International Students

Visas and Immigration

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David Donahue, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services.


Students coming to the United States for the express purpose of study and expecting to return to their respective countries of citizenship, should apply for the F-1 Student Visa. Applying for an F-1 visa involves three basic steps.

  • Obtaining a Form I-20
  • Paying a SEVIS Fee
  • Completing an F-1 student visa interview

1) Obtaining a Form I-20


The Form I-20 serves as an official notice of admission to a college in the U.S.A. and certifies your eligibility to apply for an F-1 Student Visa.

  • When you are admitted to Messiah College, you will receive a Form I-20 from the College along with your letter of admission.
  • Verify that all information on the form is accurate, then sign your I-20 and keep it safe as you would your other immigration documents (passport, visa, etc.).

2) Paying a SEVIS Fee

  • Complete the Form I-901 online and supply the necessary credit card information. The SEVIS fee for F-1 applicants is U.S. $200. Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your Form I-20.
  • Print a copy of your online payment receipt.
  • Make copies of your receipt (as you will surrender the original at your visa interview) and keep them with your other immigration documents.

3) Completing an F-1 Visa Interview

  • Contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your country/region to inquire about applying for an F-1 student visa. Locate your nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy at http://www.usembassy.gov.
  • After receiving your acceptance letter and Form I-20 from Messiah College, follow your U.S. Embassy/Consulate’s instructions to schedule an F-1 Student Visa interview. Be aware that you may have to wait weeks or even months for an available appointment, so request an appointment as early as possible.
  • Complete the DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
  • Pay the visa application fee according to the instructions on your local U.S. Embassy/Consulate’s website.
  • Prepare for your interview.
    • If you can, connect with an EducationUSA advisor to get advice prior to your interview. Some countries expect or even require that this be done.
    • Bring your:
      • Passport (must be valid for at least six months after your proposed U.S. entry date)
      • Signed Form I-20
      • Letter of admission to Messiah College
      • Messiah College tuition information, as well as test scores and academic transcripts from all secondary schools you’ve attended
      • Completed visa application (DS-160 Form)
      • Two 2” x 2” photographs in the required format (see travel.state.gov)
      • Receipt for the visa application fee
      • Receipt for the SEVIS fee
      • Financial documents, dated within a few months of your interview, demonstrating that you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses throughout your time at Messiah College
      • Any other information demonstrating your intent to return to your home country upon completion of your studies in the U.S.A. (proof of property, family, ties to the community, etc.)
    • Be sure you understand the financial situation of your parents and any others committing to sponsor you, as listed on the International Financial Form you sent to Messiah College. You will often be asked questions such as:
      • What savings do your parents/sponsors have and what will they give to you?
      • How will they cover their other family expenses and still support you in the U.S.A.?
    • Remember that officials are looking for evidence that you have strong ties to your own country. They want to verify that your time in the U.S.A. will be temporary—to study—and that you do plan to return to your own country when your education is complete. Questions may include:
      • Why did you choose Messiah College?
      • Why did you choose your major area of study?
      • Can you demonstrate your awareness of the Grantham, Pennsylvania, area?
      • What are your career goals?
    • Remain calm and answer all interview questions openly and honestly.

Commitment to best practices in international recruitment:

Messiah College is committed to maintaining highest possible standards as nationally or internationally mandated within the field of college admissions and immigration. We maintain membership in various organizations committed to international education, college admissions and immigration. As members of these organizations, we commit to adhering to best practices, sound principles and ethical practices in all areas of our work. The links below will direct you to the code of ethics/principles of good practice articulated by each organization.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators – Guidelines for Ethical Practices in International Student Recruitment

NACCAP: North American Coalition for Christian Admissions Professionals - Principles of Good Practice

NACAC: National Association for College Admission Counseling – Statement of Principles of Good Practice

Council of International Schools – Code of Ethics

Education USA – Principles of Ethical Practice