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Steps to the Application Process

December 5, 2012

The application process in the United States may be very different from applying to a school in your home country. Be sure to read about the process before you begin. To ensure that you properly complete all required application materials, follow the steps below:

1. Choose a school: EducationUSA can help you with information on the process of selecting a school and a program of study in the United States. With over 400 advising centers in 170 countries, EducationUSA represents the largest group of advisers committed to promoting accredited United States higher education institutions to over 14 million students and parents with whom they have contact each year.

All schools that accept F and M students must be certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). With almost 10,000 SEVP-certified schools in the United States, you likely can find a college or university in the state and city of your choice. 

2. Receive Acceptance and get a Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”: When you find a school you would like to attend, apply to the school as an international student. Contact school officials directly or visit the school’s website for more information on required application materials. When you have received acceptance into an SEVP-certified school, the designated school official will issue you a Form I-20, which is a paper record of your information stored in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

3. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee: You must use the Form I-20 from the school that you choose to attend when you pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. The I-901 SEVIS fee is a required, non-refundable fee you must pay before the Department of State can issue you a visa. To pay the fee, go to and follow the appropriate steps to submit your payment.

4. Apply for a visa to enter the United States: After you pay your I-901 SEVIS fee, you can apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, if applicable. When you apply for your visa, you have some responsibilities:

  • Have sufficient funds to study in the United States
  • Prepare for your course of study

Applying for a student visa also requires you to interview at your Embassy or Consulate visa section, so it is important to complete your applications early to allow enough time for the U.S. government to process your visa.

For more information on the entire international student process, visit the Study Guide to the States.

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