I-20/DS-2019 & Student Visa

I-20 Sample

Obtaining an F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 from The University of Alabama

To get an F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 from The University of Alabama, you must be admitted to a program of study and submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form with required proof of funding to the admissions office handling your application (e.g. International Undergraduate Admissions, the Graduate School, or the Law School):

Admissions letters and I-20s/DS-2019s will be shipped from the admissions office to you by regular airmail using the address that you provided in your application (airmail can take 3 to 4 weeks to be received overseas). If you would like to receive your document quicker, you are welcome to pay for express mailing service. Click here for document shipping options and instructions on how to process express shipping

NOTE: If you are currently in F-1 or J-1 status at a high school or another college/university inside the U.S., please be sure to have your SEVIS Record transferred to the University of Alabama within your grace period (60-days for F-1 students/ 30-days for J-1 students).  You will need to provide the DSO/ARO at your current school with a copy of your admission letter to UA and request that they transfer your record to The University of Alabama, F-1 School Code: ATL214F01174000; J-1 EV Program Number: P-1-03854.


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal SEVIS Fee took effect on September 1, 2004. The fee is generally a one-time fee (see exceptions, below) and is required of those who are applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa.  Proof of fee payment must be presented at the visa interview.

PLEASE NOTE: SEVIS Fees for F-1 and J-1 students increased on June 24, 2019.  The new fees are $350 for F-1 Students and $220 for J-1 Students.

You must pay the SEVIS fee if you are:

• Seeking an initial F-1/J-1 visa from an embassy or consulate abroad for initial studies.
• Seeking a change-of-status to F-1/J-1 student status by filing an I-539 from within the U.S.
• A CANADIAN or BAHAMIAN citizen: who does not need a visa to enter the United States, but who will be entering at a U.S. port-of-entry to begin studies as an F-1 or J-1 student.
• Out-of-status for more than 5 months and seeking reinstatement by filing an I-539 from within the U.S.

F-2 and J-2 Dependents
F-2 and J-2 dependents DO NOT have to pay a separate SEVIS Fee. Dependents are exempt from paying the SEVIS Fee.

SEVIS FEE Payment Guide: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/assets/tutorials/i-901-fee-payment/story.html

SEVIS Fee Rules

1. The SEVIS fee must be processed at least three business days before the visa interview, unless you have a printed receipt from an Internet payment.
2. The SEVIS fee cannot be paid at the embassy or consulate, or at the U.S. Border.
3. A visa will not be issued unless the visa officer can verify that the SEVIS fee payment has been made. However, you may schedule your visa interview prior to paying the SEVIS fee.
4. The SEVIS fee is not refundable. If your visa application is denied, and you decide to re-apply for the same type of visa at a later date, you will not be asked to make a second SEVIS fee payment as long as your visa application is made within 12 months of the initial denial.
5. If the SEVIS fee is not paid, your F-1 or J-1 visa record cannot be validated and registered in SEVIS.

How to Complete the I-901 and Pay the SEVIS Fee
Payment of the SEVIS fee may be made by you or by any other individual, either in the United States or abroad, including family or friends. However, anyone paying the fee on your behalf will need to have a copy of your I-20 or DS-2019 form, or a completed copy of Form I-901.

To complete form I-901, you must enter two types of information:

  1. F-1 Student Visa applicants need to enter the UA SEVIS SCHOOL CODE: ATL214F01174000, and J-1 Visa Applicants need to enter the UA J-1 EXCHANGE VISITOR PROGRAM NUMBER: P-1-03854, and
  2. You must enter your SEVIS ID number (e.g. N00*******), which is printed at the top of the I-20 or DS-2019 form.

Using The University of Alabama’s I-20 or DS-2019, you may currently complete the Form I-901 and pay the SEVIS Fee using one of three payment methods:

  1. Payment in U.S. dollars by credit card online at http://www.fmjfee.com/, or
  2. Payment by mail in U.S. dollars by check, money order, or bank draft, drawn on a U.S. bank, and mailed to an address in the United States, or
    • To pay by mail, you must download and print form I-901 from http://www.fmjfee.com/, fill out the form and mail it with your payment to I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee, 1005 Convention Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63101, United States – Phone Number: 1-314-418-8833.
    • Your payment must be in U.S. dollars by check, money order or bank draft, drawn on a U.S. bank. Your check, bank draft or money order should be made payable to: “I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee.”  Also, be sure to print your name and SEVIS ID number in the lower left-hand corner of the check, money order or bank draft.
    • The need for a check, bank draft or money order in U.S. dollars drawn on a U.S. bank does not mean that only a U.S. bank can issue the document. Many foreign banks are able to issue checks or money orders drawn on a U.S. bank, because they are chartered in the United States, or because they are foreign subsidiaries of a U.S. bank, or because they have arrangements with a U.S. bank to issue a check, money order, or foreign draft that is drawn on a U.S. bank.
    • NOTE:  Payment by mail is not the recommended process for fee payment from abroad, as it can take as long as four weeks from the day you mail in the fee to the day that you receive the required receipt in the mail if you are applying from outside the United States, unless you pay for courier service.
  3. Payment via Western Union:
    • Fill out the Form I-901 online at http://www.fmjfee.com/. A payment coupon will be generated upon completion of the form.
    • Print a copy of the payment coupon and take it to your local Western Union.
    • Fill out the Quick Collect/Quick Pay Form according to the information found at the bottom of the printed coupon. Example below:
      Company Name (or Code City): SEVISFEE
      Account Number: Coupon Number (ex: 010222013872390)
      Amount: $350 for F-1 students and $220 for J-1 students (effective June 24, 2019)*
      *Please note that the payment amount may differ according to your specific visa type.
    • Present the coupon and your payment to the Western Union Agent for processing.
    • Payment will be linked to your Form I-901 and your online payment confirmation will be available immediately at http://www.fmjfee.com/.

Showing Proof of SEVIS Fee Payment at the Visa Interview and the U.S. Port of Entry
You must be able to prove that the fee has been paid when you appear for your visa interview, and when you enter the United States. This is done by presenting a printed receipt, either from the Internet if you made an on-line payment or a mailed receipt if you paid by mail.

Visa officers and U.S. port-of entry inspectors should be able to verify SEVIS fee payment electronically three business days after payment is processed, but in case of problems, having a printed receipt is the best evidence of fee payment. If you lose or did not receive a receipt for fee payment, the U.S. government does retain an electronic record that the fee has been paid.

The visa will not be issued unless verification of the SEVIS fee payment can be made.

Sample visa page

Applying for a Student Visa

Once you have received your I-20 or DS-2019 from The University of Alabama, you may apply for a visa up to 120 days prior to your program start date.

  1. First, you should pay the SEVIS Fee as outlined above, which is required of all new F-1 and J-1 students and must be paid prior to applying for your student visa.
  2. Second, you should submit the online visa application form DS-160.  The DS-160 now requires you to input your Social Media history as a standard question.  The question asks for all social media platforms you have used in the past 5 years and the username(s) or handle(s) you have used on those platforms.
    • The U.S. Embassy may ask you to also complete a DS-5535 Form, which is a supplemental questionnaire regarding your travel, employment, and residence history and family. Please note, not every visa applicant will be asked to complete the DS-5535 form.
  3. Finally, you should set your visa appointment.  You should plan to apply for your visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. Prior to scheduling your interview, you can check visa appointment waiting times online (Click here, to check Visa Waiting times).

No visa stamp is required for Canadian and Bahamian citizens.  However, Canadians and Bahamian’s must have a valid F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 to enter the U.S. as students, and they must pay the SEVIS Fee prior to arrival.

Please note that depending on your country of residence and field of study, visa processing times can exceed one month so apply early.  You will need to include the potential for visa delays in your travel plans.

Documentation Required for the Visa Interview
Please refer to the U.S. Department of State Web site:

• F-1 Students
J-1 Students and Exchange Visitors

You should also consult your U.S. Embassy or Consulatehttp://www.usembassy.gov/ to see if there are any additional country-specific visa application requirements.

Visa Interview – Proving Non-Immigrant Intent
F-1 and J-1 visas are considered non-immigrant visas. Accordingly, during the student visa interview, applicants must establish their non-immigrant intent to the satisfaction of the consular officer.  Non-immigrant intent means that you have binding ties to your home country and have a home which you have no intention of abandoning, and that you will depart the United States when you have completed your studies. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence of non-immigrant intent should take since applicants’ circumstances vary greatly.

10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Non-immigrant VISA 

Visa Delays – Security Clearances and Administrative Processing

Please note that when you apply for a visa, you may be subject to a security clearance that can cause delays of weeks or even months in the issuance of your visa and your arrival in the U.S. This clearance is most commonly known as Administrative Processing, and it is often connected to Section 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

You may be requested to provide additional information in order to receive clearance and be issued a visa.

Unfortunately, if you are selected for Administrative Processing, there is nothing that International Student & Scholar Services or any other office can do to expedite the processing.

The following are two common types of Administrative Processing delay that you might encounter:

1) Field of Study:  If a visa applicant’s area of study is on the U.S. federal government’s “technology alert list,” which includes many of the science and technology fields, the U.S. Consulate may seek a security clearance prior to granting the visa.  This process may delay your visa application by anywhere from 10 days to 3 months.  There is no way to know for certain whether you will be subject to this type of clearance.

If you study/work in a STEM field, we advise you to ask your faculty supervisor or department chair to write a letter that briefly describes the specific area of your study/research in layperson’s terms.  We have drafted a sample letter and explanation which can be modified by your faculty supervisor or department chair.  Often the U.S. Consulate will also request the CV and publication list of the faculty supervisor or department chair.

We also recommend that you bring the following to the visa interview: a copy of your degree study plan (https://catalog.ua.edu/), transcripts, and a copy of your resume/CV.  These materials will not necessarily deter a security clearance, but they will help address most of the common 221(g) inquiry details.

2) Country of Citizenship, Nationality or Birth:  A security clearance may also be required by the U.S. Consulate if a visa applicant was born in or is a citizen or national of certain countries. The list of countries is not published, but seems to include the following:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the territories of Gaza and West Bank.

What to do about Visa Delays
Students who have been selected for Administrative Processing and believe it will delay their entry to the U.S. beyond the start date listed on their I-20/DS-2019 should contact International Student and Scholar Services. Generally speaking, if a visa issuance delay extends beyond the first week of classes, our only option will be to defer your admission to the following semester and update your I-20/DS-2019 accordingly.

If you have been waiting for more than one month for the results of an Administrative Processing clearance, contact International Student and Scholar Services at international@ua.edu to seek assistance.  In the email, please include the following:

  1. A copy of the DS-160 Confirmation Receipt (for yourself and any F-2/J-2 Dependents who applied with you)
  2. The date, time, and Consular location where your visa interview took place

Please be aware that there is nothing that can be done to expedite the case, but ISSS can submit an inquiry with the U.S. Consulate processing your case in case additional information may be needed.

SEVIS Transfer – Transferring I-20/DS-2019 to UA

NOTE: If you are currently in F-1 or J-1 status at a high school or another college/university inside the U.S., please be sure to have your SEVIS Record transferred to the University of Alabama within your grace period (60-days for F-1 students/ 30-days for J-1 students).  You will need to provide the DSO/ARO at your current school with a copy of your admission letter to UA and request that they transfer your record to The University of Alabama, F-1 School Code: ATL214F01174000; J-1 EV Program Number: P-1-03854.

Transferring-In to The University of Alabama
For F-1 & J-1 students transferring their SEVIS record to The University of Alabama, to receive your transfer I-20 or DS-2019:

1. Submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form with required proof of funding to the admissions office handling your application (e.g. International Undergraduate Admissions, the Graduate School, or the Law School), and please make sure that you complete Section 4 of the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form confirming your current visa status.

2. Receive an admission letter from UA and submit it to the Designated School Official or Responsible Officer at your current high school, college, or university and request them to transfer your SEVIS record to The University of Alabama – F-1 School Code: ATL214F01174000; J-1 EV Program Number: P-1-03854.

3. When you request your DSO/RO at your current institution to release your SEVIS record to The University of Alabama, please email International Student & Scholar Services at international@ua.edu to confirm the pending transfer and to confirm if you will pick up your new I-20/DS-2019 from ISSS or would like the document shipped to you.  If you prefer ISSS ships the document to you, provide the address (in the U.S. or abroad) where you would like ISSS to ship the I-20/DS-2019.  ISSS can mail the form by regular airmail to the address that you provided (airmail can take 1 week to arrive in the U.S. and 3 to 4 weeks to be received overseas). If you would like to receive your document quicker, you are welcome to pay for express mailing (you should receive it overseas in approximately a week). Click here for document shipping options.

4. After your current institution releases the SEVIS record to us and it is past the release date indicated on it, The University of Alabama will issue a new I-20/DS2019.

INTERNATIONAL STUDENT CHECK-IN & ORIENTATION REQUIREMENT: It is mandatory that you attend International Student Check-in and Orientation with International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) upon your arrival to The University of Alabama.  Please remember that you must arrive early enough before the start of classes to find housing and attend the International Student Check-in and Orientation.

Travel and Visa Information for SEVIS Transfer-in Students
With the exception of Canadian citizens, you need to check your visa stamp to make sure that it will be valid upon re-entry to the United States.

• If you have an Unexpired Visa stamp – You do not need to apply for a new visa stamp if your current one is still valid. Despite the fact that your current visa F1 / J1 stamp indicates your previous school, you will be able to use it to re-enter the US when using your University of Alabama transfer pending I-20 / DS-2019.

• If you have an Expired Visa stamp – If you are going to travel out of the US with the transfer pending I-20 or DS-2019 and your previous F1 or J1 visa has expired, you should use the Transfer Pending I-20 or DS-2019 to obtain a new visa stamp for your passport. If you do not have a valid visa, you need to obtain the visa appropriate to the document that you are requesting. Please contact the U.S. Consulate in your home country for application procedures. Be prepared to present financial documentation with the I-20 / DS-2019 document when you apply for the visa. As a transfer student, you are not required to pay the SEVIS fee again unless you no longer have proof that you have paid it. You should carry all of your previous I-20 or DS-2019 forms to your visa interview and when entering the US in the event that you are asked further questions about your previous status.

Sample I-539 change of status form

Change-of-Status to F-1 or J-1 within the U.S.

If you are currently in a visa status other than F-1 or J-1 student status and would like to change to F-1 or J-1 status, an application for change of status must be filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Please be aware that Change-of-Status petitions take a very long time to process – as long as 12 – 16 months at US Citizenship and Immigration Services.  So, if you require a faster status change, filing for a change-of-status within the U.S. may not be your best option.  Please consult with a International Student and Scholar Services advisor before filing your change of status application.

NO TRAVEL DURING CHANGE-OF-STATUS: Once the I-539 Change-of-Status petition is submitted to USCIS, you cannot leave the United States for any reason.  If you leave the U.S., even for a Caribbean Cruise, your I-539 petition will be considered “abandoned,” and the case will be cancelled by USCIS.  Only once the I-539 Change-of-Status petition has been approved will you be able to travel internationally.  Also, please be aware that the I-539 petition approval is not a visa stamp; so, you will need to apply for a new visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate the next time you travel beyond North America (see Student Travel Requirements page).


  1. If you are currently on a B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa Status and you want to apply to change status to an F-1 or J-1 student visa status, applying for a Change-of-Status within the first 90 days of entry to the U.S. in B-1/B-2 status will likely result in a denial and will be considered fraudulent entry based on a misrepresentation of status based on 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3)(g)(2) Inconsistent Conduct Within 90 Days of Entry.  This change to the Foreign Affairs Manual was published on September 20, 2017. 
  2. USCIS now requires someone in another visa status to maintain their status continuously while awaiting a Change-of-Status.  This means that in addition to filing an I-539 petition to change status to F-1 or J-1 student status, you must either maintain your current visa status until a decision is made or file I-539 petitions to change to or extend B-1/B-2 status while the Change-of-Status to F-1 or J-1 is pending.  See USCIS’s Special Instruction Page for more information.  See also the NAFSA: Association of International Educators guidance on this.

Step One — Meet with an ISSS advisor to assess your eligibility for a Change-of-Status to F-1 or J-1 student status.  Complete and submit the I-20/DS-2019 Request Form with required proof of funding.

Step Two — To apply for a Change-of-Status to F-1 or J-1 Student status, you will need to prepare the following documentation:

1. Form I-539: “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status” and Form I-539A for F-1/J-1 student and each F-2/J-2 dependent co-applicant.
2. I-539 application fee of $370 and additional $85 Biometrics Fee for F-1/J-1 student and each F-2/J-2 dependent co-applicant; Check should be payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Write the 11-digit “admission number” from your I-94 on the front of the check.
3. A cover letter from you addressed to the USCIS requesting the change of status and explaining your circumstances. Include why you entered the U.S. in your current status, why and how your intentions changed after arrival in the U.S. and any other relevant information.
4. Proof of financial support (bank statement, assistantship letter, etc.) equivalent to one year of study including living expenses.
5. A newly-issued Form I-20 or DS 2019 from International Student & Scholar Services. (You will have to submit a I-20/DS-2019 Request Form, with proof of funding, and proof of admission into UA).
6. SEVIS Fee Receipt (pay online)
7. A letter of acceptance from UA.
8. Photocopies of the following pages of your passport:

a. Passport ID page (with your picture on it)
b. Passport page that includes current expiration date
c. The most recent US Visa page of your passport

9. Copy of your I-94 Record
10. Photocopies of additional immigration documents pertaining to your current status (e.g. H-4, E-2 or L-3 I-797 Approval Notices, F-2 I-20s, J-2 DS-2019s, etc.).
11. If you are currently in a dependent visa status (e.g. F-2, E-2, J-2, H-4, etc.), please include copies of the passport, visa, and supporting immigration documents for the primary visa holder (e.g. the F-1, J-1, or H-1B visa holder who sponsors your current status).
12. SPECIAL NOTE FOR WORK VISA HOLDERS AND THEIR DEPENDENTS: If your visa status is based on employment or as the dependent of someone who holds a work visa (e.g. H, L, E, TN visas), please also include copies of the principal visa holder’s 3 most recent paychecks to prove that the person is currently employed and in valid status.
13. If your application includes the sponsorship of any F-2/J-2 dependents (spouse or children), include a Form I-539A and $85 biometrics fee for each dependent included on the I-539, a copy of the documents listed in items 8, 9, and 10 above, for each dependent. Include also proof of your relationship (marriage certificate, children’s birth certificates) and a newly issued Dependent I-20 or Dependent DS-2019 form for each dependent.

Step Three — Meet with ISSS advisor to review final application for Change-of-Status and ship petition to the appropriate USCIS Office: http://www.uscis.gov/i-539

Please make a photocopy of your entire application and supporting documents for your files before sending them to the USCIS. Send the application to the appropriate USCIS filing address as indicated in the instructions for form I-539.

When you receive a response from the USCIS, please report the outcome to the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) immediately. Send or bring a photocopy of your I-20 or DS-2019, I-797 “Approval Notice” and new I-94 card to the ISSS.