Berkeley Courtyard

Applying for Your Student Visa

How do I apply for an F-1 student visa?

To apply for an F-1 student visa, start by locating your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Visit to search for embassy locations in your home country. If you click on the embassy that you would like to visit, you will be directed to that embassy's services.

Complete the Form DS-160 by following the instructions listed on the website. Answer all of the questions listed on the form to the best of your abilities. The Form DS-160 is used for many different kinds of visa applications, so be aware that some of the questions may not be relevant to you and your purposes for coming to the U.S.


How do I prepare for the visa interview?

To prepare for a successful visa interview, please ensure that you gather all of your required documents. It is also best to practice how you will respond to common interview questions. Make sure that your answers are clear and concise since visa interviews can be very brief. During your interview, remain calm and answer all the consular officer's questions openly and honestly.

Consular officers do security checks for all visa applicants. They do special security clearances for some applicants as required by law. Students who study scientific and technical subjects are subject to additional background checks. These clearances may take several weeks or longer. Be sure to make your visa appointment well in advance of your intended travel.

If your F-1 visa application is denied, you will receive a formal notification in the mail. Email us right away and attach this notification so we can best advise you on next steps.


What is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)?

SEVIS is a web-based system for maintaining information on international nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors in the United States. UC Berkeley Extension has been approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to accept F-1 and J-1 students and we are required to report the following information through SEVIS:

  • Your name*
  • Foreign address
  • Email address
  • Date and city of birth*
  • U.S. address
  • Phone number
  • Country of citizenship*

*Schools are required to report this information for all dependents in the U.S. as well.

U.S. schools are also required to notify SEVIS if:

  • there is a change in your U.S. address.
  • there is a change in your present full-time status.
  • you withdraw from school or stop attending courses.
  • you fail to maintain full-time status.


What is the I-901 SEVIS fee?

The I-901 SEVIS fee is a $350 fee that all international students are required to pay. This fee helps fund the Student and Exchange Visitor Program that makes it possible for international students to pursue their studies in the United States. Please remember that this fee is separate from any visa fees charged by an embassy or consulate and school fees charged by the university.


Who pays the SEVIS fee?

  • Newly admitted students with an "Initial Attendance" Form I-20
  • Newly admitted students with an "Initial Attendance" Form I-20 who are applying for a change to F-1 status from another visa category
  • F-1 students in the U.S. filing for reinstatement if they have been out of status for more than five months

Note: F-2 dependents do not have to pay the SEVIS fee.


When and how do I pay the SEVIS fee?

As a prospective F-1 student, regulation requires that you pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before the Department of State will issue you a visa. To pay the fee with a credit card, log on to and complete the form. Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20. Be sure to print a copy of the online receipt and bring it to your visa interview.

If you are transferring schools, extending your program, applying for an F-2 dependent visa, or have paid the SEVIS fee within the last 12 months, you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee.


Can I take Summer Sessions courses on a tourist visa or Visa Waiver Program?

ISS can neither advise nor assist students who choose to enter the United States using B1/B2 Visitor Visas or the Visa Waiver Program (VWP/ESTA). Study restrictions apply to both. All international students are strongly encouraged to obtain F-1 student visa status.


What documents do I need when I arrive in the U.S.?

Hand-carry the following documents during your trip:

  • Signed Form I-20
  • Passport and F-1 visa
  • Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee payment (Form I-901)
  • The contact information of International Student Services (ISS)
    • 1995 University Ave, Suite 130, Berkeley, CA 94704
    • Office Phone: (510) 642-2564
    • After-Hours Emergency Line: (510) 409-6156 (call or text)