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F-1 Student Visa

F-1 Immigration status requires full-time study when the program is in session. The F-1 visa in your passport is an entry visa. Your I-20 and passport must always be current.

You must start classes within 30 days of arriving in the U.S. as a new F-1 student. You will not be allowed to enter the U.S. more than 30 days before your program start date.

You will lose your F-1 status if you stop attending IEP classes before or after a session. You will also lose your F-1 status if you fail to maintain good academic standing, which includes regular attendance and participation in classes.

If you withdraw from the IEP during a semester, your SEVIS record will be terminated, and you will have 15 days to leave the United States.

If you do not inform the immigration advisor of your withdrawal or if you do not respond to emails from the immigration advisor, your record will be terminated, and you will be required to leave the United States immediately.

If you choose not to continue with the IEP after a session has ended, you must complete the ELA Exit form, and you will have 60 days to either leave the United States or transfer to a new program.

The I-20 Document

The I-20 is the legal documentation that allows you to study and reside in the U.S. You must bring your original I-20 with you to the F-1 Visa Interview as well as to enter the U.S.

You must keep your I-20 up to date. See the Assistant Director of Student Services, Lynn Washatko Uhyrek, to renew your I-20 before it expires. The program end date is the expiration date of the I-20. Before it expires, you need to request an extension and register for the next session.

Once you finish your application to the program, you will be issued an I-20 via your UWM email. You will receive information on how to activate your UWM email in your welcome letter. Your welcome letter will be emailed to you at the email you provide in your application. If you have any questions about your I-20 or welcome letter, please email the Assistant Director, Lynn Washtako Uhyrek, at

Please note: You must receive conditional admission for academic study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) for us to note conditional admission on your I-20. 

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 passport copies for each and submit any additional proof of funding so your family members can apply for F-2 dependent visas.

To learn more about required proof of funding for dependents, click here.

SEVIS Fee Payment

If you will be an F-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 with you for reference.  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 see the Study in the States I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment Tutorial if you have any questions about this process.

Visa Interview

If you are 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 (e.g. returning to your home country for a current education program, planned employment in your home country after completion of the IEP, open bank accounts in your home country, family ties in your home country, if you own any property in your home country, etc.)
  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 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).
  • The main purpose of an F-1 visa is to be a student, not to work during your program or after completion of the program. So, you should focus on discussing your goals as a student in your interview.

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: Why you choose to study English in the United States.
  • Have a positive attitude.

Organizing Materials

Make sure that all of your paperwork needed for the interview is well organized. Group all appropriate papers together:

  • UWM documents
    • UWM welcome (acceptance) letter
    • I-20
  • financial documents
    • bank statements submitted during the application process (If this changes before the visa interview, submit new documents to ELA at so that we can update your I-20.)
    • Affidavit of Support letters, if provided during the application process
  • Legal documents
    • valid passport (please note: if your passport will expire within 6 months of your visa interview, you might be denied a visa.)
    • copy of your paid SEVIS fee receipt
  • all documents stating your ties to your home country.

Education USA

Education USA, developed by the U.S. Department of State, is a helpful resource for all international students looking to study in the United States. Advising centers can be found in over 170 countries and many advisers have first-hand experience studying in the United States.

Each advising center may offer different services and some do charge a small fee, so please research the center nearest you. An advising center may be able to help you prepare for your visa interview and/or answer any questions you may have about pre-arrival, arrival, and study in the United States.

You can find an Education USA advising center here.

Study in the States

Study in the States, developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is another helpful resource for international students. This site can offer information on how to become an F1 student, pay your I-901 SEVIS Fee, prepare for your arrival, and maintain your F1 status once you are in the United States.

Expired Visa

There is no problem if the visa expires while you are in the U.S., and your I-20 is valid. However, if your visa is expired and you leave the U.S., you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your country. The consular official may request current financial documents as well as proof of study, such as the IEP transcript and a Verification of Enrollment (VOE) letter.

Request an IEP transcript and a VOE letter here.

F-2 Dependent Visa

F-2 dependent visa students are eligible to join our program. However, F-2 dependent visa students are only eligible to join our program for part-time study. Part-time study includes 3 or fewer classes. F-2 Dependent Visa students are dependent on their F-1 visa student sponsor to remain in status. F-2 dependent visa students are expected to attend all classes that they register for while in our program.

F-2 dependents cannot work in the United States.

B Visa

Students on a B visa are eligible to join our program part-time or full-time. Part-time is 3 classes or fewer up to a semester (4 months). Full time is 4 classes for up to 2 months.