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Student and Exchange Visitor Visas

Student and Exchange Visitor Visas (F, J and M visas)

 The United States welcomes foreign citizens who come to the U.S. to study or participate in an exchange program. Before applying for a visa, all student and exchange visitor applicants are required to be accepted and approved for their program. When accepted, educational institutions and program sponsors will provide each applicant the necessary approval documentation, to be submitted when applying for a visa.

SEVIS record: Your school or program sponsor is responsible for entering your information for the I-20 or the DS-2019 form into SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). The consular officer will need to verify that you are presently in an initial or active status in the SEVIS system in order to process your visa application. 

SEVIS I-901 Fee: Unless otherwise exempt, all F-1, F-3, M-1, M-3, or J-1 principal applicants must pay a SEVIS I-901 fee to the Department of Homeland Security for each individual program. See the SEVP website for a fee list.  The SEVIS I-901 fee supports the SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) office and the automated system that keeps track of students and exchange visitors.  This program ensures they maintain the appropriate status while in the United States.  If a fee is required, submit the SEVIS fee receipt to the Consular Officer to confirm payment of the SEVIS fee.  The fee can be paid online

If you have paid the SEVIS fee but decide to study at a different school, you must request a fee transfer from the previous SEVIS ID number to the new one before applying for a visa. (For more information, click here.)

Dependent visa applicants do not have to pay the SEVIS fee.  J visa applicants participating in a program sponsored by the U.S. Federal Government whose program number begins with “G-1”, “G-2”, “G-3” or “G-7” are not required to pay the SEVIS fee, visa processing fee, and APC service fee.  To see if you need to pay the SEVIS fee and to learn more about the program, click here.  

If you have additional questions about the SEVIS I-901 fee, please contact the SEVIS I-901 Fee Customer Service Hotline at +1 (212) 620-3418, or by email at

120-day rule: Please note that an F or M visa can only be issued within 120 days prior to the designated start/report date indicated on the Form I-20.  This rule does not apply to J visa applicants.

30-day rule: All recipients of an F, M, or J student or exchange visitor visa should be aware that Department of Homeland Security regulations require all initial or beginning students/exchange visitors enter the US 30 days or less in advance of the program start/report date as shown on the Form I-20 (for F or M visas) or DS-2019 (for J visas).  Visa holders traveling to the US before this date may be denied entry at the port of entry.  Please consider this date carefully when making your travel plans to the United States.  If your program start date specified on the I-20 or DS-2019 is already past or you will be unable to meet that date, please request your school or sponsor to change the program start date in the SEVIS system. 

Please note that the 120-day and 30-day rules do not apply to continuing students/exchange visitors.  Continuing students/exchange visitors may apply for a new visa at any time, as long as they have been maintaining status in the United States and their SEVIS records are current.  Continuing students/exchange visitors may also enter the U.S. at any time before their classes/programs start.

Click on the following for more information.