money order, Western Union Quick Pay or certified check drawn from a U.S. bank. All other prospective F or M students also have the option to make a credit card payment on

If a third party pays your I-901 SEVIS fee on your behalf, you will need to provide them with the coupon number to make the Western Union payment. You can also access the PDF version of the Form I-901 at Print and mail your paper Form I-901 with your check or money order, according to the instructions on the form. An I-901 tutorial is available on the Study in the States website.

Make sure to get a receipt for this transaction. In order to get your student visa, you must present proof of your I-901 SEVIS fee payment at your visa interview. The printed confirmation will serve as proof of payment for the I-901 fee.

Get Your Student Visa
After you’re accepted to an SEVP-certified school and receive a receipt for payment of the I-901 fee, you can apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

After you receive your visa, check to see that you received the right type of visa and that your name and date of birth are correct and match the information on your passport.

Travel to the United States
Before you travel to the United States, familiarize yourself with the different kinds of documents you might need like your passport, visa and Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status.” It is always a good idea to carry your original documents with you at all times. Do not put them in your checked baggage.

It is also a good idea to make at least two sets of copies of these documents – one copy to leave with your family before you depart and one copy to give to your school officials once you arrive in the United States.

Arrival in the United States
The Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record” is a critical record. It shows that you have been legally admitted to the United States, the class of admission and the authorized period of stay. If you arrive by a land port of entry, you will receive a paper Form I-94. If you arrive at a port of entry by air or sea, an automated Form I-94 record will automatically be generated for you by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. CBP will provide you with an admission stamp on your passport that is annotated with date of admission, class of admission and admitted-until date. The electronic arrival/departure record can be obtained at

If the CBP officer at the port of entry cannot verify your information, or if you do not have all of the required documentation, a CBP officer may direct you to an interview area known as secondary inspection.

You have 30 days to enter the country before your official program start date, which is recorded in SEVIS. You must report to your school by the program start date listed on the Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status” you received. This is one of the rules you agree to when you received your student or exchange visitor status. If you do not follow this rule, you are not maintaining your status.

It is best to contact your school immediately after entering the country so that there is no question of your arrival.

If you cannot enter the United States for the term listed on your Form I-20, or if you will be late by a few days, contact your DSO so they can accurately enter this information in your SEVIS record.
Ensuring you follow proper procedures and have the necessary documents makes for a seamless transition to studying in the United States. For more information about studying in the states, visit For more information about the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, visit


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