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CIIS assists students with the application for F-1 student visas only. Students in online programs are not eligible to apply for a student visa.

Visa Application Overview

In January 2003, the U.S. government initiated the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is an online database created by the U.S. government to permit immigration officials to access current information recorded by U.S. colleges and universities on nonimmigrant students holding F, M, and J visas.

The purpose of the system is to provide the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with information regarding international students' local and permanent addresses, authorized employment activities, and current registration status. It also permits colleges and universities to create and update student I-20s.

To apply for an F-1 student visa, you will need a SEVIS Form I-20 from CIIS: the "Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant, F-1 Student Status."

Citizens of Canada may obtain their F-1 visas at the port of entry. Canadian students may present their Form I-20, passport, and additional supporting financial documents to the U.S. Immigration Inspector at the U.S. Port of Entry. Landed immigrants in Canada must apply for a visa before entering the U.S.

The expiration date on your visa is the last day you may enter the United States from abroad. You need a valid visa every time you enter the country.

SEVIS I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Student Status

CIIS will issue a SEVIS I-20 for your visa application when these conditions are met:

  1. You have been fully admitted into a program of study at the CIIS.
  2. You have shown proof of financial support for the first year of study. In order to provide proof of financial support you will need to complete and submit the CIIS Certificate of Funding Form and official support documents.

The CIIS Certificate of Funding Form is used to show proof of support for your first year of study only, as required by the U.S. government. You must demonstrate sufficient funding to cover all study expenses including tuition, fees, books, travel, and other living expenses. Funding may come from your own personal account, a private sponsor's account, and/or scholarships/loans that have been approved. In addition to filling out the form, you will need to provide adequate verification of the funds.

The estimated totals for tuition and living expenses for a year in the U.S. at CIIS for the 2018-2019 academic year are listed in the International Student Addendum.

Verification Documents

Proof of finances for the minimum one year tuition and living expenses must be shown in liquid assets. Liquid assets include money in a banking account, stocks or bonds with cash value. It must be stated clearly in the bank letter.

Retirement accounts cannot be used as a source of financial support unless the sponsor can provide evidence that he/she is, in fact, retired and able to access those funds without penalty for early withdrawal. Real estate or other non-liquid asset such as automobiles, jewelry, or other personal property cannot be used as a source of financial support under any circumstances.

Verification documents include:

  1. Original letters from your bank or your sponsor's bank stating the available account balance. The letter must be on official letterhead, dated within six months of your program start date and include the bank's seal/official signature.
  2. Official award letter stating the amount and duration of the scholarship awarded.
  3. Loan approval letter from the granting institution, stating the loan amount.

Please obtain two original copies of the financial verification documents. One set of originals should be sent to CIIS. The other set of originals should be retained by you so that you may have them available when applying for a visa and for use at the port of entry.

Getting and Maintaining Your Visa

Being a student with F-1 status, you are responsible for learning, understanding, and complying with the U.S. laws and regulations that apply to you.

  • Once you have obtained an I-20 from CIIS, you will pay the SEVIS fee and make your appointment at the U.S. Embassy. Required documents can vary, so please check the embassy website for full details. You will need the following:

    1. SEVIS form I-20: Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status
    2. Passport: The passport must be valid for travel to the United States and be valid for at least six months beyond your entry to the U.S.
    3. Financial verification documents
    4. SEVIS Fee payment receipt
    5. Other required documents: varies by country
    6. Application Fee: varies by country

    The visa application process may differ depending upon the specific consular office in your home country. For further details, please locate your U.S. Embassy.

    You must also present the first three documents to an immigration inspector at the U.S. Port of Entry. The immigration inspector decides whether or not to admit you into the U.S. with an F-1 nonimmigrant status.

  • Being a student with F-1 status, you are responsible for learning, understanding, and complying with the U.S. laws and regulations that apply to you.

    All members of the CIIS academic community are bound to uphold the highest standards of scholarship. As an international student, you have an additional obligation to comply with the immigration laws and regulations of the United States. It is illegal to violate U.S. federal immigration laws and regulations for any reason whatsoever.

    CIIS wants you to be able to successfully complete your studies at the Institute. Your failure to be aware of and comply with these requirements could jeopardize your academic plans. It is extremely important that you read and fully understand this information. All incoming students will be required to attend a New International Student Orientation where the details of maintaining your student visa status will be discussed in detail.

    Please refer to the U.S. Department of State website for information on the F-1 student visa.

  • The following is a brief list of the regulatory requirements to maintaining a student visa. Some exceptions apply and will be discussed upon your arrival to the United States. Details of student visa rights and regulations are discussed at the required New International Student Orientation each August and January.

    • Report to the Institute within 30 days of the start of the date listed on your I-20 form. At CIIS, this means attending the Summer Bridge program and the New International Student Orientation.
    • For the first entry for initial school attendance, the school listed on the visa and on the I-20 must be the same, and that is the school the student must intend to attend. This does not apply to students who transfer from another SEVIS-approved school inside the U.S.
    • Pursue a "full course of study" during fall and spring semesters except during official school breaks, or unless approved under a specific exception, in advance, by the International Student Advisor.
    • Keep Form I-20 valid by following proper procedures for extension of stay (if necessary).
    • Keep Form I-20 valid by following proper procedures for change in educational levels or programs of study.
    • Report a change of name or address within 10 days to the International Student Advisor.
    • Do not work on or off-campus without prior authorization
    • Follow regulations of post-completion Optional Practical Training requirements

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