International Visa and Entry Procedures

At the Consular office

International students who have been accepted by Louisiana Christian University and have received an I-20 must next apply for an F-1 student visa from their US consular office before leaving home (on rare occasions, students may obtain visas from a "third country," but this is not advised).

When to apply

The earliest that an F-1 visa can be granted is 90 days before the reporting date listed on Form I-20, but a student can enter the US no earlier than 30 days before the I-20 program start date. **Please note that the date the dorms open for students is listed on the Residence Life Page of the website. Any international student who chooses to arrive earlier than the date the dorms are open will be responsible for obtaining their own housing until campus housing is available.

A student can apply for an F-1 visa earlier than 90 days before the start date, to allow for processing and security clearance delays. Even if the student applies earlier than 90 days, though, the consulate still cannot actually issue the visa until 90 days before the program start date.

Visa processing times vary widely by consulate. The general rule: apply as early as possible.

At the port of entry

Upon arrival at the US port of entry, the student must present the following to immigration officials:

  • Passport valid for at least six months
  • F-1 visa (Canadian citizens are exempt); for initial entry, the name of the school on the F-1 visa must match the name of the school on the Form I-20
  • Evidence of financial support, including the same financial support information used to obtain the F-1 visa
  • Form I-20, properly signed by the Designated School official (DSO) and by the student
  • In certain cases, proof of having paid the SEVIS fee may be required

F-1 students entering the US on an F-1 visa will also have their photograph and two digital fingerprints taken as part of the US-VISIT program.

When admitted by the immigration officer, the student will receive the departure portion of Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) marked with the date and place of entry; the alien's status as an F-1 student; a unique 11-digit admission number; and the notation "D/S" meaning "duration of status." The student is required to keep this I-94 card with his / her passport at all times until the next departure from the US.

What to take

An application for an F-1 visa must include the following items, which the student presents at the Consular office (contact your local Consular office for more details):

  • Properly completed Form I-20
  • Proof of having paid the SEVIS fee
  • Evidence of financial ability to meet expenses
  • Evidence of English ability sufficient for course of study
  • Evidence of intent to depart the US after completion of studies
  • Passport valid for at least six months
  • Form DS-156, "Nonimmigrant Visa Application"
  • Form DS-157, if applicable
  • Form DS-158
  • Photograph(s)
  • Machine Readable Visa (MRV) surcharge fee
  • Visa reciprocity fee (if applicable)

What you receive

After approving the visa application, the consular officer places an F-1 visa "sticker" in the applicant's passport, noting the period of validity and the number of entries allowed. The F-1 visa will include the name of the school that issued the I-20.

After the F-1 visa is placed in the student's passport, the Form I-20 is returned to the applicant to use in applying for admission to the US at the port of entry. The consular officer sometimes places the I-20 and supporting financial documents in a sealed envelope. In that case, the student should present the sealed envelope to the inspecting officer at the port of entry.

At the school

Before classes start and registration can be completed, F-1 students will be required to meet with the Designated School official (DSO), present their official documents, and complete a registration form. The student should make arrangements to arrive on campus in time to participate in any required orientation programs for international and/or domestic students. Please contact the office of International Student Services for airport pickup and other arrangements or questions about arrival. It is also strongly advised that students have at least a small amount of US currency upon arrival.

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