Applying for a Visa

All non-US citizens and visitors from another country are required to apply for a non-immigrant visa to enter the U.S. Before applying for a student or an exchange visitor visa, you must be accepted by an SEVP-approved U.S. institution. You must also have an I-20 or DS-2019 from the U.S. institution at which you intend to study before you apply for a visa.

After you are officially admitted to Louisiana State University, the academic admissions staff will notify International Services (ISO). ISO will contact you via e-mail regarding your I-20 or DS-2019. The steps below will walk you through paying your SEVIS fee and applying for a visa.

What is a Certificate of Eligibility? 

A Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is your I-20 or DS-2019. In order to receive an I-20 or DS-2019, U.S. Immigration regulations state that applicants:

  • Must be officially and unconditionally admitted to a degree/exchange program on campus based on University standards for admission.
  • Must have sufficient funds to cover all estimated expenses for at least one academic year.

After International Services has received, reviewed, and verified your financial documents, we will begin to process the appropriate Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for you.

Note: Each dependent (spouse and/or child) will need their own individual I-20 or DS-2019 as well.

Canadian citizens do not need to apply for a U.S. student visa. Instead, they apply for F-1/J-1 student status with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the U.S. Port of Entry. In order to do this, Canadian citizens must receive an I-20/DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility and pay the SEVIS fee before seeking admission to the U.S. as an F-1/J-1 student.

Also, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requires Canadian travelers to present a passport or other document which denotes identity and citizenship in order to enter the U.S. We strongly recommend that you obtain a passport before coming to the United States because a passport as the main form of identification will make your interaction with different offices in the U.S. much easier.

If you are currently attending another U.S. school as an F-1 student or have Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization, you are considered a SEVIS Immigration transfer. View more information regarding the SEVIS transfer process.


Students who need to apply for the F-1 or J-1 student visa must meet set deadlines for processing Initial I-20 or DS-2019 forms. These forms are needed for visa applications. For LSU admissions applications that do not have a decision made before the following deadlines, no initial I-20s or DS-2019s will be issued.

Fall Semester: June 30

Spring Semester: November 20

Summer Semester: April 20

What is the SEVIS I-901 fee?

After you receive your immigration documents (either a Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) from ISO, you start the visa application process by paying your SEVIS fee. All F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors* must pay the SEVIS fee. Please note that you must pay the SEVIS fee before your visa interview.

*Dependents of F-1 and J-1 students (F-2 and J-2 visitors) are not required to pay the SEVIS fee.

Before applying for a visa, the Department of Homeland Security requires all new F-1 students, J-1 students, and J-1 scholars who are entering the U.S. for the first time to pay a SEVIS fee. The SEVIS fee is separate from the visa application fee, which you will pay later on before your visa interview. For more information on who must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee, please refer to the Homeland Security website.

Note: Continuing students do not have to pay the SEVIS fee when they apply for a visa to return to the US. 

We recommend that you pay the SEVIS fee immediately upon receipt of your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. You do not need to pay the SEVIS fee to schedule your visa interview, but you must pay the SEVIS fee before your visa interview.

You can pay the SEVIS fee online via credit card payment on the USCIS website. Make sure to enter your information exactly as it appears on your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. Study in the States has created a video tutorial on how to pay the SEVIS fee.

After you pay your I-901 SEVIS fee, be sure to print out a receipt as proof of your payment. This receipt is one of the important documents you will need when you go to your visa interview.

How do I apply for a visa?

After paying the SEVIS fee, you should complete the online non-immigrant visa application (Form DS-160) and schedule an interview. You should print the DS-160 form confirmation page and bring it with you to your visa interview.

Information on the visa interview requirements, application fee, and the required documentation can be found on the State Department’s website. You will also find helpful tips for visa applications and interviews on the Study in the States website.

An F-1 or J-1 visa appointment can be scheduled up to 120 days prior to your program start date at LSU. However, you should not schedule an appointment until after you receive your I-20/DS-2019 to ensure that you have all of the required documents for your appointment. If you schedule an appointment but do not have your COE yet, you will likely need to reschedule your U.S. visa appointment.

You must schedule an appointment with the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live. To find the closest embassy or consulate, refer to the U.S. Embassy’s website. You can check the visa appointment wait time at your embassy or consulate online. 

Check your country’s U.S. embassy or consulate website to know what documents are required for your interview. Generally, the following documents are required by the U.S. embassy:

  • Passport (valid at least six months after your period of stay in the U.S.)
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page
  • Application fee payment receipt
  • Your I-20 or DS-2019 Form, signed by you and LSU
  • Your LSU admission letter
  • Proof of financial support
  • I-901 SEVIS fee receipt
  • Photo

Note: The online Form DS-160 requires that you upload your photo while completing your application. If you fail to upload your photo online, you must bring a printed photo to your interview. Make sure that your photo follows the requirements of the U.S. Department of State.

The standard amount of time that it can take the U.S. Consulate to process a student visa can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Be sure to schedule your visa interview well in advance of your travel date. Some visa applications may require administrative processing that will require additional time after the visa interview date and could delay your arrival to the U.S. If a delay happens, be sure to contact us at to discuss deferring your admission and arrival dates. The status of your visa application can be tracked on the Department of State website.

Unfortunately, International Services (and LSU) cannot get involved in these administrative processes or security clearances since they are done by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Once you receive your visa, be sure to check for any errors to avoid delays or complications when entering the U.S. If you find any errors, contact the U.S. embassy immediately.

The approval or denial of visa applicants is governed by the U.S. law. Your visa application will be denied if the consular officer finds that you are not eligible. 

The most common reasons for a visa denial are failure to prove sufficient ties to your home country and/or failure to provide sufficient evidence of financial support. If your visa application is denied, the consular officer must tell you why it was denied. If they do not, please make sure to ask!

Please notify us at if you receive a denial.

What's next?

After your visa has been approved, you will want to go through our pre-arrival checklist and start making arrangements for travel to Baton Rouge. We do not advise making any binding travel arrangements until after your visa has been approved. 

Have questions?

Email our advisor at


The links below provide further information on two frequently referenced U.S. government announcements: