Visa Information

All international students must have a valid passport to enter the United States as a student. As an international student, you must obey the immigration laws and regulations of the United States. You are responsible for learning, understanding, and obeying the U.S. laws and regulations that apply to you.

It is very important you visit the U.S. Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website to learn how to navigate the U.S. Immigration System. The Student Process Steps include information on how to obtain your student visa. There are 10 steps covered in 3 sections of the process. Those sections are:

  • Steps 1-3: Pre-Arrival
  • Steps 4-6: Arriving
  • Steps 7-9: While in the United States
  • Step 10: Departing

 SEVIS I-901 Fee

The SEVIS I-901 fee is required for all F-1 and J-1 visa students. Paying your SEVIS I-901 fee is very important. 
Without this fee, you will not be eligible to apply for a visa. To pay the fee, go to

 Applying for your Visa

After paying the I-901 fee and getting a receipt, you can apply for a visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate before you leave for the United States.

Prepare for the Visa Interview

Read these 10 Points to Remember when applying for a nonimmigrant visa.

F-1 Student Visa

You will need:

  • Form I-20
  • Statement of financial support
  • Valid country passport
  • Proof you paid the SEVIS I-901 fee

J-1 Student Visa

You will need:

  • DS-2019
  • Statement of financial support
  • Valid country passport
  • Proof you paid the SEVIS I-901 fee

 Know Your Documents

Before you leave for the United States, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different types of documents you might need. It is always a good idea to carry your original documents on your person at all times. Do NOT put them in your checked baggage. If you have any questions about your visa, please contact International Students and Scholars. (ISS)

Passport    Your passport is issued by your government and is your official international identification.  

  • Your passport must be valid at all times during your stay in this country.
  • You should keep copies of your passport in your home country and in the U.S.
  •  If you lose your passport, you should immediately notify Campus Police or the Missoula Police Department and file an official report.

Visa     A United States visa is used to enter the U.S., and can only be obtained outside the U.S

I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record)         The I-94 is issued automatically when you enter the U.S., and is proof that you entered the U.S. legally. 

  • After you arrive (or return to) in the U.S., you should check to make sure the information on your I-94 is correct.  You can do this on the I-94 official website.  The information should include:
    • Entry Date
    • Visa Type
    • Length of Stay should be “D/S”, meaning “Duration of Status”
    • If any of the above information is incorrect or missing, contact ISS immediately.
    • It is recommended that you print a copy of your most recent I-94 entry record.

I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant Student [F-1] Status) The Form I-20 is the document that states what school you are eligible to attend, your intended academic program, dates of attendance, and financial information. The I-20 is required by the U.S. Consulate when you apply for a visa.

  • If you plan to leave the U.S. temporarily, you must have your I-20 signed by a Designated School Official (DSO) at International Students and Scholars. 
  • If there are any changes in your program, you must request a new Form I-20 from ISS.
  • An F-1Student is allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to 60 days after the program end date on the I-20.  For more information, see the Study In the States website.

DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor [J-1] Status)      A DS-2019 is issued by your sponsor, and is used to apply for a U.S. visa.  It is also used to enter or re-enter the United States.

  • If you plan to leave the U.S. temporarily, you must have your DS-2019 signed by a Responsible Officer (RO) at ISS, if it is issued by the University of Montana, or a Responsible Officer (RO) from the agency that issued your DS-2019.
  • If you wish to extend your program or change sponsors, your DS-2019 must be replaced. Contact ISS for more information.
  • A J-1 Student is allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to 30 days after the program end date on the DS-2019.  For more information see J1 Common Questions or come to ISS.

 Entering the US

You may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the official program start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019. You must report to the University of Montana by the program start date. If you cannot enter the U.S. for the term listed on your Form I-20/DS-2019 or if you will be a few days late, contact us immediately at or (406) 243-5509.


When you arrive in the United States you will complete a customs declaration form and your luggage may be examined. 

Extension of Program End Date

Pay close attention to the program completion date indicated on your I-20/DS-2019. Your F-1/J1 status will end of the program end date unless it is extended. You are required to make your request for an extension at least 2 weeks before the program end date. Make an appointment with ISS to request an extension. 

Have more Questions?

For more information please visit the U.S. State Department website or contact