Visa Application Process Overview
Consistency of Name Spelling: Most countries issue machine-readable passports with the name in the home country's language and in Latin letters without diacritical marks which conform to the specifications of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The ISO spelling of your name must be on your passport, your I-20 from GTS, and your entry visa. When you enter the United States, you must write your name on the I-94 card exactly as it is spelled on the F-1 entry visa in your passport.
You should apply for the F-1 visa as early as possible as visa processing can take up to twelve weeks at some United States Consulates. To obtain a visa, you must apply to a U.S. Consulate with your passport, the form I-20, and funding documents (plus passports and financial documents for each dependent). You will need two passport-size (37 mm x 37 mm) photographs of each visa applicant over 16 years of age. If your family name is different from your dependents, be prepared to show documents that prove your relationship.
You will need to present proof of the required SEVIS fee payment. This fee can be paid online by completing Form I-901.
Lastly, you must submit the online Form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application). If the Embassy or Consulate at which you will apply for your visa is NOT using the electronic Form DS-160, you must complete the paper visa application forms. These are Form DS-156 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form), Form DS-158 (Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant), and any supplementary forms required by the particular Consulate. For the Form DS-156, it is very important to follow the instructions for completing the online application form. Be sure to print your complete application and bring all 3 pages, including the last page with the barcode, to your appointment.
On occasion, a Consular Visa Officer may require evidence (in addition to the certification on your form I-20) of English proficiency sufficient to pursue your proposed program of studies or evidence of ties to your country of citizenship. In most cases, applications must be made in person. You should check with the United States Consulate for any required documents before you make your application for the F-1 visa. The length of visa validity, number of entries permitted, and application fee are based on reciprocity and generally reflect your country's policies in granting visa privileges to visiting U.S. students. The Consular Visa Officer has the final word on your application; his or her judgment is not subject to review.
Because the time between requesting your I-20 and receiving the visa is unpredictable, we suggest that you wait to buy your airline ticket(s) until after you have received the F-1 visa from the United States Consulate. If your I-20 is late in arriving, contact your school to learn the last day that you can arrive and register for the semester. Do NOT enter the United States in Visitor status (B-1, B-2, WT, or WB). Those in B-1/B-2/WT/WB status are not permitted to attend class and are in violation of their Visitor status if they do so. Therefore, you must wait to obtain the F-1 visa before coming to the United States to study at GTS.
The U.S. Consulate will require original documents with your application for an F-1 student visa. Consular standards for visa eligibility may be considerably more rigorous than the standards you must meet to qualify for a form I-20. You will wish to use your good judgment as to whether to submit additional information with your entry visa application.