Visa and immigration information for international students.

The F-1 student visa is the appropriate visa category for international students living outside the United States who intend to enroll full-time at Goodwin College and whose primary reason for coming to the United States is to study. Students entering the United States on an F-1 student visa must remain enrolled full-time (12 credits a semester, or the full-time ESL program); those who fail to do so are considered out-of status and are subject to deportation.

In this section

Certification of Finances

Prior to issuing the Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant F-1 Student Status - for Academic and Language Students), the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requires that a U.S. university or college fully assess each international student's ability to meet all expenses during the first year of study. Compliance with ICE regulations further requires a U.S. university or college to obtain verification from the student that s/he has officially proven financial ability to cover the cost of education and living expenses in the U.S. for at least the first year of study.

Verification of a student's financial ability to cover the cost of education and living expenses in the U.S. is declared on the Certification of Finances Form. This is a confidential document that remains in the student's file for both university and ICE purposes. All accepted international students must complete a Certification of Finances Form.

Obtaining Your F-1 Visa and Entering the United States

If you do not have a valid passport, you must obtain one from the appropriate office of your government. The passport must be valid at least six months into the future at all times while you are in the United States. The information page of your passport is required for admission documentation.

Read all information on page 2 of the I-20 Certificate of Eligibility carefully. It explains your legal responsibilities as an F-1 visa holder in the United States. You must pay the I-901 fee at least three business days in advance of your consul appointment.

With your non-immigrant documents, make an appointment at the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate. The Embassy may issue you the F-1 visa no earlier than 120 days before start date on the I-20. However, F-1 students may only be admitted to U.S. up to 30 days prior to the reporting date noted on the I-20.

Even though you are applying for an F-1 non-immigrant visa, the United States Consular Officer who interviews you when you apply for your visa may assume that you plan to remain in the United States indefinitely and therefore may deny the visa. You must show to the officer:

  • An original I-20 properly issued in SEVIS by Goodwin College
  • Goodwin College acceptance letter
  • A passport valid for at least 6 months
  • Completed and signed visa application form
  • Required photographs
  • Receipt of payment for SEVIS I-901 visa application fee
  • Evidence of funding. This can include the bank statements and Certification of Finances form submitted for admissions

Each Embassy or Consulate may require additional documentation for the visa application process to establish that you are qualified. Please refer to each embassy or consular web page for specific requirements.

Except for unusual circumstances, the U.S. consular official will review the documents and evidence presented, and will issue a visa within a few hours or days of the submission of the application. Although the institution may be satisfied that an applicant meets all the evidentiary requirements specified for obtaining F-1 status (e.g. admission, language proficiency, financial certification), the U.S. consular official makes the ultimate decision as to whether the applicant will be granted an F-1 student visa.

After approving the visa application, the consular officer places an F-1 visa in the applicant's passport, noting the period of its validity, and the number of entries allowed.

The same type of interview may occur when you arrive at the US Customs and Border Control location at your point of entry to the United States. Therefore, be prepared to present your passport (valid for at least six months), F-1 visa (for initial entries, the name of the school on the F-1 visa must match the name of the school on form I-20), SEVIS I-20, evidence of financial support, and your acceptance letter when passing through the United States port of entry. Do not pack these documents in baggage that is to be checked into the baggage compartment. Take them in your hand baggage so you have them to present at Border Control.

At the port of entry, the immigration inspector will review your papers and, if everything is satisfactory, the inspector will then give you all the documents including a Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, a small white paper, which the inspector will attach to your passport. I-94 will include the date, place of entry, the alien's status as an F-1 student, a unique 11 digit admission number, and for the period of admission known as "duration of status," indicated by the notation "D/S." Report to the International Student office at Goodwin College during the Orientation since PMC is required to report whether the student has enrolled or failed to enroll at PMC. The International Student office will request copies of your I-20, passport, I-94 card and F-1 visa.

Please keep in mind that a student who attends a school other than the one authorized is considered to be out of status and must apply for reinstatement.

The name of the school recorded on a student's visa must match the name of the school on the student's I-20 only for the initial entry to the U.S. in F-1 status. If a student travels outside the U.S. after having attended the school referenced on the student's visa, subsequent entries with an I-20 to attend a new school, including I-20s issued for transfer, are permitted.

The SEVIS I-20 Certificate of Eligibility

  • A SEVIS I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant (F-1) Student Status for academic and language students can be issued by Goodwin College to student applicants who meet admission and financial requirements. The I-20 from Goodwin College enables students to apply for an F-1 visa and allows entrance to the United States.
  • The SEVIS Form I-20 prints as a 3 page document: page 1 contains program and biographical information; page 2 consists of pre-printed instructions; and page 3 contains employment authorization data and spaces for travel authorizations. Form I-20 issued by SEVIS contains a bar code on the right side of the form, the word "SEVIS," and a unique SEVIS student ID number printed above the bar code. Dependents accompanying the F-1 student in F-2 status must each have their own SEVIS Form I-20, issued in the name of the dependent, that identifies them as a dependent.
  • The SEVIS Form I-20 is retained by the student. In instances of travel and employment, a student with a SEVIS Form I-20 will have a separate page for DSO signatures authorizing travel and for DSO recommendation or grants of employment authorization.


SEVIS is one component of a large and complex number of changes that have been made to US immigration policies and procedures in recent years. Others include the establishment of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Who has to pay the SEVIS fee?

  • New students and exchange visitors who use a Form I-20 or DS-2019 to gain initial F-1 status.
  • Students who have been studying in the U.S, and who leave the U.S. on leave (non academic) will have to pay the fee before they return to the U.S., unless the absence was on account of participation in an authorized study-abroad program.
  • Individuals who are in the U.S. and wish to change to F-1 student status from another nonimmigrant status.

Who does not have to pay the SEVIS fee?

  • F-1 students who are now in the U.S. and have paid the fee once, even if they travel abroad or apply for a renewal of their visas.
  • A new SEVIS fee does not have to be paid by continuing students and scholars who request benefits including extension of stay, school transfer, change in educational level, or Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  • Dependents in F-2 status do not pay the SEVIS fee.

When do students and exchange visitors pay the fee?

  • F-1 students needing a visa to enter the U.S. must pay the SEVIS fee before going to the U.S. consulate for their interview. Remember to bring proof of payment to your interview.
  • Canadian citizens must pay the fee before applying for F-1 status at a port of entry into the U.S.
  • Nonimmigrants currently in the U.S. who apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to change to F-1 status must pay the fee prior to filing their change of status application.

How do students and exchange visitors pay the fee?

  • See SEVIS I-901 Fee Payment for detailed instructions and a list of options for paying the SEVIS fee.
  • You must present your SEVIS fee payment receipt at the time of visa application.
  • It is currently not possible to pay the SEVIS fee at a U.S. embassy or consulate, or at a U.S. port of entry (except for Canadian citizens).
  • The SEVIS fee is non-refundable. However, if the visa is denied, the fee will not have to be repaid if a subsequent visa application is submitted within 12 months of the initial denial.

F-1 Status

If you receive an I-20 form (Certificate of Eligibility) from Goodwin College, you will apply for an F-1 Student Visa. You should keep and use the original copy of the I-20 form throughout your studies at Goodwin College, as page three of the form will gradually come to contain important information about school transfer and practical training. (If you lose your I-20, however, you can obtain a new one from the International Students Office with one-week's notice.)

Travel and Re-Entry

Students on the F-1 visa may apply for a visa no more than 90 days prior to the start date listed on the Form I-20. After being issued the visa, students may enter the US up to 30 days prior to the start date on the I-20 form. The start date is always listed as the arrival day for international student orientation. F-1 students may travel abroad and re-enter the US throughout their studies here, provided that they have a valid passport, a valid F-1 visa, and a valid I-20 form endorsed on page three within the current or most recent semester by one of the advisers in the International Students Office.

60-Day "Grace Period" After Completion of Studies

At the end of their period of study, or at the end of post-completion optional practical training, F-1 visa holders have a 60-day "grace period," during which they may travel within the US, visit friends, or prepare for their return home. If you wish to transfer to a graduate program after the completion of your studies here, you must complete all of the necessary paperwork to do so within 60 days after Commencement. If you wish to remain in the US as a tourist for more than 60 days after Commencement, you should apply for change of status to tourist; we can provide you with the appropriate form for this purpose, which you must file with USCIS prior to the end of the 60-day grace period.

Maintaining F-1 Status

F1 students are responsible for ensuring they are “in status”. It is their responsibility to read the regulations on the second page of the I-20. It is also the student’s responsibility to report any changes to their I-20 to their Designated School Official (DSO).

To maintain F-1 status, a student must:

  • You must enroll in, and complete, 12 or more (Graduate students 9 or more) credits each regular semester.
  • You need your DSO’s permission BEFORE you stop attending, withdraw, or drop below full-time.
  • You can only work on campus, and under 20 hours per week during the semester.
  • You need your DSO’s authorization BEFORE starting an internship.
  • You must report any change to your local address within 10 days.
  • Inform your DSO of changes to the information on your Form I-20.
  • Before you travel, be sure to obtain a travel endorsement (signature) every 6 months, and discuss your travel plans with your DSO.
  • Complete your studies no later than the program end date on your Form I-20.
  • You have a 60 day grace period after your completion of study, in which you need to either leave the country, apply for OPT, or find a new program.
  • You need to obtain a SEVIS transfer BEFORE transferring to another US school.
  • Ensure your passport is ALWAYS valid.
  • You must have appropriate health insurance for the entire length of your program.
  • You have to file a federal income tax form every year you are in the U.S., even if you did not work.

Vacation Semester

During your vacation semester, you may register for less than full time credit hours and legally remain in the U.S. You must inform the International Programs office within the first 15 days of the semester that you are taking a summer vacation semester so we can verify you are eligible for a vacation semester and report it to the USCIS. Otherwise, a hold will be placed on your student record and you will be reported to the USCIS as being out of lawful status. Summer semester is not automatically a vacation semester. You must attend school full time for two consecutive semesters before you are eligible for a vacation semester. The only exception is if you entered the U.S. to attend Spring Semester as your first semester, then you may take the first Summer Semester as a vacation semester. You are required to return to school after your vacation semester.

Vacation for Students during Fall or Spring Semester

If you take a vacation semester during Fall or Spring Semester and you will not be registered for any courses, you will need to apply to the Registrar’s Office for a Leave of Absence for that semester or you will lose your term activation and you will risk falling out of status. This must be approved by the Registrar’s Office and International Programs Office. This form must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office on or before the last day of regular term classes for the semester the leave of absence is requested.

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