Cal Poly

Applying for a Visa

Overview of Visa Issuance Process

  1. Obtain a passport from your home country. The passport must be valid at least six (6) months into the future of your arrival date.
  2. Receive a visa eligibility form DS-2019 (for J-1 visa exchange visitors) or I-20 (for F-1 visa students) from the International Center.
  3. Review the DS-2019 or I-20 form for accuracy. If there are any errors, notify the International Center immediately. Do not pay the SEVIS fee if there is an error on your form.
  4. Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. See this tutorial on paying the fee.
  5. Apply for a visa at a United States Embassy or Consulate.
    • Special instructions for Canadian citizens: Do NOT apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa at a consulate. Pay the SEVIS Fee, then provide all of your documents at the port of entry.
  6. If you have an I-20, prepare for your F-1 visa appointment. If you have a DS-2019, prepare for your J-1 visa appointment. Schedule and attend your visa interview. Bring your documents with you. You will be interviewed in English. Remain calm and answer questions honestly.
  7. Wait for the embassy or consular office to return your passport to you or inform you it is ready to pick up with your F-1 or J-1 visa in it. Be sure to get your I-20 or DS-2019 back. You will need this for entry to the USA.
  8. See instructions for Entering the USA.

If you have any questions, please email

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Building 52, Room E32
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
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