Applying for an F-1 or J-1 Visa

This page provides information 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.

Please note that application processes and instructions may vary between different Embassies, so it is always best to check the Embassy's website for all relevant details.

Should I apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa to study in the U.S.?

Please review our Comparing F-1 and J-1 webpage for more information about the differences between the F-1 visa and the J-1 visa to determine which visa category best fits your situation.

General steps to apply for a student visa

  1. Apply for your Form I-20 or DS-2019 from UMass Lowell
  2. Review your I-20/DS-2019 for accuracy
  3. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee
  4. Locate your nearest US Embassy - Review specific visa application instructions, document requirements, etc.
  5. Complete the DS-160: Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  6. Schedule your visa interview and pay the visa application fee
  7. Prepare for the visa interview

ApplyforI20Apply 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 from the International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO).

reviewI20Review your I-20/DS-2019 for accuracy

After receiving your Form I-20/DS-2019, you should review the information listed on the document 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

paySEVISfeePay the I-901 SEVIS fee

All prospective F-1 and J-1 students are required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee.

IMPORTANT: Please be sure to ONLY pay your I-901 SEVIS fee directly through the Department of Homeland Security's I-901 Fee Payment website. This is the only legitimate website through which to pay the SEVIS 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)*

*This information was emailed to you in the body of your visa document approval email from the ISSO.

Be sure to save the receipt/confirmation from paying the I-901 fee. You will 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:

locateembassyLocate your nearest U.S. Embassy

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.

completeds160Complete the DS-160: Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application

You must complete the DS-160: Online Nonimmigrant Visa ApplicationBEFORE you may schedule your visa interview with the Embassy.

scheduleinterviewSchedule your visa interview and pay the visa application fee

To schedule your visa interview and pay the visa application fee, please visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will be interviewed for country-specific instructions. Please be aware that visa interview wait times will vary across countries and Embassies.

prepareforinterviewPrepare for the visa interview

Have your documents in order: The U.S Embassy will ask to see the UMass Lowell acceptance letter and original financial documentation which you provided our office. The U.S Embassy will question you on ties to your home country. They will try to determine whether you intend to permanently immigrate to the U.S. Keep in mind that the F-1 and J-1 visas are non-immigrant visa categories. The U.S Embassy expects that you plan to return home after the completion of your studies. Please read the information below to help you prepare for a successful visa application process.

Additional Considerations

Security Clearance and Administrative Processing: Some students may be subjected to security clearance which will delay the visa application process by a few weeks or in some cases, months. Check the website of the U.S Embassy you plan to visit for more information.

Canadian citizens: Citizens of Canada do not require a visit to the U.S 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 I-901 SEVIS fee and 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.