Applying for a U.S. Visa

Welcome to Georgetown University! Students who have an immigration document from Georgetown ready to start the next phase of U.S. immigration. This visa and immigration guide helps students easily navigate U.S. immigration requirements. Whether students are applying for a new visa, paying the SEVIS I-901 Fee, transferring their immigration status or looking for information about their responsibilities upon arrival, this guide clarifies the role each admitted student plays in becoming a student at Georgetown. Information on health insurance, housing, bank accounts, etc. are available in Resources page. Upon arrival, OGS staff, faculty, and academic deans/advisors will be prepared to answer remaining questions.

What is Orientation and am I required to attend?
The orientation program is a critical component of the transition to Georgetown. Graduate students (including graduate exchange students) must attend all required information sessions at International Graduate Orientation (IGO). Undergraduate students are required to attend International New Student Orientation (I-NSO).

With limited exceptions*, each international student applying for admission to the United States must hold a valid entry visa. Students should contact their nearest U.S. consulate for specific details on how to obtain an F-1 or J-1 nonimmigrant student visa. In Taiwan, contact the American Institute.
Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-160 for F-1 and J-1 status. Students must apply for the visa that corresponds to your immigration document. Those who received a Form I-20 should apply for an F-1 visa and those who received a Form DS-2019 should apply for a J-1 visa.
Reminder: GU-Q students must apply for an F-1 visa; Exchange visitors must apply for a J-1 visa. Any student who receives the wrong type of immigration document should email immediately.
Be prepared to present the following at the U.S. consulate:
– SEVIS Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1)
– One passport size photograph
– Evidence of financial support (e.g., bank documents, scholarship letter, approved loan application, etc.)
– Evidence of no intention to abandon residence of home country (e.g., strong family ties, pre-arranged job in home country, other economic ties, etc.)
– Passport (valid at least 6 months beyond the program start date)
– Proof of English-language proficiency
– Georgetown University admission letter
– SEVIS I-901 Fee payment receipt
– DS-160 confirmation receipt

*Exceptions to the visa requirement: The most common exception to the visa requirement is made for Canadian citizens and certain landed Canadian immigrants. Please see the U.S. Embassy’s website for more information. Other notable exceptions currently include citizens of the Freely Associated States or FAS (Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau) who are in direct transit from the FAS to the United States, citizens of Bermuda, citizens of British Overseas Territories, Bahamian nationals, and British subjects residing in the Bahamas who complete immigration inspection at Freeport or Nassau.

More Information on the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program:

Welcome to Georgetown University! The goal of Georgetown University’s J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is to promote cultural and educational exchange between international and domestic students, faculty, staff, and community members as well as to promote greater diversity and international awareness within the university community.

Components of this program include:
– Educational, research and teaching activities
– Orientation
– Cultural exchange programming (such as the Language Exchange Program and Global Expo)
– Cultural adjustment support
– Logistical support
– Immigration advising

Please also visit the U.S. Department of State’s website and their Exchange Visitor Program Welcome brochure.

What is the SEVIS I-901 Fee?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) charges a one-time SEVIS I-901 Fee for students beginning a new F-1 or J-1 program. This fee is separate from the visa application fee.

Who must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee?
An incoming student applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa, whose Form I-20 is marked for initial attendance or whose Form DS-2019 is to be used for initial participation in a program.
An incoming student applying for a change of status to F-1 or J-1 from another visa category inside the United States.
A current F-1 student in the United States who is filing for reinstatement after being out of status more than five months.
A J-1 Exchange Visitor applying for a change of category (J-1 researcher to a J-1 student, etc.) within the United States.
A J-1 Exchange Visitor in a U.S. Government-sponsored program who is transferring to a non-U.S. Government-sponsored program.

Who is exempt from paying the SEVIS I-901 Fee?
Students transferring their immigration status to Georgetown from another U.S. institution or outside J-1 Exchange Program (except those currently sponsored by the U.S. Government).
Dependents (spouses or unmarried children under the age of 21) of F-1 and J-1 visa holders.
Students applying for reinstatement who have been out of status for less than five months.

When do I pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee?
At least three business days prior to your visa interview at the U.S. consulate.
At least three business days before entering a U.S. port of entry if you are exempt from the visa requirement.
Prior to the submission of a change of status application.

How do I pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee by credit card?
Complete the Form I-901 online.
Supply the necessary Visa, MasterCard or American Express information. Enter name exactly as it appears on the I-20 or DS-2019.
Print a copy of the online receipt.
Make a copy of the receipt and keep it with all other important immigration documents. Students must take the printed receipt with them to the U.S. consulate visa interview. Students applying for a change of status to F-1 or J-1 within the United States should make a copy of the receipt to include with your application.

How do I pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee in my local currency?
This option is available in any country where Western Union offers its Quick Pay service.
Complete the SEVIS I-901 Fee online prior to visiting a Western Union location. 
Access the instructions, along with a completed sample of the Western Union form, on the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website.
Find the nearest Western Union.
Bring a printed copy of the instructions and the sample of the completed Western Union form to the nearest Western Union office to process the payment.
After three business days, check the SEVP website to view the payment status. Once payment is confirmed on the website, print out the confirmation page as proof of payment.

How do I transfer the SEVIS I-901 Fee?
The SEVIS I-901 Fee is transferable. It is attached to the student’s name, not the SEVIS number. Save the receipt of payment with all important immigration documents. Students who paid the SEVIS I-901 Fee using another institution’s Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 and have decided to attend Georgetown University instead must simply save both the receipt and the unused immigration form for which the original SEVIS I-901 Fee was paid and bring them to your visa interview. Students may transfer their SEVIS I-901 Fee from one institution to another online or request a refund of the fee by email or calling I-901 Customer Support at 703.603.3400.

Report Date

Students must arrive in the United States no later than the report date listed on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 (section 3), and no earlier than 30 days prior to this date. Students who cannot enter by the date indicated on the immigration document must notify OGS by email at

International Travel Following Initial Entry
While students are permitted to enter the United States up to 30 days prior to their program start date, we discourage F-1 and J-1 students from making immediate international travel plans after having entered the United States. International travel requires prior verification with the U.S. government. Since immigration records will only be updated and registered after the mandatory immigration compliance session, students should wait to leave the United States until OGS has completed the registration process with the U.S. government. SEVIS registration will be complete 30 days after the program start date listed on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. 

Students who have already entered the United States and are compelled to travel internationally for unforeseen reasons before SEVIS registration is complete must contact their dedicated IS Advisor. For all other cases, please consult the Office of Global Services (OGS) prior to entering the United States in F-1 or J-1 status.

I-94 Record of Entry
An I-94 Record of Entry should be created for all students, without exception, upon arrival in the United States. The I-94 procedure differs according to the method of entry into the United States.

Arrival by Airplane
The I-94 Record is the official record of your immigration status in the United States. Arrivals by airplane are recorded electronically, and the I-94 is available online. After arriving in the United States, view and print a copy of the I-94 Record to retain with all other important immigration documents. Verify personal information including name and date of birth match the information as it is entered on the student visa. Students who are exempt from the visa requirement should compare the information on the I-94 Record to the same information on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. Verify the I-94 Record shows the correct immigration status (F-1 or J-1) and the “Admit Until Date” shows D/S. After entry to the United States, students who find an error on the I-94 Record or are unable to locate their I-94 Record online should email

Arrival by Automobile, Bus, Train, or Boat
The I-94 Record is the official record of your immigration status in the United States. Students who arrive by land must schedule and pay the I-94 fee in advance of their arrival to the border. Carefully complete the white card provided during travel, write name exactly as it appears on the student visa stamp in the passport. A student who is exempt from the visa requirement should write their name as it is listed on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. The official at the port of entry must stamp the I-94 Card either J-1 and D/S or F-1 and D/S, depending on the immigration document and the student visa. The I-94 Card should be stapled into the passport for safekeeping.

Upon arrival in the United States, be prepared to show the following documents to the inspections officer:
– valid passport
– F-1 or J-1 entry visa (unless exempt)
– original admission letter
– original financial support documentation
– Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 issued by Georgetown – Do not present an immigration document issued by any other institution.
– Proof of SEVIS I-901 Fee payment

Biometric Identity Management
Upon entry to the United States, all visitors are subject to biometric identification through digital photographs and fingerprints. For more information, please see the Office of Biometric Identity Management website

Students previously enrolled in F-1 or J-1 student status at another U.S. institution and currently have an active SEVIS record, should have requested a transfer of their immigration status to Georgetown. The Georgetown Form I-20 should indicate “Transfer Pending”, while a Form DS-2019 lists the transfer release information in section 8. The Georgetown-issued document must be used to reenter the United States by transfer students currently abroad or those who plan to travel abroad prior to the start of the Georgetown semester. If the F-1 or J-1 student visa is still valid, there is no need to apply for a renewal. Secure all previous Form I-20s or Form DS-2019s with all other important documents and have them accessible in case an inspections officer has any questions.

For detailed information on housing, transportation, etc., please visit our Resources page.