Applying for a Student Visa

The Office of International Services (ISSS) helps international students who are interested in pursuing a program of study at the University of Maryland, College Park, through the process of applying for either an F-1 or J-1 visa. Below are the definitions of these two visa types, and the procedure one must go through in order to study at the University Maryland as an international student on one of these visas.

What Exactly is a Visa?

A visa is a document that is placed into your passport and allows you to request permission from an Immigration officer at a port-of-entry (usually at an airport) to enter the United States. The visa itself does not guarantee admission into the U.S. all other documents must be in order as well. The procedure to enter the U.S. is covered in more detail further down this page.

F-1 (Student) Visa

The F-1 visa is the most often used visa by international students to study at an accredited U.S. college, university, or English language institute. Students on F-1 visas come to the United States for a full degree program.

J-1 (Exchange Visitor) Visa

The J-1 visa is used for educational and cultural exchange programs at the University of Maryland. Students on J-1 visa typically come to the United States to study for a shorter period of time - one to two semesters.

Visa Application Steps

  1. Admission to University of Maryland
  2. Receive I-20/DS-2019
    • F-1 students will receive an I-20
    • J-1 students will receive a DS-2019
  3. Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee (F-1 $200; J-1 $180)*
    • SEVIS Fee: http://www.fmjfee.com.
    • Keep receipt or print-out of payment for proof that you paid it for your visa interview.
      *You may have received an I-20 or DS-2019 from several schools, but you should only pay the SEVIS fee for and apply for your visa with the I-20/DS-2019 of the school you are planning to attend.
  4. Schedule a visa appointment/interview

Checklist for Visa Appointment

    • A completed visa application form (available at the Embassy's website)
    • Form I-20 or DS-2019
    • Proof that you paid the SEVIS fee & visa application fees
    • A passport valid for at least 6 months or more into the future
    • Financial support documentation (no older than 2 months)
    • Your admission letter from the University of Maryland (recommended, not required)
    • Proof of home country ties, including but not limited to: proof of property ownership, bank accounts, significant family in your home country, a job offer in your home country upon completion of your U.S. studies (you may or may not be asked about this, but it is always good to be prepared)
    • For dependents applying for an F-2/J-2 visa: You should also bring your marriage certificate.

Steps after Receiving the Visa

If all goes according to plan, you will receive an F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport. Congratulations! Some U.S. Embassies actually put your I-20/DS-2019 in a sealed envelope and staple it to your passport. It is recommended that you do not open this envelope. The Immigration officer at the U.S. port-of-entry will open it and check your documents when you arrive. Check your visa for errors before you leave the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

You may not enter the U.S. on your F-1 or J-1 visa more than 30 days prior to the report date on your I-20/DS-2019.

If you received a late visa appointment and will not be able to enter the U.S. by the report date on your I-20/DS-2019, please contact OIS as soon as you know this information so that we may defer this date on your I-20/DS-2019 so that you are not turned away at the port-of-entry into the U.S.

Arrival to the United States

Upon entry into the U.S., a CBP Officer will create an electronic I-94 record of the non-immigrant arrival. The CBP Officer will also provide an admission stamp directly in the passport which will be annotated with the date of admission, class of admission and admitted until date.

Upon entry into the U.S., ISSS recommends you review your electronic I-94 record at www.cbp.gov/i94 to ensure it is correct. We suggest you check your records each time you enter the U.S. to ensure you have been admitted in the correct immigration class. This will be especially important for those who hold multiple valid visas. 

For more information on the I-94 process you may use the ISSS website.