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Apply for a Visa Stamp

Pay the SEVIS Fee

Newly admitted students must pay a one-time SEVIS fee (also known as the I-901 fee) before they can apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa. Pay your SEVIS fee here.

  • The SEVIS fee is not a University fee, and it is in addition to any fees you might be required to pay at a U.S. consulate.  Dependent family members are not required to pay the fee.
  • Once the SEVIS fee has been paid, you will apply for a U.S. visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S. The only exception is for Canadian citizens, who do not need an F-1 or J-1 stamp to enter the United States but who must still request an I-20/DS-2019 and pay the SEVIS fee.

Scheduling Your Appointment

For information on scheduling your visa appointment and to find the consulate or embassy nearest to you, visit the U.S. Consulates and Embassies Abroad website. Many consulates and embassies provide online appointment scheduling.

Visa processing times vary widely depending on the country and time of year, and some applications may undergo a rigid and time-consuming background check. If you are subject to a background check, there is little Northwestern can do to speed up the process. Therefore, we suggest scheduling your appointment as soon as you receive your I-20 or DS-2019, no sooner. Learn more about visa delay.

U.S. consulates and embassies can issue F-1 stamps up to 365 days prior to the start date listed on the I-20.  Unlike F-1 students, J exchange visitors are not subject to the 365 day limit on how long before their program begin date they may apply for a J visa.

Once you receive your visa, you may enter the US up to 30 days prior to the program start date.

Requesting an expedited visa appointment

U.S Consulates may be able to expedite your interview date to facilitate your arrival at the beginning of the academic term and for international student orientation. The process to request an expedited nonimmigrant visa interview varies by location. You should refer to the instructions on the website of the Embassy or Consulate Visa Section  where you will interview, or on their online appointment scheduling site. Please note:

  • You must first submit the online nonimmigrant visa application form (DS-160), pay the visa application processing fee, and schedule the first available interview appointment, even if that interview appointment is far into the future. Only at this point will a consular section consider your request for an expedited appointment.
  • Students and exchange visitors requesting expedited appointments should be prepared to provide an I-20 or DS-2019 form showing that they would miss the beginning of their courses/programs if not granted an expedited appointment.

Required Documents

The following items are required in support of your application for an F-1 or J-1 visa:

  • Non-Immigrant visa application DS-160
  • Valid I-20 or DS-2019 from Northwestern
  • Valid passport
  • SEVIS fee (I-901 fee) payment receipt.  Go to the I-901 fee website to pay your fee and print a receipt. If you have paid the I-901 fee, but choose to defer your enrollment, please note that the SEVIS fee can only be transferred for ONE CALENDAR YEAR. If you defer your I-20/ DS-2019 more than a year, you will have to pay the fee again. 
  • At least two passport-style photographs, taken recently (See the embassy web site for specifications)
  • Proof that you have permanent residence outside the U.S.
  • Current and original financial documentation.
  • A copy of the marriage certificate and/or birth certificate if your spouse and/or child are applying for the F-2/J-2 separately.

Please note that students admitted to multiple schools must decide which school to attend before applying for a visa stamp.