Applying for a Visa

After you review and sign your Form I-20, follow these instructions to apply for your F-1 student visa: 

File SEVIS Form I-901 and pay the fee

  • All students must pay this fee before applying for a visa and before arriving in the U.S. Pay the fee here. Be sure to print your confirmation after paying.

Make your visa appointment

  • Apply early! You may apply for a student visa up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date.
  • Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest you to make an appointment. Find your consulate here.
  • Follow the instructions on the embassy or consulate website for the forms and fees you need to submit before making your appointment. Each country may have different requirements, but in general, all applicants for an F-1 visa must submit the following:
    • Visa application Form DS-160
    • Visa application fee
    • Form I-20
    • Confirmation of payment for SEVIS I-901 fee
    • Proof of financial ability to pay for the first year/term of study

Prepare for your visa interview

There are two things you should do to increase your chances of getting a visa:

  1. Have all the required documentation
  2. Be prepared

At your interview, the consular officer must be satisfied of 3 things: 

  1. That you are a bona fide student. Be prepared to discuss the reasons you chose Bennington College, your major, and your career plans. Bring school transcripts, TOEFL scores (if you have them) and anything else that demonstrates your academic commitment.
  2. That you have the necessary financial support for your studies. Provide solid evidence of your finances—either your personal funds or your sponsor’s.
  3. That you have strong economic, family, and social ties to your home country. Bring evidence of your family’s economic position, property you may own or will inherit, and your own economic potential when you come home with a U.S. education. Talk about close family members that live in your country, community or school activities that you have been involved in, and leadership, sports, and other roles that distinguish you as a person who wants to come home and contribute your part. 

Visa Approval: If your visa is approved, be sure to check it before you leave the embassy or consulate to make sure that your name and biographical information is correct, and that it is the correct visa type (F-1).

Visa Denial: If your application is refused, the consular officer is required to give you an explanation in writing. You may apply a second time, but if you reapply, make sure to prepare much more carefully. The officer will want to see fresh evidence sufficient to overcome the reasons for the first denial. For more information about visa denials, visit here

Arriving at the United States Port of Entry

  • Plan your arrival. You may not arrive in the U.S. more than 30 days before the program start date on your SEVIS I-20 Form.
  • Hand carry your admission documents. Do not pack these items in your suitcase. Remember, to pass security screening at the airport, you must show your:
    • Valid passport
    • Valid Form I-20 
    • SEVIS I-901 confirmation of payment
    • Evidence of financial support
    • Transcripts/grades, if you are a continuing student

Helpful U.S. Visa, Immigration, and Travel Links