Congratulations on your admission to the University of Southern Maine. The following guide is intended to help students currently outside the U.S. apply for their student visas and enter the U.S. to start their academic degree programs. 

  • Step 1: Obtain your I-20 from the Office of International Programs
  • Step 2: Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee in the amount of $350
  • Step 3: Complete the DS-160 Visa Application (except Canadians)
  • Step 4: Apply for your F-1 Visa (except Canadians)

Step 1: Obtain your I-20 from the Office of International Programs

Once you have been admitted into a full time, in person undergraduate or graduate program at the University of Southern Maine, the Office of International Programs will contact you to request documentation regarding your financial ability to study in the U.S. The financial certification process can be time consuming since you need to compile evidence of guaranteed funding, often from several different sources.

Once you have your admission letter and your documentation of funding has been approved by the Office of International Program you will need to pay your admission deposit in order for us to issue your I-20. Note: not all programs require deposits. Once we issue your I-20 we will send it to you electronically via email.

Step 2: Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee

After obtaining your visa documents, all students must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee in the amount of $350 USD. The Department of Homeland Security collects this congressionally-mandated fee to cover the costs of updating SEVIS, a system that enables the U.S. Government to maintain updated information on F visa holders.

How to Pay the SEVIS Fee:

To pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee, go to You will need your SEVIS number from your Form I-20. The SEVIS number is located on the upper left corner of the Form I-20.

If you have a credit card and access to the internet you may pay the SEVIS fee online.

If you were born in or are a citizen of Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria or Gambia you must pay by money order or via Western Union

Evidence of the SEVIS fee payment in the form of a receipt or a payment verification printout must be presented during your visa application interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate and at many U.S. ports of entry. Please have your SEVIS payment receipt ready upon entry and reentry to the U.S.

SEVIS Fee for CANADIAN Citizens:

Although Canadian citizens are not required to have visas, they are required to present the I-901 SEVIS fee payment receipt at a U.S. port of entry as they enter the U.S. Please note that it is not possible to pay the SEVIS fee at the U.S. port of entry. Canadians must pay the SEVIS fee prior to getting to the port of entry

Step 3: Complete the DS-160 Visa Application

The DS-160 is an online visa application form that you (and your dependents, if applicable) must complete before applying for an F-1 student visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy outside the U.S.

You may access the DS-160 on the U.S. Department of State website. After you have completed the DS-160, you must take these next steps below:

  • Print and keep the DS-160 barcode page. (You will not need to print the full application.)
  • You must schedule a visa interview appointment. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate does not schedule an appointment for you. Visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will be interviewed for country-specific instructions.
  • Pay the visa application processing fee. Review country-specific instructions on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website. Note, the DS-160 visa application fee is nonrefundable and nontransferable. You must pay this fee first before booking a visa appointment. If you need to change the location of your visa interview after paying this fee, you will not be able to transfer your payment and will need to pay a new DS-160 visa application fee before booking an appointment at a new U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Step 4: Apply for your F-1 Visa

Receiving a visa document from USM does not guarantee that you will receive a visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate. In order to schedule an appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate you will need to follow the instructions and required documents on the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate you will visit. While you can apply for a visa at U.S. embassy or consulate in any country outside the U.S., it is always better to apply in your home country.

As an applicant for a temporary, non-immigrant visa to enter the United States, you must bring your Passport, Form I-20, SEVIS fee receipt, DS-160 confirmation page, proof of funding, and any additional documentation required by the individual U.S. embassy or consulate you visit when you present your application to the consular official.

Note that your F-2 or J-2 dependents can book their embassy appointments independently from yours, if need be.

The Visa Interview & Possible Denial

During your visa appointment, you will have a brief interview. You must be able to prove your eligibility for a non-immigrant visa (F-1 ) by presenting financial information along with the rest of your documents. You should also be prepared to answer questions regarding the length of your intended stay in the U.S. and how you will use your academic experience gained in the U.S. when you return to your home country. Consular officials expect to see evidence of your ties to your home country, such as family, property, employment, bank accounts, etc. If the consular official determines that you are not eligible for a non-immigrant visa because you have not presented satisfactory evidence that you intend to return to your home country, they are likely to deny your visa application. There is usually no recourse to the visa denial unless you are able to present new information. You may also be asked to present evidence that you have maintained legal immigration status if you have worked, studied, or resided in the U.S. previously.