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Applying for Your F1 Visa & Preparing for Arrival

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After you receive your English Institute admission packet with your Form I-20, you can apply for your F1 visa and prepare to study English in the U.S.A. Here are some helpful resources to guide you.

  • Apply for Your F1 Visa
    1. Pay the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee.
    2. Visit the U.S. Embassy website to locate the U.S. Embassy or Consulate that is most convenient for you to visit for your visa interview. After you have selected the embassy or consulate from the list, you will be directed to that embassy or consulate’s website. Click “Visas,” then click “Non-Immigrant Visas” for detailed instructions about how to apply for your F1 visa.
    3. Complete the Online Non-Immigrant Visa Application (DS-160).
    4. Pay your visa fee.
    5. Schedule an appointment for your visa interview. You should not delay in scheduling your visa interview because wait times can be many days and you must be able to arrive in the U.S. by the program start date that is listed on your I-20. Approximate wait times for visa interviews can be found by entering the city where you will go for your interview on the U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs website.
    6. Attend your visa interview. Bring the following documents with you:
      1. Form I-20
      2. Printed Form DS-160 confirmation page
      3. Passport valid for at least 6 months after you plan to enter the U.S.
      4. Two by two inch photo of yourself. View photo requirements.
      5. Receipt for visa application fee payment
      6. Receipt for I-901 SEVIS fee payment
      7. Financial documents and sponsorship forms that you provided with your EI application to prove that you have the financial ability to pay for school costs plus living expenses
      8. Standardized test scores, academic transcripts, diplomas, or certificates from previous study are also helpful to demonstrate that you are prepared for the academic program in which you plan to enroll
      9. Though not required, these documents may also be helpful:
        1. Written explanation of why you wish to study in the U.S. and your plans to return to your country
        2. Personal bank account, credit card, and/or loan information
        3. Property under your name
        4. Offer of employment upon your return
        5. Letter from your current school stating that you will return to complete studies

    This information is summarized on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Study in the States website.

  • Prepare for Your Visa Interview

    Below, please find a set of tips for you to review as you get ready for your visa interview. 

    • Be prepared to speak about your plans.
    • Be aware that the visa interview may be conducted in English. 
    • Do not bring parents or family members to the interview (except dependents who will be traveling with you). It is important that you speak for yourself during this time.
    • Keep your answers to the officer’s questions clear and concise. 
    • Common questions in an F1 visa interview include:
      • Why do you want to go to the United States?
      • What are you going to do in the United States?
      • Where/with whom are you going to live?
      • How long are you going to stay in the United States?
      • What do you plan to study and at what level (for example, English only, Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and/or Doctorate)? How much time do you think it will take you?
      • Have you finished high school or graduated from college?
      • Why do you want to study English at HCC?
      • Who is going to pay for all of this?
      • Do you have enough money?
      • Who is your sponsor? What does s/he do for a job?
      • Do you have relatives living in the United States?
      • Are you married? Do you have children?
      • Will anyone be travelling with you?
      • When do you plan to go to the United States?
      • What will you do after you return to your home country?
  • Make Travel Arrangements

    When making travel arrangements, please note that you can arrive in the U.S. no more than 30 days before the program start state on your I-20, but no later than the start date. You can refer to your admission letter for the appropriate arrival dates. If you cannot arrive by the start date, you should notify us as soon as possible.

    The closest airport to HCC is Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshal Airport. Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport are about one hour away from HCC by car. 

  • Prepare for Arrival
    • Find housing. HCC does not have on-campus housing. View Location & Housing information for the variety of housing options that Columbia has to offer.
    • Find a hotel. If you will not have housing upon arrival, you should find a hotel when you first arrive. A list of hotels close to the college is also available on the Location & Housing page .
    • Find transportation. If you will not have transportation upon arrival, you can refer to the website of the airport where you will arrive. You can also visit our Student Services page in advance to get to your housing or hotel..
    • Consider applying for a driver’s license or International Driving Permit in your country before you arrive. If you plan to drive in the U.S., it is best if you already have a driver’s license from your home country or an International Driving Permit before you arrive. You can drive for up to 60 days after your arrival with your home country license or up to one year with an International Driving Permit. If you do not have a driver’s license from your home country, it will take between 45 days and nine months before you will be eligible to apply for a Maryland Provisional Driver’s License.
    • On the day that you travel, make sure to carry your passport with F1 visa and Form I-20 with you; do not put them in your checked baggage. 
  • Schedule Your Placement Test

    You can schedule your placement test before or after you arrive by contacting the EI. The appointment will take about an hour and a half or 90 minutes. The placement test consists of three parts: (1) a 40-question multiple-choice test on the computer to assess your reading and language usage skills, (2) a writing sample, and (3) a speaking evaluation.

    You should bring the following items to your appointment:

    • Your passport with F1 visa
    • Proof of health insurance or a credit/debit card to enroll in health insurance
    • U.S. address and phone number (if you have one)
    • U.S. emergency contact information (if you have one)
  • Attend EI New Student Orientation
    At the EI new student orientation, you will meet other EI students and staff, learn about life in the U.S. and at the EI, and take a campus tour. Refer to your admission letter or to our calendar for the date, time, and location of the orientation.
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