University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

New Students


It is very important to enter the United States with the proper visa. You must next apply for an entry visa sticker, so you can enter the United States with student status. You must have a visa document AND entry visa sticker in your passport to enter the U.S. with student status. Please note:

  • Canadian citizens do not require an entry visa (more information below).
  • If you are currently in the United States in F-1 or J-1 visa status and plan to remain in that same visa status, see the Visa Transfers page for instructions on how to transfer your F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record to the University of Minnesota.

Apply for a Visa

1. Determine the type of entry visa you need

Most U of M students should apply for an F-1 student visa. For some students, the J-1 student visa is more appropriate. J-1 students are usually in formal exchange programs or receiving most or all of their funding from their home government, a U.S. government agency or, in some cases, the University.

If you received an I-20 document from the UMN, you will apply for an F-1 visa. If you received a DS-2019 document from the UMN or another U.S. agency, you will apply for a J-1 student visa. If you think you received the wrong type of visa document, please contact ISSS.

Caution: Do NOT enter the United States in visitor status (B1/B2 or Visa Waiver). Individuals with these immigration statuses are not eligible to register for an academic course of study. If you have questions about any other visa types, contact ISSS.

2. Pay the SEVIS fee

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

3. Locate the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country

Embassy and consulate information (including locations and document requirements) is available at

4. Schedule your visa interview

Your local embassy or consulate will have specific instructions for scheduling an appointment. Waiting times for an appointment can be lengthy (up to several weeks or longer), especially during the busy summer months. Schedule your appointment as soon as possible after receiving your visa documents.

5. Prepare documents for your visa appointment

All visa applicants must provide the following documents to the U.S. embassy or consulate at the time of their application:

  • Valid passport
  • I-20 or DS-2019 document
  • Admission letter (or print out of electronic admission notification)
  • Documented proof of financial support for, at least, one year (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

6. Practice for your visa interview

We recommend practicing your visa interview with a family member or friend!

When applying for your non-immigrant visa, the U.S. Consular Officer interviewing you will assume that you plan to immigrate permanently to the U.S unless you prove otherwise. During the interview you will need to prove that you will only study temporarily in the U.S. and will return home after your studies are complete. Answer all questions truthfully but only provided information related to the question asked. Be prepared to answer the following confidently and clearly in English:

  • Your area of study
  • Your reason for wanting to study in the U.S.
  • Proof of sufficient funds and how your funds are able to cover all of your expenses for a minimum of one year
  • Your good reasons for returning home after you complete your studies. You must be able to provide documentary evidence where possible of the strong ties you have to your country. It could include having all of your family in your country, having a job offer awaiting you when you return, or proof of property ownership. Other facts to emphasize are specific future educational, employment or career goals that will be carried out in your home country. Do not emphasize relatives who live or study in the U.S.

Additional Information

Importance of Name Consistency

To avoid problems or delays in obtaining your visa and entering the United States, ensure that the name printed on all of your immigration documents is written exactly as it is shown in your passport (specifically, the Machine Readable Zone on the bottom of the biographical page).

Always write your name clearly, and:

  • Do not use punctuation (such as hyphens, apostrophes, periods, or commas), numbers, or non-English letters or markings.
  • Do not use "nicknames" or shortened names.
  • Do not include prefixes or suffixes (such Dr, Mr, Ms, II, Jr, MD).
  • Spaces can be used between multiple names, and always use them consistently.
  • If you only have one name, write your name in the Surname/Primary Name field and leave the Given Name field blank.

Questions About Your Documents

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

I-20s are issued by the following:

  • Undergraduate Students:
  • Graduate School Students:
  • Professional Degree Students: Your college admissions office


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

Technology Alert List

T.A.L. was created by the U.S. government as a guideline for consular offices to use in reviewing visa applications. The purpose is to prevent the export of goods, technology, or sensitive information.  The list of T.A.L. specific fields is classified however a general overview of categories is available at the Department of State website.

Visa Denials

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

Administrative Processing and Security Clearance Checks

Some visa applicants will be subject to additional screening that will delay the issuance of the visa. This is NOT a denial. Most applicants who are subject to administrative processing or a security clearance check will receive a visa within one to two months (although, it can take longer).

You cannot prevent additional screening or security clearance, and ISSS or your department cannot intervene to speed up the process.

Canadian Citizens

Canadian citizens can enter the United States without having an entry visa in their passport. However, Canadian citizens must obtain an I-20 or DS-2019 and pay the SEVIS fee at before entering the United States. Upon entry, you must present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, admission letter, proof of financial support for at least one year, and receipt of SEVIS fee payment.

If you are a Canadian citizen who is currently in the United States in F-1 or J-1 visa status and plan to remain in that same visa status, you must transfer your F-1 or J-1 SEVIS record to the UMN.