Applying for an F-1 or J-1 Non-immigrant Visa
This page has information for best practices on applying for and obtaining an F-1 or J-1 student visa. Unless you are a Canadian citizen*, you will most likely need to secure an F-1 or J-1 student visa to study in the US.
After receiving your UMass Lowell Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 and paying your associated I-901 SEVIS fee, you should prepare to apply for a student visa. Application processes and instructions may differ from embassy to embassy, so it is always best to check the embassy's website for all relevant details.
General steps in applying for a student visa:
- Apply for your Form I-20 or DS-2019 from UMass Lowell
- Review your I-20/DS-2019 for accuracy
- Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee
- Locate your nearest US Embassy - Review specific visa application instructions, document requirements, etc.
- Complete the DS-160: Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Schedule your visa interview and pay the visa application fee
- Prepare for the interview!
Apply for your Form I-20 or DS-2019 from UMass Lowell
Follow the instructions on how to apply for your Form I-20 or DS-2019.
Review your I-20/DS-2019 for accuracy
After having received your Form I-20/DS-2019, you should review the information for accuracy. Be sure that your biographical data appears correctly, and your academic and financial information listed is accurate! If there are any discrepancies, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee
All prospective F and J students are required to pay the SEVIS fee.
SCAM ALERT: Please be sure to go directly to FMJfee.com to pay the appropriate fee.
In order to pay the SEVIS fee, you will need the following information:
- Name, address, date of birth and email address
- Country of birth and country of citizenship
- SEVIS Identification Number as listed on the Form I-20/DS-2019*
- F-1 students: School Code (begins with BOS)*
- J-1 students: J-1 Program Number (begins with P-1)*
*Indicates that this information was emailed to you in the body of your "Form I-20/DS-2019 Issued!" email
Be sure to save the receipt/confirmation from paying the I-901 fee. You may need to provide proof of payment at your visa interview and again at the port of entry to the US.
Additional I-901 SEVIS Fee Information:
- I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment Video
- I-901 SEVIS Fee Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Paying the I-901 SEVIS Fee - Study in the States
Locate your nearest U.S. Embassy - Review specific visa application instructions, document requirements
Application instructions, document requirements, and wait times may vary from embassy to embassy. We recommend locating the embassy you wish to have your visa interview at for embassy-specific instructions.
Complete the DS-160: Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
This is a web-based application form needed to schedule a visa interview at an embassy.
Schedule your visa interview and pay the visa application fee
Be aware that visa interview wait times will vary from country to country and even embassy to embassy.
Prepare for the interview
Have your documents in order! The US Embassy will ask to see the UMass Lowell acceptance letter and original financial documentation which you provided our office. The US Embassy will question you on ties to your home country. They will try to determine whether you intend to permanently immigrate to the US. Keep in mind that the F-1 and J-1 visas are non-immigrant visa categories. The US Embassy expects that you plan to return home after the completion of your studies. Please read the below information to help you prepare for a successful visa application process.
We highly recommend that you read through the Four Steps to Help You Apply for a Visa Guide and the Five Ways to Prepare for Your Visa Interview Guide.
You may also find the following resources to be helpful:
- List of U.S. Embassies and Consulates
- U.S. State Department Study & Exchange Website
- U.S. State Department Student Visa Information
Security Clearance and Administrative Processing: Many students will be subjected to security clearance which will delay the visa application process by a few weeks or in some cases, months. Check the "non-immigrant visa application" section of the website of the US Embassy you plan to visit for more information.
*Canadian citizens do not require a visit to the US Embassy. Your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 will be reviewed at the port of entry. F-1 or J-1 status will be stamped in your passport at that time. You are, however, still required to pay the previously-referenced SEVIS fee and are also still required to present proof of payment of the SEVIS fee at the port of entry. You will also need to have a valid passport, birth certificate, academic credentials, UMass Lowell acceptance letter (for students) or invitation letter or contract letter (for scholars), as well as financial documentation which you provided our office.
Please note: The I-901 SEVIS fee, DS-160 visa application fee, and cost of express mailing the visa document to you are your responsibility. These fees cannot be waived, nor covered by the University.