We look forward to working with you in the months, and years, to come!

Your first point of business before booking flights or making additional plans, should be to apply for your Form I-20, which is the Certificate of Eligibility for an F-1 Visa (student visa)​.  International Student Services issues these official immigration documents.  Additionally, you will be required to carry your current I-20 with you any time you travel.

Below please find detailed instructions to apply for your I-20 .  You must have this document in hand in order to apply for your visa.  This application process typically takes place in May and June.  Please submit your materials as soon as possible.

Preparing Your I-20 Application 

Application Details:

  • The I-20 Application package will consist of 3 main items:
    • The Official F&M I-20 Application Form: Answering questions in a survey format.
    • A copy of the identification page(s) of your passport
    • Supporting financial documentation - please read requirements on the I-20 application carefully, and do not submit documents more than 6 mos. old!   
  • You will upload these via a survey sent by the international office.   You should keep your original documents for your visa interview.  
  • Year One Funding:  Sponsor's Original Bank Letter or Statement with account balance must show enough funding for Year One minus any financial aid, in USD, if possible. Should your sponsor(s) be able to show enough funding now in the bank to fund all four years of study minus any financial aid, then Proof of Future Funding is not necessary.
  • Proof of Future Funding:  Funding for Years 2-4 can be proof of future income, for example: from a parent's employer. If more than one parent is contributing to your education and they are both working, please send letters from both of their employers.  Employment letters need to be in English, and include name of parent, title, and yearly salary.
  • Should you not be able to provide documents in USD, please use to convert bank balances or salaries into USD and send those printouts with your documents, as applicable.
  • If your sponsor has a family business and works for him/herself, a letter from the accountant indicating most recent annual earnings will suffice.  (The past two years is preferable.)
  • If you have more than one sponsor, the above financial documents will be required for each sponsor.  Please see below (in the Documents section) for the Additional Affidavit of Support, as each sponsor needs to fill this out to certify their financial support of your education.  
  • Feel free to contact our office should you have questions as you prepare your documents. 

Processing and Mailing: 

  • We process complete I-20 application packages in the order they are received.  An I-20 is usually issued within three business days of receipt.
  • We cannot expedite I-20 issuance based on visa appointments.  Do not schedule your visa interview until you have your I-20 in hand.  
  • Please allow at least 1 business day before contacting us about your application submittion - We work with a large group of students at all times.
  • You will be given the opportunity to request expedited shipping through Federal Express, UPS, etc. for your I-20 at your expense.  This is strongly recommended.  On average this service costs $80 USD per package - depending on destination. This option is more reliable for international mailing than regular US Air Mail.  There are MANY countries that we know the mail will likely never arrive under regular US Air Mail.  
  • For this expedited option, we work with EShip Global. EShip is a program used by many colleges and universities in the US.  Through this third-party vendor, you will pay for shipping and provide the shipment details.  Our office will be notified when a shipment label is ready for your package, and in turn we will send you your I-20. 
  • Please see below in the documents section for instructions on setting up your EShip account. 


SEVIS Fee Information:   

SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a central web-based system that maintains and manages data about foreign (F-1) students during their stay in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a SEVIS fee increase to $350 (from $200 previously) for all new F-1 applicants effective summer 2019. The fee is required by DHS and is used to cover the operating costs of the SEVIS program. The following information specifically addresses fee issues for F-1 students.  

Who Pays the SEVIS fee?

  • Prospective students with "initial attendance" I-20s ISSUED on or after September 1, 2004 who are applying for an "initial" F-1 visa from outside the US. (Since Canadians are not required to get a visa, they will be required to pay the fee before going to the port of entry. The fee cannot be paid at the port of entry.)
  • Prospective students with "initial attendance" I-20s ISSUED on or after September 1, 2004 who are applying for a change to F-1 status from another visa category.
  • Current F-1 students in the US filing for reinstatement after being out of status more than 5 months, and who are issued an I-20 issued for reinstatement that is ISSUED on or after September 1, 2004.
  • Students returning from a Leave of Absence who have been outside of the US for more than five months must also pay the fee.  Such students are no longer considered to be continuing students by DHS.
  • Coming to F&M from another US high school or college?   Please note that students with a Transfer Pending I-20 DO NOT have to pay the SEVIS fee again. You will ask your school to simply transfer your SEVIS record to F&M after you complete your current program.  You DO need to apply for a new I-20. 

How do I pay the fee?   The fee can be paid to the DHS online (strongly recommended) or by mail and must be accompanied by a form I-901. It can be paid by you or by a third party, inside or outside the U.S.   If you have questions, there is additional information here, including a video tutorial. 

 - Go to: and click "Submit Form I-901 and Fee Payment"
 - Complete the form online and supply the necessary credit card information. **Be sure to type your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 form.**
 - Print a copy of the online payment confirmation.
 - Be sure to make copies of your payment confirmation, and keep it with your other important immigration documents.  You'll be able to check the status of your Form I‑901 by going to the same site. 

Though not advisable, you can pay the SEVIS Fee by mail.  Please see the following link for instructions and the I-901 form:

I may or may not attend Franklin & Marshall. Is my paid SEVIS fee transferable from one school to another?   Yes. But you must submit the I-20 form with the SEVIS number that you listed on the I-901 form with you to the U.S. consulate/embassy. To transfer the SEVIS fee to another SEVIS record, visit the SEVIS I-901 FAQ.  If you are applying for reinstatement or a change of status, please contact our office for further guidance. 

When do I pay the SEVIS fee?   The fee must be paid at least 3 business days prior to applying for your visa (OR 3 business days prior to applying for admission at U.S. port- of- entry for those exempt from the visa requirement, such as Canadians). 

What if my F-1 visa application is denied?   The SEVIS fee will not be refunded. However, if you reapply for a new F-1 visa within 12 months of the denial, you will not have to pay the fee again.

Can I pay the SEVIS fee at a university, consulate, or port of entry?   No. At this time the SEVIS fee can only be processed by the Department of Homeland Security via the internet or by mail.  

Will the DHS keep a record of my payment on file?   Fee payments should be entered into your permanent electronic immigration record (SEVIS), but it is strongly recommended that you retain a copy of your payment confirmation to use as needed.

Your F-1 Visa 

All international students must enter the United States with an F-1 student visa (with the exception of Canadian citizens*).  A visa is a stamp/page that is placed inside of your passport by the United States Consulate or Embassy in your home country, which enables you to request entry into the U.S.  Procedures for applying for an F-1 student visa differ in every country so it is advisable that you contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your country for details.  You should start with the website for your consulate or embassy.  Information about the closest U.S. Consulate can be found at

General information about the student visa process can be found here: 

F-1 STUDENTS ALREADY IN U.S. TRANSFERRING FROM ANOTHER SCHOOL and CANADIAN CITIZENS: please contact the Office of International Programs for assistance and instructions. * Canadian citizens must enter the US with the receipt from the SEVIS fee in place of the visa. 

When applying and being interviewed for a student visa, be prepared to show:

  • Your Official SEVIS Form I-20

  • Proof of Payment for the $200 or $350 SEVIS Form I-20 fee (see SEVIS information above)

  • A completed non-immigrant visa application

  • The appropriate visa application fee (consult the consulate)

  • A valid passport

  • Acceptance, scholarship, and/or fellowship letters from Franklin & Marshall College

  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous schools

  • TOEFL, SAT Scores

  • Original evidence of financial ability (bank statements, affidavits, proof of income - not photocopies)

  • Evidence of social and economic ties to home country


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