Prepare For Visa Interview
With the exception of Canadian citizens, all students must have an F-1 visa to study in the U.S.
Students already accepted by Seattle Central who received their I-20 form should apply for a student visa, using the information and recommendations below:
Apply for a student visa
1. Make an appointment with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate
Students must apply for a visa with the nearest U.S. embassy, consulate, or other U.S. designated venue in their country of residence after receiving their I-20 form, following their specific application instructions. Apply for your visa early (up to 90 days from the start of your program) to provide ample time for processing.
First time F-1 visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview. Each embassy / consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures. Keep in mind that June, July, August, and December are the busiest months in most consular sections.
Visit the Department of State website for a list of US Embassies and Consulates.
2. Pay the I-901 Fee (also called SEVIS fee)
The I-901 fee must be paid before the visa appointment. Click here for instructions and methods of payment. Use the SEVIS ID number found on the upper right corner of your I-20 form (the number beginning with “N”) to pay the I-901 fee. Print out your payment confirmation as a receipt, and bring it with you to the interview and United States.
Prepare for the visa interview
We recommend that you read the information below prior to your visa interview.
Review your documents
Review all your documents carefully (visa application, I-20 form, financial documents) and make sure all the information is clear, accurate and complete. If someone else completed the visa application for you, make sure that you read and understand the information provided.
Check your I-20 Form:
- Ensure that your name is spelled correctly, and matches the name in your passport
- Check to be sure your date of birth is correct
- Check that your program information, reporting dates and financial information are correct (if the reporting date has passed, you must update it before your appointment)
- Make sure that we have signed page 1 of your I-20 form in blue ink
Prepare for the interview
It is important that you explain your study goals clearly and completly to the visa officer. Prior to your interview, you should do the following:
Prepare to explain your long-term goals: You must be able to clearly and convincingly explain that you have reasons for leaving the United States after you complete your studies. You should be prepared to demonstrate strong ties to somewhere outside the United States, such as your home country, hometown, or current place of residence. Examples of strong ties include family, employment, financial prospects, and investments. Those who cannot demonstrate strong ties to a country other than the United States are normally denied a student visa.
Review your financial support: Make sure that you are familiar with the financial documents in your application. If your parents or family members prepared the documents, they may not have shown you all the information, because it is private. Make sure that your sponsor shows you all the financial information, so you can answer any questions the visa officer might have.
Prepare an Academic and Career Plan: The officer will want to know that you have thought about why you want to study in the United States, what your major will be, and what your long-term career goals are. Seattle Central strongly suggest that you complete an Academic and Career Plan (College Transfer or Professional and Technical) to prepare for your interview.
There are other steps you can take to demonstrate to the visa officer that you are focused on pursuing your education in the United States:
- Request a Priority Admission Certificate
- Request a transfer admission guarantee letter from one of our university partners (College Transfer or High school Completion programs)
- Take the TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, or ACT
- Show proof that you completed an ESL program or college preparation program
- Provide letters of support from your school teachers or counselors
- Show that you are familiar with Seattle Central and its programs
For the most successful outcome to your interview, we suggest the following:
- Dress appropriately
- Smile and greet the officer
- Be polite, and do not argue with the officer
- Answer all questions (it is fine to ask the officer to repeat a question if needed)
- Speak in English as much as possible.
- Answer honestly, and avoid using a prepared speech (it will sound false to the officer)
- Do not lie or hide information (If the officer knows you lied, you will not get a visa)
For more detailed information on preparing for your visa, read Ten Points to Remember when Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa (Modified from NAFSA, Association of International Educators & the U.S. Department of State).
If you are denied a student visa
If you are denied a visa, do not be discouraged. Many students do not get a visa the first time: it can take two or three tries to get a visa.
After a denial, we recommed that you take these steps:
- Do not argue with the officer; politely ask for a written explanation of the refusal
- Ask the officer what documents / information you will need to apply again
- If you have not done so, read our recommendations for preparing for the interview
- Review the information you submitted. Make sure your documents are in order
- If the information you received is unclear, contact your agent or our office
If approved for a visa, you are allowed to enter the United States up to 30 days before the program start date listed on your SEVIS I-20 form.