There have been many changes in U.S. immigration policies and practices over the past few years.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has been replaced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, (USCIS). In addition to the name change, the U.S. government has introduced the Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is an online database that connects immigration officials and U.S. colleges and universities by providing information on international students and scholars.
On September 1, 2004, a new United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule went into effect. This rule requires F-1 and J-1 visa applicants to pay a one-time fee of $200 to supplement the administration and maintenance costs of SEVIS.
Having a U.S. visa is like having a key to enter the country. The expiration date on your visa is the last day you may enter the United States from abroad. You need a valid visa every time you enter the country. Depending upon the type of visa you use to enter the U.S., you are subject to different guidelines in order to "maintain status" or remain in this country legally. The International Students and Scholars (ISS) office can help guide students through the application for F-1 student visas.
To apply for an F-1 visa, you will need a SEVIS-issued Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Students from the dental school. The ISS office will issue a SEVIS eligibility form under the following conditions:
(a) you have been fully accepted into a program of study at the dental school and
(b) you have shown proof of financial support for the first year of study. You should complete and submit the Certification of Finances form, which you will receive once acceptance is verified by the dental school.
The Certification of Finances form is used to show proof of support for your first year of study. You must demonstrate sufficient funding to cover all expenses including tuition, fees, books and living expenses. Funding may come from your own personal account, a private sponsor's account and/or scholarships/loans that have been approved. In addition to filling out the form, you will need to provide adequate verification of the funds. Verification documents include:
You should obtain two original copies of the financial verification documents.
One set of originals should be sent to the dental school; the other set of originals should be retained by you, so that you may have them available when applying for a visa and for use at the port of entry.
The visa application process and required documents may differ depending upon the requirements of the specific consular office in your home country.
Once you have obtained an eligibility form from the dental school, you will need to pay the required $200 SEVIS fee, get the fee receipt and make an appointment at the embassy/consulate. Bring the following documents to your appointment:
You must also present the first three documents to an immigration inspector at the U.S. port of entry. The immigration inspector decides whether or not to admit you into the U.S. with an F-1 nonimmigrant status.
Students who are citizens of Canada may obtain their F-1 visas at the port of entry. Canadian students will be required to present their Form I-20, passport and additional supporting financial documents to the U.S. Immigration Inspector at the U.S. port of entry.
Landed immigrants in Canada must contact the U.S. embassy/consulate and apply for a visa before entering the U.S.
After an I-20 is issued and a visa has been obtained, it is best to work within the budget you have estimated for your stay in the U.S. as a student using the funds verified and stated on your I-20.