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Frequently Asked Questions

F-1 Visa Information

What is an F-1 visa?
An F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows students to pursue a full course of study (18+ hours per week) in the United States. F-1 visas are only issued in U.S. embassies and consulates outside the United States. Prospective F1 students must obtain a Form I-20 from Hunter College-IELI in order to apply for an F1 visa.


How do I get an F-1 visa?
An F-1 visa can be acquired outside the United States at a U.S. embassy or consulate. After receiving the I-20 form issued by the IELI at Hunter College, you must request an interview and apply for an F-1 visa in your country’s local U.S. embassy or consulate. Be sure to submit the SEVIS payment fee at least three days prior to interview date. We strongly recommend that you check the latest information at the US embassy in your country at


What is an I-20 form?
The Form I-20 is an official U.S. government form that has been issued by an SEVP-certified school in order to become an F-1 student. This form is evidence of acceptance into a full-time program at the school that has issued the Form I-20. The school does not issue visas.


How do I get an I-20 form?
When the International Student Office receives your completed application, tuition payment and financial sponsor documents, your application will be processed within five business days and an acceptance package will be sent to you. For a mailing fee of $65, the IELI at Hunter College mails your I-20 via USPS express mail. Your I-20 documents will arrive within 7-10 business days of being mailed.


When must I send the school my application for admission and the I-20 form?
The I-20 Application Form indicates the application deadlines for each semester of the academic year. Please directly contact the international student office if you have questions regarding the application deadlines.


What documents must I send the school to receive the I-20 form?
The I-20 Application Form comes with complete instructions to follow (pages 2-3). Before you send us your application, be sure you and your sponsor include the following documents:


Additional required documents for Transfer students

  • Copy of F-1 visa.
  • I-94 (Arrival Record).
  • Transfer Verification form (permission to transfer from current school).
  • Copy of all previous I-20 forms (all schools previously attended).


How much money do I need to obtain my visa?
A minimum balance of $22,500 USD must be presented by the sponsor (or student if they are sponsoring themselves). A bank statement or letter from the financial sponsor must accompany the Affidavit of Support form. The bank statement or letter must include all of the following:

(1) a minimum balance of $22,500 USD,

(2) the name of sponsor and type of account presented,

(3) letter/statement must be written in English (or with a notarized translation attached), and

4) a stamp or signature from the bank.


Are there deadlines?
Yes, please directly contact the International Student Office ( if you have questions regarding the application deadlines.


Can I send copies or fax my financial documents?
The Affidavit Of Support and Bank Statement must be submitted as original documents by mail. Copies, emails, or faxed forms will not be accepted.


My I-20 says I must report to school three weeks before the semester begins, why?
Testing and registration at the IELI take place approximately 3 weeks before a semester begins. Students are strongly recommended to report to school 3 weeks before classes begin. When you arrive, you must come to the IELI International Student Office with your new I-20 and passport/visa so we can report your arrival to Immigration. You are also required to attend an orientation seminar for new students a week before classes begin.


When can I enter the U.S. after obtaining my F-1 visa?
You may enter the U.S. no sooner than 30 days prior to the start date on your I-20.


What must I do if I cannot travel to the U.S. before my reporting date?
If you cannot travel to the U.S. before the reporting date on your I-20, you must contact the school immediately. If there is still space available for testing and registration, the school will approve an extension of your reporting date. In general, reporting dates cannot be extended by more than one week.


Can I change my semester starting date if I cannot travel to the U.S. before classes begin?
You are permitted to change your school starting date a maximum of two (2) times if you cannot begin classes during the semester you have chosen. You must return the original I-20 form