Applying For Your F-1/F-3 Visa

Students may obtain an F visa by visiting a U.S. embassy or consulate and presenting a form I-20. The consulate will accept visa applications up to 120 days before the start date on the I-20. Apply as early as possible to avoid delays caused by lengthy background checks. Students are required to attend the school which issued the I-20. Any students transferring from another American educational institution to UTEP on the F-1 visa should consult an advisor in the Office of International Programs upon arrival at UTEP. F-1 students will be granted permission to remain in the U.S. until the completion date noted on the I-20 form provided they maintain full-time enrolled status. F-3 students will be granted permission to remain in the U.S. until the date noted on their I-94 which may differ from the end date on the I-20. F-3 visas are issued to students who live in a bordering nation and commute to the University.

Before you make your appointment be sure to find out how to pay the mandatory SEVIS fee. Please be advised that SEVIS confirmation may take as long as ten working days AFTER your data is entered by your sponsoring institution. No visa can be issued until this information can be confirmed by the Consulate. You should take this into account when requesting your appointment date.

What to take to your visa appointment:

  • Valid passport
  • One recent photograph (taken within the past six months), 2×2 inches (5×5 cm), color. It must show a front view, full face, on plain light (white or off-white) background.
  • A receipt for the visa application fee (Mexicans can pay at any BANAMEX).
  • Properly completed DS-160 form and supplement DS-157 for all males/females between the ages of 16 and 45. The forms are available online at http://travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_1342.html.
  • Also the applicant must have paid the $200 SEVIS fee and provide receipt of such payment.
  • Be prepared to take documentation of your financial support, including an original bank statement accompanied by a letter of financial support from parents, bank, or other sponsor if applicable.
  • Proof that you have permanent residence outside the United States

The consular officer will place a visa in your passport. If you receive a multiple-entry visa, you may use it to reenter the U.S. up to the date of its expiration as long as you have a valid I-20. You must always have valid papers or you will be asked to immediately leave the country.

If you are bringing family members

The F-2 visa is issued to the spouse or children (under age 21) of an F-1 student. It may be obtained by presenting to a U.S. consulate an I-20 form issued to the applicant and proof of adequate funding for the support of the accompanying family members. Proof of marriage or birth may also be required. Each family member traveling to the U.S. will require a separate I-20 form. No paid employment is permitted for F-2 visa holders under any circumstances, and full-time study is not allowed beyond the high school level. Any F-2 wishing to study full time at a higher level will be required to change to F-1 status.

Arrival

You are required by law to report to the Office of International Programs within 15 days of your arrival.

If you are planning live on-campus in Miner Village you are required to get a meningitis Vaccination at least 10 days before arrival. You must provide proof of your immunization before you will be allowed to move in.

You are allowed to enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the start date on your I-20. Plan to arrive in El Paso, Texas at least one day before the start of orientation. When you arrive at a U.S. port of entry, either an airport or land border crossing, an Immigration official will ask for your passport, visa, and sealed envelope with the form I-20. The official may also ask for your financial documents again or admission letter. The officer will give you a form I-94 (a small white card issued by the airline or the DHS as an Arrival/Departure Record). Completing the immigration and customs procedures and retrieving your baggage does not usually take a long time. However, when making your plane reservations, plan for two or more hours between flights at the U.S. port of entry. While in the airport, be extremely cautious and do not trust anyone with your luggage, documents or other valuables.

What to pack

Students in the U.S. wear casual clothes, such as blue jeans, shorts, T-shirts and tennis shoes, most of the time. Bring a suit or nice dress for formal occasions such as a presentation or a conference. El Paso’s climate is warm and dry for most of the year. The temperatures here will be between 35-40° C during summer, but can occasionally drop as low as 1-2° during winters. You should bring or plan to buy a good jacket for winter. We also suggest you bring a few traditional forms of dress and some handcrafts or other small items from your home country.

Telephones

Cell phones can be purchased at local vendors, Cricket, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Virgin Mobile are just a few that sell prepaid and month to month plans. These vendors do not usually require a social security number for prepaid plans or month to month plans. However, if you wish to sign a contract, usually contracts are made for two years, and require a social security number..

To make a long distance call within the U.S. dial 1 and then the three-digit area code (915 for El Paso), and then the seven-digit local phone number. For example, the number to call the Office of International Programs is 1-915-747-5664. If you are within the area already, then dial only the seven-digit local phone number. (ex: 747-5664).

Money

You can set up a bank account upon arrival with your visa, I-20, and a UTEP Identification card. There are 5 ATMs located on campus. You can find them on the campus map. Please bring enough money to cover your stay for at least two weeks in the US in order to establish yourself. If you a planning to use funds from a campus job, keep in mind that you may not receive a paycheck for up until a month after school starts. This is because you must apply for a social security card and receive it before

We recommend that you not carry large amounts of cash. Traveler’s checks in U.S. dollars issued by most banks in your home country are widely accepted as well.

Medical Insurance

Medical services and medicine in the U.S. are very costly. Because of this, you are required to have medical insurance coverage while you are attending UTEP. Because of our location on the Mexican border, students from Mexico are exempt from this requirement but are highly recommended to have insurance coverage for medical emergencies in the U.S.

At the beginning of every semester, you are automatically charged for the UTEP health insurance policy. There are other insurance companies in the U.S. that offer medical insurance or you may use your insurance from your home country. If you select another insurance company, you are required to have coverage of up to $50,000 per accident or illness in medical expenses, $10,000 minimum in medical evacuation and $7,500 in repatriation coverage. These benefits must be specified in the policy you purchase. To use insurance not provided by UTEP, or if you are covered by UTEP insurance through your Research Assistant or Teaching Assistant position, you must request a waiver of the mandatory fee from the Human Resource Services Office at the start of every semester. This waiver must be requested and submitted to the Human Resources Office by the 12 th day of classes each semester you are at UTEP to avoid paying for UTEP insurance.

It is recommended that you have a thorough medical check-up for your own protection before you leave your home country. If you have personal preferences for medicines that you use for fevers, headaches and colds, you should plan to bring those with you. Otherwise, most common medications are available in U.S. stores. However, some products in the U.S. may require a doctor’s prescription. Therefore, if you take prescribed medications, you should ask your doctor or pharmacist for a copy of the prescription to bring with you. We also advise that you update all of your immunizations in your home country and bring proof with you.

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