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US Visa Requirements

U.S. Visa Requirements

UC San Diego Extension International Programs is authorized under federal law to enroll non-immigrant alien students.  We issue the I-20 form to students who meet our admission requirements and who provide evidence of sufficient financial verification.

Who needs a student visa?

U.S. Immigration law says that if a person's main purpose in coming to the U.S. is to study in a full-time program, he or she must come on a student visa (F1).

B visa holders (B1 visitors for business and B2 visitors for pleasure) and F2 dependents are prohibited by law from enrolling in a course of study unless they apply for and receive approval for study by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

It is a difficult and lengthy process to change visa status from B1 or B2 to F1 after you enter the United States, and there is no guarantee that the change will be approved by the immigration service. In addition, a person who applies to change to F1 status may not begin studying until the change is approved. Therefore, it is important that anyone who is planning to study full-time in the U.S. enter on an F1 student visa.

If you are in any doubt about which kind of visa you need, we recommend you ask either your local counseling source or the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country. You can also contact our visa advisor at

When Do I Need to Apply for My Student Visa?

Apply for your visa appointment early! Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are difficult to get during that period. It is important to apply for your visa several months before your travel departure date.

What is Needed to Apply for a Student Visa?

In general, all student visa applicants must submit the following documents and fees:
  • A valid passport (valid at least 6 months beyond your intended stay in the U.S.)
  • Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status (this is the form issued by the school)
  • Visa application form DS-160.
  • Visa application form DS-160.
  • Visa application fees (refer to the instructions on the forms for fee amounts)


There may be additional requirements since each U.S. embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas. Therefore, students should consult embassy websites or call for specific application instructions. To find the U.S. embassy website in your city, go to this website:

It is important to remember that applying early and providing the requested documents does not guarantee that the student will receive a student visa. Also, because each student’s personal and academic situation is different, two students applying for the same visa may be asked different questions and be required to submit different documents. For that reason, the guidelines listed above are general and can be abridged or expanded by consular officers overseas, depending on each student’s situation.