General Timeline

"Foreign students and exchange visitors bring invaluable contributions to our nation."      Secretary Napolitano

1. Get Accepted: This is of course the most important part of the visa process! Before you can apply for your student visa, you must be accepted by your US university. However, as you wait to hear news on your acceptance, there are several steps you can take to familiarise yourself with the visa process and begin gathering documents while you wait.

2. Get your Certificate of Eligibility: I-20 (F-1 students)/DS-2019 (J-1 students): Work with your US university or visa sponsor to get a certificate of eligibility to show you are eligible to apply for a student visa. In doing so, you will have to show proof of funds for your first year of study. Allow 4-6 weeks for this process. Check out our while you wait page for ideas for how to make the most of this time and our page for Dependents if applicable. 

3. Schedule your Visa Interview at the US Embassy London by calling 020 3608 6998 (Operator Assisted £1.20/minute) between the hours of 7 am - 7 pm Monday - Friday or in your home country (non-UK citizens should see the US Embassy's website). You will also pay the MRV fee at this time. This can be done before you receive your I-20/DS-2019, but allow time to receive these forms as you must have them when you go to your interview.

4. SEVIS (F-1 and J-1): Complete the SEVIS I-901 form (Students and Exchange Visitor Information System) to register with the US international visitor database and pay the SEVIS fee, after receiving your I-20 or DS-2019.

5. DS-160 (F-1 and J-1): Complete the online DS-160 online visa application form and pay the visa application fee. You can begin filling out the DS-160 online for up to 120 days prior to your entry to the US.

6. Interview: Attend your visa interview at the US Embassy in London or in your home country.

7. After your interview you will leave your passport with the US Embassy. Expect to receive your visa and passport within an average of 5-7 working days. Average waiting times are available online and updated regularly. While expedited service is not offered, should the need arise the Embassy can schedule an emergency appointment.

If for some reason your visa is refused, please see the information on the US Embassy's website on visa refusals.

8. Upon receiving your visa, book your travel to the US. F-1 visa holders may enter the US 30 days prior to the start date on their I-20 and stay on 60 days following the date of completion of your programme listed on the I-20. J-1 visa holders may also enter the US 30 days prior to the start date on their DS-2019, but may stay on only 30 days beyond the date of completion listed on the DS-2019.

9. Finally, do not forget to read the pre-departure section of our website as you prepare to go to the US!



Note: This page is meant to be a general guide to the visa application process. Local US Embassies are the official source of information on visas, and any information provided to you by the US Embassy supersedes information on this webpage.


For more information on visas visit the US State Department website. They have sections on  

F Visas and J Visas. You may also want to review the information provided by the US Embassy in London. Additionally, talk with your US university or visa sponsor for further information. If you are not a UK citizen, we encourage you to also read the US Embassy London's webpage on visas for non-residents.