In many cases, your Community College will require a bank statement showing that you have at least US$2500 in personal spending money. As such, you may want to include a bank statement with your application to save time if the college requests it.

The Form I-20 (also known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students) is a United States Department of Homeland Security, specifically ICE and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), document issued by SEVP-certified schools (colleges, universities, and vocational schools) that provides supporting information on a student's F or M status.

Since the introduction of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) run by SEVP, the I-20 form also includes the student tracking number (SEVIS ID number) and school code. The Form I-20 is only for F-1, F-2, M-1, and M-2 statuses. J-1 and J-2 status holders have an equivalent Form DS-2019 which is issued by a United States Department of State-designated J exchange visitor program.

F-1 Visa Instructions

These instructions will assist students with applying for the F-1 visa at the US Embassy.

Gather your documents! You will need a copy of your AFS Application as well as the following items:

  • Copy of passport photo page
  • Proof of graduation from high school
  • Evidence of sufficient finances (recent bank statements) for incidental expenses, approximately $2500
  • Letter of Support from AFS USA (original sent to college)
  • The college will issue the I-20 and mail it directly to the international home address of the student. Students will be offered the chance to pay for having their I-20 expedited. Students may choose to pay an additional fee for FedEx type delivery of their I-20. Otherwise, the I-20 is mailed via regular mail to them.
  • There are several types of I-20’s. If you are enrolling in the Intensive English program, this may be a different I-20 from the college’s academic Associates Degree program version. Be aware of which I-20 you have been granted.

Pay the SEVIS Fee. Start this step AFTER receiving the admissions package and the I-20 from the Community College. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collects a US$ 200 fee from international students to cover the costs of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

  • Students who enter the USA with a Form I-20 must pay this fee.  Information from the I-20 form is used while paying this fee.
  • Applicants must pay this fee before going to the US Embassy or consulate for their visa interviews.  The fee should be paid at least 3 business days before the interview for online payments; and 15 business days before the interview for mailed payments.
  • The interviewing consular officer will confirm that the fee has been paid by accessing SEVIS and/or asking for your payment receipt.
  • We recommend that you pay through the Internet at by using a credit or debit card and completing the online Form I-901.
  • If you can not pay online, you can mail a completed Form I-901 and international money order or check drawn on a US Bank to:  I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee, P.O. Box 970020, St. Louis, MO   63197-0200, USA.
  • Bring the receipt of payment to your visa interview.

After receiving your Admissions Packet from the Community College with the SEVIS I-20 Form and paid your SEVIS fee, you are ready to apply for the F-1 visa.

  • Visit the website of your nearest US Embassy or Consulate for detailed instructions on how to apply.
  • You will find instructions on how to submit your online visa application (Form DS-160) and make your appointment for your F-1 interview.
  • The current fee for the F-1 visa is US$ 160.

Prepare for your Interview

Bring the following documents to your visa interview:

  • Confirmation page of the DS-160 online visa application form
  • Proof of SEVIS payment
  • SEVIS Form I-20 and your letter of Admission from the Community College
  • Valid passport good for at least 6 months from entry into the USA
  • Financial evidence including bank statements
  • Sponsor letter from AFS USA
  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous schools attended

Optional documents that you may wish to have with you:

  • Written explanation of why you wish to study in the USA
  • Written explanation of your plans to return to your home country
  • Relevant language tests and scores

Other recommendations:

  • Be prepared to speak about your plans.  Why do you want to study English and spend a year in the USA?  What do you plan to do next?
  • Be aware that the visa interview may be conducted in English
  • Do not bring parents or friends to the interview.  It is important that you speak for yourself.
  • Keep your answers to the officer’s questions clear and short.

Sample Questions

  • Why do you want to go to the USA?
  • What are you going to do in the USA?
  • With whom and where are you going to live? (answer: AFS Host Family)
  • How long will you stay in the USA?
  • What will you be studying?
  • Have you finished high school?
  • Who is going to pay for all of this?  (answer: Program fee paid to AFS, your sponsor)
  • Do you have enough money?
  • Who is your sponsor? (answer: AFS)
  • Do you have relatives or family living in the USA?
  • Will anyone be travelling with you?  (answer: other students from your country, if applicable)
  • When do you plan to go to the USA? (answer: August 14 for HCC & NOVA, Sept 5 for PCC)
  • What will you do after you return to your home country?

If your visa is denied, you may want to re-apply. Often, F-1 visas are denied because the consular officer is not convinced that the applicant is a non-immigrant whose purpose for coming is to study and then return home. Make sure that your statements clearly indicate that you plan to return home.

After your interview – make sure to contact AFS and let them know the results of the visa interview!  We have to let your Community College know the results of the interview.