Preparing for the F-1 Visa Process

Now that you have some information about the I-20 process and how to prepare for it, you are probably wondering, “What comes next?”

As you may already know, international students need to obtain a study visa, also known as an F-1 visa, to enroll in an academic institution in the United States. To help you out, I’ll go over some frequently asked questions regarding the F-1 visa.

What is an F-1 visa?

An F-1 visa is a document issued to degree-seeking international students who will be studying at an academic institution in the United States.

When do I begin the F-1 visa process?

The process begins after you receive your I-20 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. You will then need to submit an online nonimmigrant visa application (Form DS-160) and pay the SEVIS fee. You will also need to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country to book an F-1 visa interview.

How to prepare for the F-1 visa interview?

Visa interviews can be a bit stressful! It is always a good idea to be well prepared to alleviate any stress. Here are some helpful tips from our International Student and Scholar Services office (ISSS) to help you get ready for your upcoming visa interview.

Where will the visa interview be conducted?

 The visa interview is held at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. You can refer this list of U.S. Embassies and Consulates.

When will I receive my F-1 visa?

This can vary depending on many factors. Make sure to check the U.S. Department of State visa appointment & processing wait times.

When can I enter the U.S. after receiving my F-1 visa?

You can enter the U.S. no sooner than 30 days before the program start date that is listed on your I-20.

What if my visa gets denied? Can I reapply?

Visa denials are not unheard of and can happen for several reasons. You may reapply if your visa has been denied. However, be prepared to provide new information or documentation before you begin the re-application process. If you were denied a visa, please contact our office as soon as possible to let us know that you will not be attending the University of Illinois, at this email:


Remember that we are here to help! Please feel free to comment below with questions. As always, you can call our office at +1-217-333-0302 Monday-Friday from 8:30-5:00 CST to talk with a counselor or send us an email at

Good luck with the visa process, and we look forward to seeing you here on campus!



Assistant Director, Undergraduate Admissions
I have a master’s degree in American and Middle Eastern Studies. I’m lucky to be working with our international students as they navigate their way through the admissions process and during their exciting journey to the Illinois campus!