How to Obtain a Student Visa

The U.S. Department of Immigration requires international students to submit a Certificate of Finances (COF) form indicating ability to cover educational costs prior to issuance of the I-20 document used to secure a student visa.

We will send you an I-20 form upon your decision to attend Guilford. The first step in obtaining a visa is to make an appointment with the U.S. Embassy or consulate responsible for issuing non-immigrant visas for your home country, which should be done as soon as you receive your I-20. Visa applications may be issued up to 90 days before your program start date.

Before Your Appointment

  • Complete a visa application and, when applicable, forms DS-156, DS-157 and DS-158.
  • Obtain a valid passport.
  • Compile evidence of ties to your home country that demonstrates your intent to return home (i.e. assured employment, ownership of property, etc.).
  • Pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee and keep your receipt. This fee must be paid at least three days before your appointment with the embassy. More information about the SEVIS fee can be found here.
  • Obtain an I-20 for a spouse or dependent(s) who will accompany you to the United States.
  • Applicable visa fees
  • Your I-20 form
  • Proof of funding

During Your Appointment

Be prepared to provide evidence (receipts, photos, passport, documentation, etc.) that you have completed all of the above. Each embassy or consular post has its own procedures and processing times, so it's a good idea to consult the office where you will apply for specific details. The following requirements are standard:

  • Applicable visa fees
  • Your I-20 form
  • Proof of funding

During Your Consular Interview

  • Dress professionally.
  • Bring translated copies of your academic records.
  • Be ready to talk about your academic plans and aspirations in detail.
  • Be knowledgeable about Guilford College and the academic department you are entering.
  • Be prepared to talk about your career goals, which should indicate your intent to return home.
  • Have all required documents with you.
  • You will receive a sealed envelope containing your I-20. DO NOT OPEN IT. The officer at the port of entry will open this envelope when you enter the United States.
  • Immigration laws limit your arrival into the United States to no more than 30 days prior to the report date listed on the Form I-20.

Once You Have Your Visa

  • Check that you have been issued the correct visa (an F-1 if you have an I-20) and that your visa indicates your school of choice: Guilford College.

Note: If you are a Canadian citizen, you do not need a visa to enter the U.S. However, you will need to present your I-20 form and a valid passport at the U.S. Immigration border crossing or port of entry. You must also present proof of payment of the SEVIS fee. You should receive an I-94 card marked F-1 upon entry.