Pre-Arrival

The Form I-20 is an important document that you should keep safe, as you will need it throughout the international student life cycle.

After paying your seat deposit, request your I-20. All international students that study in the United States need a form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”.

Once accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school, international students will receive a Form I-20 from their designated school official (DSO). You and your DSO must both sign the Form I-20. If you are under age 18, your parents must sign the Form I-20 for you.

In order to be issued a Certificate of Eligibility (I-20), submit the following documents to your DSO in the Office of the Registrar:

South Texas College of Law Houston will only issue an I-20 once your Immigration Questionnaire is complete and financial resources are considered complete.

**If you do not need an I-20 from South Texas College of Law Houston, please complete the Immigration Questionnaire and submit legible photocopies of both sides of any U.S. immigration documents you have indicating your current status. For example, these might include a U.S. “Resident Alien” card, Department of Homeland Security or State Department notations or stamps on your passport, your I-94, I-20, DS-2019, or Department of Homeland Security letters. Please do not send original documents; send only photocopies.

    Proof of Financial Resources

Students are required to show proof of one full year of funding while applying for an I-20.

The estimate budget for the 2019-2020 academic year for a full time student is $56,450.00.
Tuition & Fees: $34,050.00
Living Expenses: $22,400.00

 

    Required Documents for Various Sources of Funding

Your funding can come from a variety of sources, such as private funds, college funds, sponsoring company/agency/government funds.

    Private Funds

Private funds can be provided by individuals such as the student, friends or family members. Financial support can come from inside or outside the United States.

If you will be supported by private funds, please provide the following:

  • Bank Statement(s):
    • Should be current. The bank statement should include three most recent months worth of transactions.
    • Should be official. The bank statement should clearly identify document source (monthly mailed statement, online statement, statement by request, etc.) and include the account holder’s name, type of account, bank name and branch
    • Should be legible. Originals may be requested at South Texas College of Law Houston’s discretion
    • Should contain the specific amount of money available. The bank statement must show liquid assets such as cash deposits, certificates of deposit, saving accounts, etc. Statements regarding property, jewelry, cars, and other non-liquid assets are NOT acceptable. Statements regarding investments such as stocks and bonds are also not acceptable.
    • Should contain the specific denomination and currency of the funds. It is acceptable that the funds are in currencies other than U.S. dollars.
  • Personal Support Letter:
    • Have the individual who is supporting you complete the Declaration of Support form (attached to this email) and submit with your financial documents.
    • If your funding comes from multiple sponsors, each sponsor needs to provide this form, along with the bank statement.
  • I-134 Affidavit of Support:
    (in case funding is from an individual currently residing in the U.S.)

    In addition to the bank statement and the personal support letter, if the individual who is supporting you is inside the United States they should also submit the I-134, Affidavit of Support and supporting documents. The original must be submitted. Please read the directions of the I-134 to learn what supporting documents are required.

 

Please note that South Texas College of Law Houston will not accept Chartered Accountant statements.

Important Notice Concerning Personal Security

For your personal security, please be sure to avoid sending complete bank account numbers. However, financial documentation should display enough information so our staff can tell the difference between multiple accounts. For example, if you have multiple accounts with the same bank, and, if the accounts do not have different names listed on the bank documentation (e.g. checking account, savings account, etc.), you should mark out all but the last 4 numbers of the account to show the difference in the account numbers.

After receiving the initial Form I-20 upon program acceptance, students may receive a new Form I-20 from their DSO in the following circumstances:

  • If the physical copy of the form is destroyed or misplaced.
  • For travel endorsement.
  • When the student’s SEVIS status changes (e.g., from Initial to Active).
  • For any substantive change to student information, such as changes to a student’s personal information, program of study, optional practical training (OPT), etc.

Before you pay the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee, you must receive the Form I-20 from a DSO at the school you plan to attend. You will need information from the Form I-20 to pay the fee.

Regulation requires all prospective F-1 students to pay the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Fee before the Department of State issues you a visa. To pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee, visit FMJfee.com to access the SEVIS Form I-901. Watch the I-901 SEVIS Fee payment tutorial to learn about each step of the payment process.

Be sure to pay the SEVIS fee at least 3 days prior to the visa appointment at the U.S. embassy or consulate, because the visa application requires proof of the payment, the SEVIS identification number to which the fee was paid. Paying the SEVIS Fee on-line is recommended because it is faster, data transfer is more accurate, and payments are more secure.

The Form I-20 lists your program start date, 30 days before which you are allowed to enter the United States. F-1 student visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date. You are expected to have the original Form I-20 at your visa interview. The consular officer may accept a copy of the Form I-20 in limited circumstances that warrant visa issuance prior to you receiving the original Form I-20.

If you are living outside the U.S. you must obtain a passport from your government. Next, you must apply for an F-1 student visa. As soon as you receive your I-20, schedule your visa appointment at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for an F-1.

    What Is a Visa?

The F-1 visa stamp in your passport is permission to apply to enter the United States in that visa category. Although your passport and I-20 must remain valid while you are in the U.S., it is okay to remain in the U.S. with an expired student visa. The visa expiration date is separate from your length of authorized stay in the U.S.  If your visa expires while you are in the U.S. and/or its number of entries has been used, or if you have changed your nonimmigrant status while in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must apply for a new F-1 visa in order to return to the U.S.  Visas can only be obtained outside of the U.S. at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. (Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa stamp to enter the U.S.)

    Automatic Visa Revalidation

An exception to the rule requiring a valid, unexpired visa exists for students in F-1 status who travel for fewer than 30 days solely to Canada or Mexico or islands in the Caribbean except Cuba. Your visa will be considered to be “extended” to the date of reentry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. consulate before that particular re-entry. This procedure is known as “automatic visa revalidation.” Note that if you apply for a new visa while in Canada, Mexico, or islands in the Caribbean, you will not be able to return to the U.S. if the visa application is denied. Also, citizens of Iran, Sudan, and Syria are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation.

The same benefit applies to students who changed status within the U.S. and have an F-1 approval notice from USCIS. The previous visa type is considered to be “converted” to the F-1 for that entry only.

    How, Where and When to Apply for a Visa

Apply for the visa at a U.S. consulate in your home country, unless circumstances or travel plans make this impossible. It may be possible to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in a country other than your home country. This is called a “third country national (TCN)” application. Not all U.S. consulates accept TCN applications, and some allow TCN applications for limited situations; check with individual consulates, including those in Canada and Mexico, for TCN application policies. It can be risky to apply in a country other than your home country. For instance, if you apply for a new visa in Canada and encounter delays, you must remain in Canada for the length of the processing. You will not be able to reenter the U.S. until the new visa is approved.

Allow ample time for the visa application process. U.S. consulates require in-person interviews for most visa applicants. You are encouraged to schedule the visa interview appointment as early as possible. You can also find information about how long it will take to get your visa. Students applying for initial-entry F-1 visas may be issued the visas up to 120 days before the academic program start date as noted on the I-20.

Visa processing delays may occur due to enhanced security reviews that take into account your field of study, country of origin, and likelihood of returning home after completion of studies.

At the consulate, include the following items:

  • Visa application. Complete the form provided by the U.S. consulate in the country where the application will be submitted. You will be charged a fee for the visa application.
  • Receipt confirming payment of the SEVIS fee.
  • Valid passport. Your passport must be valid for at least six months when seeking admission or readmission to the United States. Your passport should remain valid throughout your stay in the U.S.
  • Photos following U.S. State Department photo guidelines.
  • I-20 form. Newly admitted students do not need a travel signature for the initial visa interview.
  • Financial evidence detailing source and amount of funding. Consular and immigration officers exercise considerable discretion in determining whether financial support exists and is sufficient to cover your entire period of stay. Prepare documentation that is thorough, consistent, credible and varied.
  • Official academic transcript and confirmation of enrollment. If you are a newly admitted student, you should provide proof of admission.
  • Proof of English language proficiency may also be requested.
  • Evidence of continuing ties (such as family, career, or property) to your home country. Visa applicants are presumed to be “intending immigrants.” Your visa will be denied unless you satisfy the consular officer that you will return home. Unfortunately, there is no single explanation, document, or letter than can guarantee visa issuance.
  • Consular officers conduct quick interviews! Their initial impression of you is critical to your success. Keep your answers concise. Be honest in everything you write on your visa application and say during the interview. Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English. Don’t bring other people to speak on your behalf.
  • Be able to explain the reasons you want to study in the U.S. and remember that your main reason for coming to the United States is to study, not to work!
  • If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your home country, be prepared to explain how they will support themselves in your absence. If they are accompanying you to the U.S., be prepared to show proof of adequate funding.
  • If you are denied the visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring the next time you apply, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing. Maintain a positive attitude! Do not engage the consular officer in an argument.

    Visa Validity After a Break In Studies

If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than five months and were not registered full time while abroad, your F-1 visa will be considered invalid, even if it has not yet expired. If you are returning to resume study, you must obtain a visa and pay the SEVIS fee.

Canadian citizens do not need a visa, but simply present the I-20, SEVIS fee receipt, financial documentation, and proof of admission to the immigration officer at the U.S. port of entry. A passport may be required depending on your method of travel. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of State’s travel pages.

    Apply for the Visa as Early as Possible

Students applying for initial entry F-1 visa may be issued the visas up to 120 days before the academic program start date as noted on the I-20.

You may not enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days before the start date noted on the I-20form. You should make your travel arrangements with this date in mind.

Your I-20 does not require a travel signature for your initial entry into the U.S. However, you need a travel signature for subsequent trips. Your DSO cannot sign your document for travel and reentry to the U.S. until you have registered for your first semester. Do not plan to travel outside the U.S. after your first entry unless you will be able to register first and obtain a travel signature.

You are expected to have the original Form I-20 with ink signature on hand as you enter the country. Do not pack it away in your suitcase. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will instruct you to present your Form I-20 at the port of entry. You may arrive up to 30 days before the start date listed on your Form I-20.