Applying for a Student Visa

Your I-20

Nearly all international students will need an F-1 visa to study at UWM. After you are admitted to UWM, we will issue you an I-20, a U.S. government document necessary for your F-1 visa application.  Your I-20 indicates the school you are attending, level of education, area of study, expected graduation date, and information on how you will finance your education.

Our office must have the following documentation in order to issue your I-20:

Passport (biographical page)

Please submit a scan of the biographical page in your passport.  The biographical page is the page which has information such as your name, date of birth, and your passport photograph.  Graduate students will upload the scan into their application (after admission).  Undergraduate students should email their scan to  If you do not have a passport, please email

Proof of Funding

In order to receive your I-20, you must show that you have sufficient funding to support yourself during your studies.  Your proof of funding must be enough to cover one academic year’s cost of tuition, room and board and health insurance.

I-20 for Dependent of Admitted Student

If your spouse or child(ren) will accompany you while you engage in studies at UWM, please submit the dependent information form and, if necessary, submit any additional proof of funding so your family members can apply for F-2 dependent visas. The dependent information form should be submitted at the same time as your proof of funding information so that all I-20s can be mailed together.

SEVIS Transfer

If you are planning to attend UWM immediately after studying at another U.S. institution (either as a transfer student or if you are moving from one level of study to another) you will need to arrange to have your SEVIS record transferred.  Please fill out the first page of the SEVIS transfer form and give it to the Designated School Official (DSO) at your current school or university to complete.  Your DSO will then submit the form to our office. Ideally, the DSO should submit the SEVIS transfer form at about the same time as you submit your proof of funding information.

If this is your first time studying in the U.S., or you have returned to your home country for more than five months after studying in the U.S., you will not need to transfer your SEVIS record.

SEVIS Fee Payment

If you will be an F-1 or J-1 student for the first time, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee before your visa interview.  When paying your SEVIS fee, please have your I-20 on-hand.  Complete the I-901 form online, enter your credit card information and submit the form electronically.  Print out a receipt and then call the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your country to make an appointment for your visa interview.

Please note, sometimes students who are not new students will still need to pay the SEVIS fee.  Who does and does not need to pay the SEVIS fee?

Visa Interview

If applying for an F-1 student visa for the first time, you must have a personal interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  This interview will most likely be conducted in English and will last about one or two minutes.  You must be prepared because this interview will determine whether or not you are granted a visa.

To obtain a student visa, you must demonstrate to the official:

  1. that you are a prepared student with an educational plan
  2. that you have the financial resources to study for at least one year in the U.S.
  3. that you have strong ties to your home country
  4. that you will be returning to your home country after you have completed your studies

For a list of documents you will need to bring to your visa interview, please visit the U.S. Department of State website on Student Visas.

A Few Tips for the Visa Application Process

  • DO NOT wait until the last minute! Apply for your F-1 or J-1 student visa as soon as possible. It can take several weeks to get a visa appointment, depending on which country you live in.
  • When filling out forms, always refer to the information as it is stated on your I-20 (e.g., the spelling of your name).

How to Prepare and Organize Materials for Your Visa Interview


  • Dress neatly and/or professionally.
  • Be prepared to inform the U.S. Consulate official about your educational goals. The official may want to know your major and why you chose it, what is important about that specific major to your future career opportunities, your graduate school plans, and why having a degree from abroad, specifically UWM, will enhance your education.
  • Be prepared to inform the official about where and how you learned English and/or why you wish to study at a U.S. university

Organizing Materials

Make sure that all of your paperwork needed for the interview is well organized. Group all appropriate papers together, such as: (1) your cover letter, (2) UWM documents, (3) academic credentials, (4) financial documents, and (5) all documents stating your ties to your home country.