(for additional information on Student Visas see http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english.html)

This is a general outline of the non-immigrant visa process for international students at Simmons University.

After you have been accepted to the academic program of your choice, there are several important steps you need to take before and after you arrive in the United States.

Before you come to the United States:

1) Get a passport from your home country.

If you do not have a passport, you will need to obtain one. If you have passport, make sure that it is still valid and that it will be valid at least 6 months past the expected return date to your home country.

2) Choose whether you will study under an F-1 (student) or J-1 (exchange visitor) visa.

Most international students at Simmons will want to enter the U.S and study under an F-1 Visa. The following information pertains to students applying for an F-1 visa. For J-1 information go to the J-Visa page.

3) The International Student Advisor will register you in SEVIS in Initial Status

The International Student Advisor will receive information from the School/Department that has accepted you as an international student and will register you in SEVIS (The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) as an international student in "initial status". For further information on SEVIS, see http://www.ice.gov/sevis/

4) You will receive an I-20 Document

International Student Services will send you an I-20 document, which will allow you to apply for your F-1 visa. The I-20 document verifies that you have been accepted into a specific degree program for the expected length of your program, and that you have documented a certain amount of funds available for your education and living expenses. (Please note: Canadian Nationals, landed immigrants or British subjects residing in Canada or Bermuda are not required to obtain a visa, unless they are entering the U.S. from outside the Western Hemisphere. However, the appropriate immigration document (Form I-20 for F-1) must be presented at the U.S. port of entry.)

5) Sign your I-20

Once you receive your copy of the I-20, you need to read the section titled "instruction to student" on page 3 and sign on page 1. You will need to present this form to the U.S. Embassy when you apply for your F-1 Visa.

6) You will need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee

You can pay the fee online and will need to present a receipt when you apply for the Visa at your local U.S. Embassy

7) Apply for a Visa at your local U.S. Embassy 

Read interview preparation information.

8) If your visa application is approved, a visa stamp will be placed in your passport.

A visa includes a visa number, location of issuing office, classification of visa, date, and number of U.S. entries permitted, expiration date, student's name, and the signature of the issuing office. Please pay close attention to your visa expiry date and the number of U.S. entries permitted as this will effect your travel plans in the future.

9) A visa is the document that allows you to travel to the U.S.

A visa does not guarantee that you will be allowed to enter the U.S. That decision is made by an immigration official at the U.S. port of entry. Do no pack your Form I-20 in your luggage as you will be required to present your Form I-20 as proof of your intention to attend Simmons University. After 1-2 business days after you arrive in the U.S., I-94 record will be available online with a record of your date and port of entry, your immigration status (F1 or F2), and the dates your status will be valid. Print the I-94. (Under normal circumstances, the I-94 given to F1 and F2 visa holders will "Admit Until Date" as "D/S", which means "Duration of Status." This verifies that you will remain in F1 or F2 status for the duration of your degree program, as stated on your form I-20).

10) Please note that the U.S law allows F-1 visa holders to enter the United States up to 30 days before the program start date indicated on the I-20 form, it is recommended that F-1 visa holders enter no more than 10 days before their program start date.

While it is possible to enter up to 30 days in advance, students entering on an F-1 visa should be prepared to justify to immigration officials the need for any earlier arrival.

11) Provide documentation to the International Office

Once you arrive at Simmons University, within 15 days after the start of classes, you will need to register with the International office. The office will keep copies of signed I-20, I-94, your visa which are required to keep on file along with your local address and contact information.

12) Participate in the mandatory International Orientation Program.

Sept.1st & 2nd. Agenda to follow

13) Your status will be updated from Initial to Active Status

Within 30 days of the start of the semester, the Center for Global Education will update your status from "initial" to "active" in the SEVIS system, indicating that you are actively enrolled as a full-time student. The Center for Global Education will also update the information every semester of your program of study to verify that you are still enrolled as a full-time student as required. It will be your responsibility to remain in compliance with Immigration laws. See Maintaining Legal Status for a guide to maintaining your F1 Status.


We're delighted that you have chosen to continue your studies at Simmons University. If you have not been absent from the United States for more than 5 months, you may be eligible for a transfer of your form I-20 in SEVIS from your former school.

Transfer-in Checklist:
  • Verify admission at Simmons University
  • Verify your passport is valid at least 6 months past your expected return to your home country.
  • Provide your admission counselor with all necessary information needed to process your I-20.
    • Gender
    • U.S. Address (if you currently have one)
    • Foreign Address (a physical address is required; no P.O. Boxes)
    • Date of Birth (mm/dd/yyyy)
    • Country of Birth
    • Country of Citizenship
    • Do you have a dependent in the U.S.?
    • Current Financial Documentation
  • Fill out and return the Simmons University Transfer-in form. Please note that your current International Student Adviser is required to complete the third page of the form and return it. Please note that Post Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) ends on the transfer-in date.
  • You will be issued a "Transfer Pending" I-20 before your program at Simmons begins.
  • Participate in the mandatory International Orientation Program.
  • Within 15 days of your program start date you need to report to the International Student Adviser for an updated "Transfer Completed" I-20

Many people enter the United States on a visa as a dependent of their spouse or parent and then choose to study here. In many instances it is recommended that you apply for a change of status to an F-1 visa to receive the benefit of Optional Practical Training (OPT) at the completion of your degree program. Click here to see if you are eligible for OPT. If you do not plan to return to your home country to apply for a new visa, you may choose to apply for a change of status in the United States by using the application I-539 and instructions.

When applying for a change of status in the United States, there are a couple of things you should take into consideration.

  • If your degree program requires that you participate in a paid internship you will not be eligible to do so until your change of status has been approved and you have been maintaining legal status in the U.S. for at least one academic year. Exceptions may be made for graduate students if the degree program requires an immediate internship.
  • Verify your passport is valid at least 6 months past your expected return to your home country.
  • On an F-1 visa, you are required to study full-time during required terms (fall and spring semester). If you do not plan to take a full course load, you will not be able to maintain legal status on an F-1 visa.
  • If you travel abroad, and plan to re-enter the United States, you must schedule an appointment with your consulate to obtain an F-1 visa. Even though you are allowed to apply for a change of status within the United States, your consulate may or may not approve a new F-1 visa for you.
  • If you enter the United States on a B-2 tourist visa it is strongly recommended that you return to your home country to apply for an F-1 visa instead of applying for a change of status in the United States.
  • Most classes of non-immigrants can begin studying while their change of status applications are pending with USCIS. However, those that are currently in B-1, B-2, F-2, and M-2 status cannot begin their studies prior to their change of status being approved.
  • Non-immigrant students who initially entered the US on M-1 visas are not permitted to apply for a change of status to F-1 in the US. M-1 visa holders must leave the US and re-enter with an F-1 visa.

There is nothing more flattering for a university than when an alumna/i returns to participate in another degree program. Your ability to continue on your current form I-20, depends on the last date of your program or your OPT end date (whichever is more recent). If you do not meet the requirements below, related to the dates of program/OPT completion, you may still be eligible to re-enter the United States and participate in your program on a new form I-20. Please contact the International Student Advisor for more information.

Change of Education Level Checklist:

  • Verify admission into your new program.
  • Verify your passport is valid at least 6 months past your expected return to your home country.
  • Provide Current Financial Documentation
  • Notify the International Student Advisor within 60 days of the completion of your current degree program or OPT. Please note: you should report a transfer to the International Student Advisor at least 7 business days before the expiration of your grace period to allow for processing time.
  • You will be issued a "Change of Education Level Complete" I-20.
  • Your new program may not start more than 5 months from the completion of your original program or your OPT end date. You must also begin your new program in the next required term.