Visa and Immigration Information
To study full-time at the ELI, students must have an F-1 Student Visa if they are not U.S. citizens or legal residents. One of the primary documents needed to apply for an F-1 Student Visa is a SEVIS Form I-20.
Notre Dame of Maryland University has been approved with SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, which is an internet-based system that provides tracking, monitoring and access to current information on non-immigrant students. SEVIS enables schools to issue I-20s and to transmit electronic information via the internet to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) throughout a student's stay in the United States. The English Language Institute issues the SEVIS Form I-20 once a student has been accepted into the program.
Effective September 1, 2004, the Department of Homeland Security began collecting a congressionally mandated fee to cover the costs for the continued operation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).
The form I-901 Online Completion site is available at fmjfee.com. The site is used to pay the SEVIS fee required for F, M, and J non-immigrants, and provides a brief explanation of the fee requirement and procedure to pay online. For more detailed information on the fee payment process, go to the SEVP website and review the I-901 Fee frequently asked questions. That site also contains a link to the PDF version of Form I-901 and an electronic version of Form I-901 that you can fill out online.
If a prospective student is already studying in the United States on an F-1 visa, please contact the English Language Institute for procedures about transferring to our program.
There are 3 main steps to getting an F-1 visa.
- Apply to the ELI. The application form must be filled out completely and submitted with an original bank statement in English; a letter of sponsorship from the account holder, and original transcripts from the student’s high school or university. If a student is accepted, he or she will receive an acceptance letter and a Form I-20. The Form I-20 shows the United States Embassy/Consulate that the student will be enrolled at our Institution.
- Pay the SEVIS fee
- Make a visa appointment at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in the student’s home country. Normally, the following are needed:
- Paper receipt of SEVIS fee
- Form I-20
- Letter of Admission from the ELI at Notre Dame of Maryland University
- Proof of financial support (original bank statement)
- Valid, unexpired passport
- Two identical photographs
- Visa application fee, if required
Financial Support Requirements
The Department of Homeland Security requires that all F-1 applicants have financial resources that will adequately cover their expenses while in the United States. To receive a SEVIS Form I-20, the student must submit, along with the application, an original bank statement and letter of sponsorship that shows proof of sufficient funding to cover tuition, housing and other estimated personal expenses while in the United States. Financial statements must cover the full amount for the period of time enrolled in the program and be current within the last 6 months.
If a student will be sponsored by a company, organization or government agency, he or she must include a letter from the sponsor listing which costs and expense the sponsor will pay. The letter must be written on official letterhead. This letter must accompany the ELI application.
If a student plans to bring a spouse or children as dependents, he or she must provide evidence of additional financial support for each person. Please provide copies of the passport for each dependent with the program application.
After receiving a SEVIS Form I-20, the student should check with their U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find out what is needed for applying for an F-1 Student Visa.
Other Important Documents
All international students are required to have certain documents. Students in F-1 status are required to have the following:
Your passport is the basic travel document issued by your government. While you are in the U.S., your passport must be valid for at least six months into the future. Your passport can be renewed at your government's embassy in Washington, D.C. It must be valid if you plan to leave and re-enter the U.S.
The SEVIS Form I-20 is a Certificate of Eligibility for non-immigrant (F-1) student status. It is the document issued by academic institutions that students use to obtain F-1 visas abroad, to re-enter the U.S. and to transfer from one school to another. Your signature on the SEVIS Form I-20 means you understand the DHS regulations and accept them. Keep this with your passport. In the case of transfers or extensions, the school will give you the student copy of your new I-20 and update your DHS record in SEVIS. Your SEVIS Form I-20 is valid for the time period indicated on the form only if you maintain status. Your SEVIS Form I-20 becomes invalid despite the expiration date if you are out of status.
Your visa is a red, white and blue stamp on a page in your passport or a computerized visa form affixed to your passport. It includes your name, visa classification (F-1, J-1, etc...), place and date of issue, expiration date, and the number of times you are permitted to enter the U.S. (S = single entry, M = multiple entries). Once you have entered the U.S., the expiration date on your F-1 visa is no longer important for initial entry purposes.
The Form I-94 is a small white arrival/departure card that a DHS officer puts into your passport when you arrive in the U.S. It contains your name, your DHS admission number, birth date, citizenship, date and point of entry into the U.S., visa classification, and the length of time you can remain in the United States. Students with F-1 visas have “D/S” written on their I-94's. “D/S” means “duration of status” and indicates students can remain in the U.S. for as long as they are studying full-time in educational institutions and maintaining status.
- Upon entry into the U.S., the DHS inspector will take the I-94 Arrival card for processing and staple the I-94 Departure Card into your passport.
- When you leave the U.S., you must surrender your I-94 Departure Card. You receive a new I-94 arrival/departure card every time you enter the U.S. Your I-94 departure is proof that you have legally entered the country.
Travel Abroad and Re-entry into the U.S.
Each time F-1 students leave the United States for a visit abroad, they must have their SEVIS Form I-20 signed. At least one week before leaving campus, students should bring their SEVIS Form I-20 to the English Language Institute to request the signature. When traveling, please carry with you the following:
- Valid passport (or travel document).
- Valid F-1 visa in passport with Multiple Entries.
- SEVIS I-20 (Student Copy) endorsed for re-entry by the Program Coordinator, or a new SEVIS Form I-20 and evidence of financial support.
If the visa stamp in the passport has expired, a new visa must be obtained at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country before re-entry to the United States. A new SEVIS Form I-20 and evidence of financial support must be presented at the Embassy or Consulate when applying for a new F-1 visa. The new SEVIS Form I-20 must be requested from our office before your departure. Allow at least two weeks for such requests. If you are unsure about these documents, please ask the Program Coordinator to check them.
If you plan to enter a country other than your own, you must contact that country's Embassy or Consulate in the U.S. and find out if an entry visa or health certificate is required.
When leaving the U.S., your Form I-94 (small white card stapled in your passport) must be surrendered. Keep your SEVIS Form I-20, Student Copy, with you at all times.
Change of Address
All internationals in the United States (including permanent residents) are required to provide DHS with their current U.S. address. F-1 students are required to notify our office within 10 days of any change of address.
Visitors Visa (B-2)
If you are already in the United States on a B-2 visa, you may not study full time until you have changed your visa status to an F-1 Student Visa. You may study part-time, however, on a B-2 visa.
Citizens from certain countries do not need a visa to travel in the United States. However, please note that the following travelers will need a visa in these cases:
- People who intend to work in the U.S. (paid or unpaid). This includes work as an au-pair or intern.
- People who intend to stay in the U.S. for more than 90 days.
- People who intend to attend school or university in the U.S.
If you have further questions about any of this information, please contact the English Language Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional Helpful Links
- Consular Affairs
- Visa Services (for foreigners to come to the U.S.) and General Visa information
- Contact U.S. Embassies/Consulates abroad