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New Guidance for Acquiring a Student Visa

new guidance for student visa

On February 21, 2023, the U.S. Department of State announced a revised student visa application process.

For new students: Student F and M visas for new students can be issued up to 365 days in advance of the school’s Program Start Date. Previously, student visas could only be issued up to 120 days before a student’s Program Start Date. 

For continuing students: Student (F and M) visas for continuing students may be issued at any time, as long as the student is currently enrolled at a SEVP-approved school or institution and in SEVIS. Returning students may enter the United States at any time before classes start.

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country must obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for a temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence to enter the United States. Students seeking to attend high school in the U.S. need an F visa. Click here to learn more about the student visa approval process.

Additionally, the State Department published a final rule on March 28, 2023, to announce an increase in certain nonimmigrant visa application processing fees, including student and exchange visitor visa fees. The cost for student and exchange visitor visas will increase from $160 to $185 starting May 30, 2023.

Here are answers to questions you may have about these updates.

Questions and answers provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

What can international students and school officials do to help ensure a student’s smooth reentry to the United States? 

Ensure the following before arrival at a U.S. port of entry.

  • Your child has an active I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee payment listed on Form I-20 that they are traveling under.
  • The name of the school on Form I-20 matches the name of the school on the visa. 
  • Your child’s financial information is up to date in SEVIS.
  • Your child doesn’t attempt to enter the United States more than 30 days in advance of their Program Start Date. 

How does this guidance impact Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) requirements? 

This guidance does not change the requirements for: 

  • issuing a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” in SEVIS;
  • paying the I-901 SEVIS Fee; and
  • admission into the United States. 

New students are permitted to enter the U.S. 30 days before the Program Start Date listed on their Form I-20. If students enter sooner, their visa is at risk of being canceled.

How does this guidance impact the I-901 SEVIS Fee? 

The I-901 SEVIS Fee is valid for 12 months after payment and must be valid at the time of the student’s visa appointment. SEVP advises that students pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee within one year of their intended entry to the United States. 

In certain situations, students may need to repay the I-901 SEVIS Fee, such as if they defer their enrollment beyond one year of the initial payment. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers may stop students with I-901 SEVIS Fee payments older than one year and require that they repay the Fee before seeking admission to the United States. 

Refer to the I-901 SEVIS Fee FAQ for information.

How should students and school officials ensure accurate financial information on a student’s Form I-20? 

Notify your school’s Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) of any significant changes to your family’s financial information between initial visa issuance and entry into the United States. PDSOs must update Form I-20 either before your child enters the U.S. or at the time of initial registration if there has been a substantial change to your financial situation. 

When your child is studying in a foreign country, their health and safety are priorities. Let ISM’s International Scholar Protection give you peace of mind knowing your child has access to high-quality health care, no matter where they are in the U.S.

Contact for more information.