Getting a Visa

You must use the I-20 to get an F-1 Student Visa at the U.S. embassy near you. You must return the IEI’s I-20 if you do not use it to get a visa or if you are denied the visa. If your plans change and you do not come to the IEI, you MUST NOT use our I-20 to get a visa or to enter the USA. You must use the I-20 of the school you will attend to enter the U.S.

Pay the SEVIS Fee

When you go to the U.S. embassy for your visa interview, you must show receipt for the payment of the I-901 SEVIS fee. For students applying for the F-1 visa, this fee is $200.00. There is no fee for your dependents. You can pay the I-901 SEVIS fee here. For instructions about paying the fee, please see the video tutorial here.

When you fill out the form I-901, you must have your I-20 from the IEI. You will need the following information:

  • Your SEVIS ID Number is on your I-20 in the upper left corner.
  • The IEI school ID number is CHI214F10702000.
  • The official name of the IEI is: “University of Illinois – Intensive English Institute”
  • The address of the IEI is: 

Intensive English Institute
616 E. Green St., Suite 210
Champaign, IL 61820

Note: Make sure you print out and save your I-901 SEVIS Fee receipt when you are finished.

When to Make a Visa Appointment

If you are applying for a student visa for the first time, an in-person interview is usually required. June, July, and August are usually the busiest months, so it might be difficult to get an appointment during this time. Don’t wait until the last minute! You can apply for a visa up to 120 days before your Program Start Date at the IEI.

Allow several weeks for planning and getting an appointment for the visa. You can call the embassy or go to the embassy website for information and instructions. You may request a translator or interpreter when you make your visa interview appointment. You can check this website to see how long it will probably take to get an appointment in your city.

Get a Visa Appointment

Step One: You must apply for your visa through Form DS-160. You can find information about how to do that here. Then, you can fill out the form here. After applying, print and keep the confirmation page.

Step Two: Schedule a visa interview appointment with the U.S. embassy or consulate near you. You can find a list of embassies and consulates here.

Step Three: Pay the visa application processing fee. Print and save your receipt for this fee.

Prepare for the Visa Interview

Applicants for a student visa must provide the following items when they go to the embassy for the interview:

  • Form I-20 included with your admission letter.
  • Your Admission Letter to the IEI.
  • The confirmation page from the DS-160 visa application.
  • The receipt for paying the I-910 SEVIS fee.
  • A receipt for the visa processing fee.
  • A passport valid for at least 6 months beyond your expected stay in the U.S.
  • Financial documents (such as bank statements, tax documents) that show you have sufficient funds (money) to cover tuition and living expenses during your time in the U.S. You must show where the money comes from.
  • Proof of your relationship to your spouse and children if you are married and/or have children.
  • Evidence that you have strong economic, social, family or career ties to your home country.
  • Any other documentation you think might help your specific situation.

You must convince the official that:

  • You have a residence in your home country.
  • You will return to that residence.
  • You will leave the U.S. when your course of study is completed.
  • You need English for future studies and career.

At the Interview

In addition to the documents you present, you need to listen carefully to the questions the official might ask you. Even if the official asks you a question that you think is strange, you must answer it. The official is usually trying to decide if you intend to stay in the U.S. after you have completed your program. If the official thinks you will stay in the U.S., he or she must deny your visa. Remember, the F-1 visa is for people who intend to return to their home country. Tell the official when you are going to go home.

In addition, prepare reasons why you want to study English in the U.S.:

  • Professional development – How will you use English when you get back to your country? Why is it important for you to know English?
  • Do you intend to study another subject once you have finished our English program? What subject? Why do you need English?
  • Talk about learning English more quickly and efficiently by studying in the U.S. with interaction with many native speakers.
  • Talk about your choice of English program. Show that you know about the school you have applied to and be able to explain your choice if you can.

DO NOT say you want to go to the U.S. because:

  • Your friends are there
  • You like movies or TV from the U.S.
  • You have family in the U.S.

Please let us know how your visa visit goes by emailing iei@illinois.edu

If Denied, Try Again

The most frequent reason for a visa refusal is that the official thinks you may not return to your home country. It is not possible to say exactly what evidence you should take to convince the official that you will go home because applicants’ circumstances vary a great deal. Think carefully about your ties to your home country: family, job, home and other commitments. Consular officers have the responsibility for issuance or denial of visas. If your visa is denied, you may re-apply. Ask the officer how to re-apply.

Depending on how long you need to wait before reapplying for your visa, you may need to re-apply to the IEI. If you decide to re-apply for a visa, you should be prepared to show additional evidence or explain in a different way how your situation has changed since the first application. You should try at least twice. If you are refused a second time, trying a third time will probably not help.

Additional information about getting a visa is available at these websites:
Study in the States: What to do after you’ve been accepted  
U.S. Department of State: Student Visa Information