Get a New Visa

There are two main categories of visas given to international students: F-1 and J-1. Most international students in the U.S. hold an F-1 visa.

You can know your visa type by determining whether you received an I-20 or DS-2019.

  • If you received an I-20 document from the UMN, you will apply for an F-1 visa.
  • If you received a DS-2019, you will apply for a J-1 visa.

Follow the steps below to apply for your visa.

Note for Canadian citizens: You do not need to obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa, but there is other information you need to know.

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1. Review and sign your I-20/DS-2019

sample I-20
Sample I-20

Review the spelling and order of your name on the I-20/DS-2019 and confirm that it exactly matches how your legal name is written at the bottom of the identity page in your passport (the page that has your picture).

It is essential that your information is printed identically on all of your immigration documents (I-20/DS-2019, passport, and visa), and you should always write it the same way when completing your visa application and any other forms.

If there is a mistake, or the name on your I-20/DS-2019 does not match your name in your passport, contact the office or agency that issued your document (contacts are listed below).

Sample DS-2019
Sample DS-2019

If all of the information is correct, sign and date your name on the bottom of your I-20/DS-2019. Additionally, if you have an I-20 and are younger than 18 years old, your parents/guardians must also sign your document.

2. Pay the SEVIS fee

New students must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before applying for an entry visa or entering the U.S. This fee is charged by the Department of Homeland Security, and it is not administered by UMN. You cannot pay the fee until you have your I-20 or DS-2019 document in your possession.

3. Complete the visa application form (DS-160) and schedule your visa interview appointment

You should plan to apply for a visa at the U.S. embassy/consulate that is closest to where you live. This website also includes specific instructions for scheduling an appointment.

We recommend scheduling your appointment as soon as possible after you receive your I-20/DS-2019. You will need to determine the estimated wait time for obtaining a visa at your local embassy or consulate.

When completing the visa application, write your legal name exactly as it is printed in your passport and provide complete and truthful information throughout the application. If you do not have housing reserved in the U.S. but you are asked to provide an address in the U.S. where you will stay, you can use ISSS’s address (301 19th Ave South, Suite 190, Humphrey School, Minneapolis, MN 55455).

4. Prepare your documents for your visa interview

Follow the instructions from the embassy regarding what to take to the appointment. Typically, you will be asked to provide the following documents:

  • Valid passport
  • I-20 or DS-2019 document
  • Admission letter (or print out of electronic admission notification)
  • Documented proof of financial support for one year or more (scholarship or assistantship letter, bank statement, etc.)
  • Receipt of SEVIS fee payment
  • Visa application forms (available from the U.S. embassy/consulate)
  • Any documents requested by embassy/consulate

5. Prepare for your visa interview

The visa interview will be a very brief meeting with a consular officer. Be prepared to explain why you want to study at UMN, how you are planning to pay for your stay, and what your plans might be after you graduate. Always answer truthfully! If you have questions or concerns before the visa interview, we recommend that you contact the EducationUSA office closest to you.

Once you receive your visa, check the accuracy of the information on it. Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate if you find a mistake.


If your visa is denied, ask the consular official to provide a written explanation of the denial, and then contact ISSS for assistance. Email [email protected] and write “Visa Denial” in the subject line.

If you have any questions about your DS-2019 or I-20 or you need to change any information printed on your documents, contact the office or agency that issued it.



  • Issued by the University of Minnesota: [email protected]
  • Issued by a different J-1 program (for example, Fulbright): Your placement office

Security Clearance Checks

Some visa applicants are subject to additional screening that will delay the issuance of the visa. This is NOT always a final denial. Most applicants who are subject to administrative processing or a security clearance check will receive a visa within one to two months. It can sometimes take longer.

You cannot prevent additional screening or security clearance, and neither ISSS or your department can intervene to speed up the process.

Last updated: April 1, 2024