F-1 visa processing at a U.S. consular office
You must obtain an F-1 visa in order to seek admission to the U.S. for full-time studies, unless you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda. Citizens of Canada or Bermuda do not require F-1 visas but must present appropriate means of documentation at the U.S. port-of-entry to seek admission for full-time studies.

To apply for an F-1 visa, you must provide the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with Form I-20, passport, statement of funds, and other documents as required by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In the case of Canadian and Bermudan citizens, you must use your Form I-20 to seek admission to the U.S. in F-1 status at a U.S. port-of-entry without an F-1. Read page 2 of your Form I-20 for accuracy and sign the student certification block on the bottom of page 1 prior to presentation to a U.S. consular official or immigration official.

The U.S. visa tells you until what date you may enter the United States. The expiration date of the visa has nothing to do with how long you may remain in the United States. That is determined by your I-20 and I-94. You need to renew the visa only if you are traveling abroad after the visa expiration date, so that you may again enter the U.S.

Specific information on F-1 application at U.S. Embassies and Consulates is available at the following address: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html.

The websites of U.S. embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions is available at the following address: http://www.usembassy.gov

You cannot enter the U.S. on a B-2 (tourist) visa and expect to change to F-1 status after you arrive. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will likely deny this request, and you will have to leave the U.S. to obtain a proper visa. Also, you cannot enter the U.S. on a visa waiver and change F-1 status after your arrival. Persons who enter the U.S. on a visa waiver are not eligible for change of status in the U.S.

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Admission to the United States in F-1 Status
This section will provide you with information regarding reentering the U.S. after a temporary absence. If you plan to leave the U.S. and return to the University of Miami, you must have the necessary documents to permit entry to another country and reentry to the U.S.

Entry to another country
If you wish to temporarily visit your country of citizenship or permanent residency, you will be allowed to enter that country if you hold a valid passport. Before temporarily visiting a country other than your country of citizenship or permanent residency, you must check on entry visa requirements for said country. The addresses and phone numbers of all foreign embassies located in Washington D.C. are listed on the following website: http://www.embassy.org

Reentry to the U.S.
To reenter the U.S. after a temporary absence (i.e., an absence of five months or less), you must have a valid passport, valid F-1 visa, and a properly endorsed Form I-20. If you have applied for post-completion Optional Practical Training and have completed your program of study but have not yet received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), you must also present the Form I-797 receipt notice for the pending EAD application to reenter the U.S.  If you completed your program of study and have been issued an EAD for post-completion Optional Practical Training, you must also present the EAD and a letter from your current or prospective employer to reenter the U.S.

Properly endorsed Form I-20: If you have already used your Form I-20 to enter the U.S. once, then you must have page 3 of your Form I-20 endorsed by your International Student and Scholar, ISSS, Advisor. Complete the Student Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 Travel Application, available at ISSS and on the ISSS website, and submit to ISSS along with your original Form I-20. This page, when properly endorsed, may be used for reentry to attend the same school after a temporary absence from the U.S. Each certification signature is valid for only one year from date of signature, or until the Form I-20 expiration date, whichever comes first.

Valid Passport:  You must have a passport that is kept valid at all times while you are in the U.S.  If your passport will expire within six months, contact your embassy in the U.S. (http://www.embassy.org) and make arrangements to renew as soon as possible.

Valid F-1 visa:  You must have a valid F-1 visa in your passport. If your visa has expired, you will need to make arrangements to renew your visa at the American Consulate/Embassy overseas.

Documents you will need for visa issuance:  You will need a valid passport, a current photograph, a properly endorsed Form I-20, proof of financial capability for continuing studies, and continued nonimmigrant intent.  Please check the Department of State website to inquire what other documents you may need.

Where to apply:  Although you may be able to secure an original or renewal of an F-1 visa in a foreign country other than your own, your chances of being issued an F-1 visa are greatest when you apply at a U.S. consular office in your country of citizenship or permanent residency. You may face more stringent requirements in a third country and should allow more time in case of delays. It is not possible to obtain an F-1 visa in the U.S.

When to apply:  You usually cannot apply for a new visa until 90 days before the expiration of the old one.

Visa voidance: If you have overstayed or been unlawfully present during your studies immediately prior to leaving the U.S., you might be subject to visa voidance.  Such overstayed students would be subject to payment of the $200 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee and would need to obtain a new F-1 visa stamp in the home country in order to reenter the U.S.  The SEVIS fee must be paid online through use of a credit card, locally using the Western Union Quick Pay service, or by mail through use of a check or money order at least three days prior to the date SEVIS fee payment verification is required by the U.S. Consular Office.  ISSS highly recommends that you file and pay the required SEVIS fee online with a credit card or in person through the Western Union Quick Pay service instead of by mail with a check or money order since the online option and the Western Union Quick Pay option result in speedier processing of your required fee payment. Please ask your ISSS Advisor for detailed information on options for payment of the SEVIS fee.

"Automatic revalidation of visa" benefit: Under certain circumstances, you may reenter the U.S. with an expired visa as though the visa were still valid. An expired F-1 visa may be considered to be automatically extended to the date of application for readmission to the U.S. (and therefore the visa in the passport need not have an expiration date that is in the future), provided you do the following:
  1. Apply for readmission to U.S. after an absence not exceeding 30 days in contiguous territory (Canada or Mexico) or adjacent islands (Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea other than Cuba);
  2. Maintain lawful F-1 status and intend to continue doing so;
  3. Present a valid passport containing Form I-94 which authorizes a stay beyond the date of entry (e.g., D/S);
  4. Present a properly endorsed Form I-20.
Under these circumstances, you may be saved the necessity of applying for a new F-1 visa even if your visa has expired. A student whose visa has been canceled or voided is not eligible for automatic revalidation of visa benefit. Citizens of "state sponsors of terrorism" cannot take advantage of the automatic revalidation benefit. Any non-immigrant who chooses to apply for a new visa while in contiguous territory is not eligible for the automatic revalidation benefit during the course of that trip, but has to wait until the visa is granted in order to enter the U.S.
Transfers: If you have lawfully transferred schools while in the U.S., the visa will specify the school for which it was initially issued. In this instance you may reenter with an unexpired F-1 visa and Form I-20 from the new school without having the new school's name endorsed on the visa.

Status Violation and Travel: If you have violated your F-1 immigration status prior to traveling abroad and wish to seek reentry to the U.S. with a new Form I-20 to resume your F-1 status, you must pay the $200 SEVIS fee prior to being able to seek reentry to the U.S. with proper documentation (see section regarding payment of SEVIS fee).

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Documents Needed for Your ISSS File
You are required by law to provide International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) with copies of the following documents (yours as well as documents of any dependents in F-2 status, if applicable) for your file:
  • Passport
  • Form I-94
  • Form I-20
  • F-1 visa
You must bring these documents to ISSS no later than one week after the start of classes. Failure to comply by that date will result in a "STOP” being placed on your registration and records. The effect of a “STOP” is that you will be unable to register for the following semester, request transcripts, or obtain your diploma if you are graduating.
You must provide ISSS with any updates to the information contained in the documents listed above throughout your academic career. You are also required to update ISSS with information pertaining to your enrollment status, degree program and length of studies, expected date of graduation, termination date and reason (transfer, dismissal, withdrawal), and other information such as financial status necessary for document issuance. Also, be certain that the Office of the Registrar, 121 Whitten University Center, has a correct listing of your local address in Student Records or you will fail to receive important information from the University of Miami. You can update your address information through the CaneLink system.

ISSS is located at 5600 Merrick Drive, Building 21-F, and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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Change to F-1 status in the United States
In order to change status to F-1, you will either have to exit the U.S. and reenter the U.S. in F-1,
OR you will need to file for a change of status in the U.S.

For either procedure, you will first need to:
  1. Obtain a Form I-20 from the Office of International Admission.
  2. Pay the SEVIS fee. The SEVIS fee must be paid online through use of a credit card, locally using the Western Union Quick Pay service, or by mail through use of a check or money order.  ISSS highly recommends that you file and pay the required SEVIS fee online with a credit card or in person through the Western Union Quick Pay service instead of by mail with a check or money order since the online option as well as the Western Union Quick Pay service option result in speedier processing of your required fee payment.

    Online payment option: To pay the SEVIS fee online and obtain the required receipt for payment, you must (1) complete and submit the Form I-901 online at www.fmjfee.com with the required Visa, MasterCard or American Express information for payment of the $200.00 SEVIS fee (please make sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your Form I-20); and (2) print a copy of the online payment receipt for your records and for submission of your application for an F-1 or change of status to F-1.

    Western Union Quick Pay Option: To pay the SEVIS fee through Western Union Quick Pay and obtain the required receipt for payment, you must (1) print out and bring a copy of the instructions for SEVIS Form I-901 fee payment by Western Union Quick Pay along with a copy of the sample form, Form I-20 and the $200.00 SEVIS fee, to a local participating Western Union Agent location (instructions and sample form can be found online: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm; the nearest Western Union Agent location can be found online: http://www.payment-solutions.com/agent.asp); (2) request and complete the Blue Form at the Western Union Agent location according to the instructions provided on the SEVIS website (http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/wu_instr.htm); (3) submit the Blue Form and $200.00 SEVIS fee to the Western Union Agent who will transmit the payment and information on your behalf; and (4) obtain the properly completed Western Union receipt for your records and for submission of your application for an F-1 visa or change of status to F-1.

    Mail payment option: To pay the SEVIS fee by mail and to obtain the required receipt for payment, you must (1) download and print Form I-901, available at www.fmjfee.com; (2) complete Form I-901 (please make sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your Form I-20); (3) prepare a check or money order in the amount of $200.00, payable to the “Department of Homeland Security;” (4) mail the completed Form I-901 and payment to I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee, P.O. Box 970020, St. Louis, MO 63197-0020, or, for expedited delivery of your payment, mail the completed Form I-901 and payment to I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee, 1005 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63101, United States, Phone number: 1-314-418-8833 (U.S. country code: 011); and (5) wait for Form I-797 receipt notice for your records and for submission of your application for an F-1 visa or change of status to F-1.

    Please note that payment coupons are generated only when you complete your Form I-901 online and choose to pay by check or money order, in which case you should print and mail the coupon with your payment.  You will not need to fill in a paper Form I-901 as well.  When your payment is received at the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), the coupon will be used to match your payment to the information you entered.

    Whether you pay online with a credit card, in person through the Western Union Quick Pay service, or by mail through of check or money order, please note that the website dedicated to the I-901 fee (www.fmjfee.com) allows you to verify online that your SEVIS I-901 fee payment has been received and when the official receipt for the payment was issued.

    For detailed and helpful information on the SEVIS fee, required Form I-901 information, payment options, processing times and other related issues, please read the information provided through the SEVP website: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/faq.htm.

Option 1: Change of Status to F-1 by Travel
You may acquire F-1 status by leaving the United States before commencing your academic program, obtaining an F-1 student visa, and reentering the United States in F-1 status.
  1. Apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. ISSS recommends applying for the visa in your country of citizenship or permanent residence.
  2. Enter the U.S. in F-1 status by presenting your Form I-20, passport, F-1 visa, and SEVIS fee receipt to the immigration inspector at the U.S. port-of-entry. You will receive a Form I-94, which has to be stamped F-1/DS.
Option 2: Change of Status to F-1 while in the United States
In order to apply for a change to F-1 status in the U.S., you must complete and submit the following documents to ISSS, and ISSS will forward them to the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Lockbox.
  1. Letter addressed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requesting the change of status, and explaining why the change is needed.
  2. Form I-539 (Also available from ISSS).
  3. Form G-1145: (Also available from ISSS). Applicants filing a Form I-539 at a USCIS Lockbox facility may elect to receive an e-mail and/or text message notifying them that their application has been accepted.
  4. Money order for $290.00 made payable to the “Department of Homeland Security”.
  5. Original Form I-20, signed and dated in item #11.
  6. Receipt for payment of $200.00 SEVIS fee.
  7. Copy of current registration, if available.
  8. Photocopy of your passport and passports of any dependents (include photo page, biographical page, expiration date page, entry visa page, and page bearing stamp of last entry to the U.S.).
  9. Photocopy of your Form I-94 and copies of Forms I-94 of any dependents (front and back).
  10. Photocopy of financial support documents for yourself and any dependents.
  11. If applicable, additional documents for:
    Change from a Dependent (i.e., F-2) Status to F-1 Status:
    • Copies of your spouse’s (i.e., F-1 status) Form I-20, school transcript, proof of enrollment, passport photo page, biographical page, expiration date page, entry visa page, and page bearing stamp of last entry to the U.S., and Form I-94 (front and back).
    If you are an F-2 dependent, you cannot begin a full course of study or be employed in the U.S. until you receive notification from USCIS that your status has been changed to F-1. This process can take several months.
    Change from H-1 or H-4:
    • Copies of all previously issued Forms I-797 showing H status.
    • For H-1: Evidence that you have maintained valid H status, i.e., a letter from the H-1 employer confirming current employment, and two or three of the most recent pay stubs.
    • For H-4: Copies of spouse's or parent's H-1 immigration documents, i.e, passport photo page, biographical page, expiration date page, entry visa page, and page bearing stamp of last entry to the U.S., Form I-94 (front and back), Forms I-797, and two or three of the most recent pay stubs.
    It is permissible to begin study while the change of status application is pending, as long as you maintain your H-1 or H-4 status or as long as you commence your program of study no later than 30 days after your H-1B or H-4 status is terminated and while your change of status to F-1or J-1 is pending. Once the change of status to F-1 or J-1 student is effective, you must cease work for the H-1 employer.
PLEASE NOTE:

Change from B-2 Status to F-1 Status
If you request a change from B-2 (tourist) status to F-1, be aware that this change is normally denied, unless the B-2 visa bears the notation “prospective student.” If your request is denied, you must leave the U.S. and obtain an F-1 visa (usually in your home country), and re-enter the U.S.  You are not permitted to enroll in classes until such time as USCIS has approved your change of status to F-1 or you have obtained an F-1 visa and entered the U.S. in F-1 status.

Visa Waiver Program “WT”
Also, if you entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program, designated “WT,” you may not request any change of status in the U.S., but must follow the same procedure described above in case of denial of the change of status from B-2.  The Visa Waiver Program allows nationals of some countries to enter the U.S. without a tourist visa and to remain for 90 days without being able to extend their stay, change status, be employed or enroll in classes in the U.S.

Processing Times
Change of status applications may take several months to be approved.  Check the USCIS web site at www.uscis.gov for current processing times. You will be notified when ISSS receives Form I-797 Notice of Receipt from USCIS approximately three weeks after filing the application. It is possible to check the status of the application on-line at www.uscis.gov using the receipt number found on the receipt notice.

Travel
Travel abroad while a change of status application is pending is considered to be an abandonment of the application. If you have to leave the United States while the application is pending, you should consult your ISSS advisor, who will provide instructions on how to cancel the pending change of status application and obtain a new or amended Form I-20 for travel.

Program Start Date
If the request for change of status to F-1 has not been approved by the program start date on the Form I-20, you have to notify your ISSS advisor to determine whether the program start date on the document needs to be deferred. Failure to do so may result in the SEVIS record being "terminated" and lead to a serious violation of immigration status.

Employment
You may not begin an assistantship, or engage in on or off campus student employment of any kind until the change of status has been approved.

Visa
Even with an approved change of status, you will need to obtain a visa for the new status during your next trip abroad.
If your change of status application is denied, you may be required to leave the United States on short notice and obtain an F-1 visa (usually in your home country), and re-enter the U.S.