F-1 Visa Application Process
With your I-20, you may apply for an F-1 student visa from a U.S. consulate up to 120 days prior to the Program Start Date printed on your Form I-20. Citizens of Canada do not require a visa to enter the United States, but must pay the SEVIS Fee prior to entry to the United States. Below is a general overview of the visa application process:
Schedule a visa appointment at the nearest U.S. consulate. It may take several weeks to secure an appointment at the nearest U.S. consulate.
Check visa wait times. Prepare for possible delays. Incoming Caltech students are sometimes subjected to additional administrative processing at the consulates that could delay visa acquisition. Apply early to allow sufficient time for processing.
Read the consulate's website to learn about visa application procedures and documentation prior to your scheduled appointment. At a minimum, be prepared to present the following at your visa appointment:
- Letter from Caltech, indicating admission, length of study, and Caltech funding (if applicable)
- I-20 issued by Caltech
- SEVIS Fee Receipt (proof of SEVIS I-901 Fee payment)
- Pay the SEVIS Fee online. If you are in the United States in F-1 status and transferred your SEVIS record to Caltech, you may be exempt from paying the SEVIS Fee again.
- Proof of financial support (as listed in the Financials section of the I-20)
- This may include personal bank statements, a letter from the home government or sponsoring agency, and/or a letter from the Caltech Graduate Office or Office of Financial Aid (if applicable)
- Visa application forms are available online
U.S. Department of State's Reciprocity Table indicates the maximum validity period of a F-1 visa for each country. Your visa validity period may coincide with the duration of the I-20 program dates or with the amount of time allowed by the Reciprocity Table.
Dependents may accompany you to the United States. If you will bring one or more dependents (spouse or children) to Caltech, a separate I-20 will be issued for each dependent, upon your request. We recommend that your dependent(s) apply for the F-2 visa at the same time you apply for your initial F-1 visa. Be prepared to show evidence of financial support to cover dependent expenses for the length of your program or for a 12-month period, whichever is shorter. The SEVIS Fee is not required for dependent I-20s.