F-1 Students Visa

Most Suffolk international students hold F-1 student status, a non-immigrant classification which allows you to remain in the U.S. Get informed about the regulations and learn the steps to apply.

Shipment of Documents

Learn how to request shipment(s) of documents to International Student Services (ISSO).

Update Your Address

It is important that F-1 students keep their current address and contact information on file with Suffolk University. Update your contact information now.

Department of State Resources (external websites)

F-1 Visa Application

Before you begin the visa application process, you must have the following documents:

  • Form I-20 (Sent to you in the mail from Suffolk after you have been admitted.)Your I-20 is required when applying for an F-1 student visa at an American Embassy or Consulate and for entry into the United States. This I-20 has been produced by Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and is an acknowledgement that your record is in the SEVIS system. The form includes your SEVIS ID number, which is the number in the upper right hand corner above the bar code (usually starts with an N).
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt All new students coming in F-1 status must pay a $200 SEVIS fee prior to applying for your visa.

Applying for your Student Visa

You must apply for your visa well in advance of your arrival, as it can, in some instances take several weeks, and occasionally longer, to obtain the student visa. To apply for a U.S. visa, you will need to present the following documents at the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to you:

  • Your Form I-20
  • The SEVIS Fee receipt
  • A copy of your financial support documents, i.e. evidence that you have sufficient funds to meet the expenses of studying at Suffolk, e.g. bank statement.
  • A valid passport
  • Passport-size photographs
  • Completed visa applications forms (Visa application forms are available on individual consular Web sites)

An application fee and an interview will also be required.

Special Notes
When applying for your student visa, pay careful attention to the following:

  • The U.S. Department of State has instructed U.S. consulates that they may issue an F-1 visa no more than 120 days in advance of the program start date. However, an application for an F-1 visa can be submitted more than 120 days in advance of the I-20 start date in order to accommodate long processing times. Again check the Web site of the consulate where you will apply for a visa for detailed instructions.
  • You must pay particular attention to the starting date noted on this document (Item #3), as you must enter the U.S. by this date. If you cannot enter the U.S. by this date, please contact ISSO.

In addition, you may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days prior to the starting date noted on the I-20 Form. If you try to enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the start date on your I-20, you may not be permitted to enter the U.S.

All new F-1 Students using I-20 must pay a $200 SEVIS fee prior to applying for a U.S. visa.

When should you pay the SEVIS fee?

The SEVIS fee must be paid at least three days prior to submitting the application for a U.S. visa. Canadian citizens, who are exempt from the visa requirement, must pay the SEVIS fee at least three days prior to applying for admission to the U.S. at a U.S. port of entry.

How do you pay the SEVIS fee?

You may pay this fee with a credit card through an internet connection or by mail in the form of a check or money order to DHS. Third party payment is permitted. To pay the fee online, go to FMJFEE. Complete the form supplying the necessary information. Be certain that your name appears exactly as it appears on the I-20 form. The SEVIS ID# is the number which begins with N000 located in the upper right hand corner of the I-20 form.

On the second screen you will provide the payment information. If you pay by credit card, you will immediately receive a receipt of the payment. Print out the receipt (the print button is at the bottom of the receipt page). A receipt (I-797) will also be mailed to you. If you are paying by mail, you will print out the I-901 form and send it to the address indicated with a check or money order in US dollars for $200.

The receipt is proof you have paid the fee. You will need to present the fee receipt with your application for a visa. (Canadians will need to present the fee receipt at the U.S. port of entry). Get more information about the SEVIS fee.

F-1 Visa Regulations

There are some exceptions to the full time study rule. However, you must obtain special permission from ISSO prior to reducing your course load.

Academic Exceptions

Permitted if a student encounters academic difficulties due to:

  • initial English language difficulties or reading requirements

  • unfamiliarity with US teaching methods

  • improper course level placement

To reduce your course load based on an academic exception you must have prior approval from your program and from ISSO.

Terms of Reduced Course Load

This benefit can only be approved for a single semester, typically in the first semester during any one course of study.

  • Students must resume a full course of study in the next available term, excluding summer.

  • Students must meet Suffolk's registration minimum and/or stay registered at least half time.

Final Semester
If a student needs less than full-time enrollment in the final semester of program to complete degree requirements.

Illness or Medical Condition
If a student has a temporary illness or medical condition that prevents full-time enrollment that interferes with full time study. Prior approval is required.

F-1 students who do not complete their program of study by the expiration date noted on the I-20 form must apply for a program extension before the I-20 expiration date. Failure to extend your stay could jeopardize your legal status and will result in your having to file an application with the USCIS for reinstatement to status (with a $290 fee).

Request a program extension.

If you are in lawful F-1 status and are completing or leaving your current program with confirmed arrangements to continue your studies in the U.S. at a different institution in the next academic semester, you must complete the F-1 transfer process. The transfer procedure is initiated by the school you are currently attending and is completed through SEVIS by the new school.

F-1 Transfer Eligibility

  • Students must be maintaining legal F-1 status

  • Must notify current school of intention to transfer within 60 days of completion

  • New program start date must be within 5 months of the current program end date

F-1 students who have made a commitment to attend another institution must notify ISSO of their intention to transfer within 60 days of the completion of their Suffolk program.

  • Stop by ISSO during open hours to meet with an adviser to notify us about your intention to transfer to a new academic institution and to work out the SEVIS transfer release date.

  • Bring your letter of admission to the new program.

  • Bring the transfer-in form from the new institution you will be attending. Contact the Designated School Official (DSO) at your new school to see if there is form you need to complete for them.

  • Your SEVIS record will be electronically released to your new school on the mutually agreed upon date of release.

F-1 Transfer Pending Travel or Summer in the US

F-1 transfer students are eligible to remain in the U.S. in the summer between two programs.
F-1 transfer students may travel outside the US during the transfer pending period. If your current visa in the passport is valid, it can be used for new entry to the US prior to the start of your new program. If your current F-1 visa is expired, you must apply for a new F-1 visa prior to returning to the US, using the I-20 from your new school.

F-1 Transfer Completion

Students must check in at new institution within 15 days of the start date on the new I-20.
Your new school will complete the F-1 transfer in SEVIS and issue you a new I-20 noting the transfer completion.

If you are currently an F-1 student at another academic institution and will be enrolling in a Suffolk program this Fall your I-20 will be issued to you through the F-1 transfer process.

  • Complete the F-1 Transfer Release form.
  • Obtain the signature of your international student adviser at your current school.
  • Submit the form to ISSO via email.

Your current international student advisor will set your current SEVIS record to be electronically released to Suffolk on a mutually agreed upon date of release. Discuss the appropriate date of release with your current international student adviser.Once the SEVIS record is released to Suffolk and all other admissions materials have been submitted, the new Form I-20 from Suffolk will be issued and sent to you by your admissions office.

F-1 Transfer Pending Travel or Summer in the US

  • F-1 transfer students are eligible to remain in the U.S. in the summer between two programs.
  • F-1 transfer students may travel outside the US during the transfer pending period. If your current visa in the passport is valid, it can be used for new entry to the US prior to the start of your new program. If your current F-1 visa is expired, you must apply for a new F-1 visa prior to returning to the US, using the I-20 from your new school.

If you are currently a Suffolk student, completing a program and have been admitted to a new Suffolk program to begin the next academic semester ISSO will need to issue you new I-20 through the SEVIS system. Please visit ISSO to speak with an advisor to make appropriate arrangements. You must notify ISSO within 60 days of completion of your previous program.

If you are considering a leave of absence, you must consult with ISSO before making your final decision. In most instances, an F-1 student may not remain in the U.S. in F-1 during a leave of absence. You will either have to depart the U.S. or make arrangements to hold another non-immigrant status.

A student who has failed to maintain F-1 student status and who wishes to return to or transfer to Suffolk, must apply for and be granted reinstatement to F-1 student status by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Maintaining F-1 student status means that you have been a full-time student and have not overstayed the authorized period of stay as identified on your I-20 form. If you have taken less than a full course of study, not extended your I-20 or not completed the F-1 transfer procedure, you are likely out of status and must apply for reinstatement before you can be granted any additional benefits from the USCIS (e.g. authorization to accept practical training). A student who has worked without authorization is also out of status, but is not eligible for reinstatement. If you think that you may be out of status, please consult with ISSO immediately. The longer you wait to address the problem the more difficult it can become.

The reinstatement application includes the following documents:

  • completed I-539 form with the $300 filing fee (the check should be made payable to Department of Homeland Security). Write the word, "REINSTATEMENT" on the top of the form.
  • a newly obtained I-20 form issued by Suffolk University
  • your original I-94 form
  • a copy of your previous I-20 form
  • evidence of continued funding
  • a written statement requesting reinstatement which explains that the violation of student status resulted from circumstances beyond your control and/or that the failure to be reinstated would result in extreme hardship. Any documentation that supports your claim should be attached.

ISSO will review your letter prior to your submitting the application. Do not apply for reinstatement without first speaking with an ISSO adviser.

Applications for reinstatement are sent to the USCIS Service Center in Vermont. The address is:

USCIS Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden Street
St. Albans, VT 05479-0001

As with all immigration applications, you should keep copies of all documents submitted. A decision to reinstate an individual to F-1 student status is completely at the discretion of the USCIS. If the application is approved, USCIS adjudicates the new I-20 form, makes appropriate entry in SEVIS and returns the I-20 to you along with the I-94 form.