Obtaining a Visa

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Note for F-1 Students: If you have previously studied in the U.S. in F-1 status, but will not be starting your program at UW-Platteville within 5 months of your last date of attendance at your previous school/university, you will be issued an initial I-20 and you will need to pay the SEVIS fee again and apply for a new F-1 visa. If you have been issued a transfer-pending I-20 (with the same SEVIS number as any previous I-20s you may have had), you do not need to apply for an F-1 visa unless you are outside of the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa.

Applying for a Student Visa

Before entering the U.S., you must apply for an entry visa stamp in your passport. In order to apply for a U.S. student visa, you must first have received an I-20 or DS-2019 from a U.S. university. Make sure that you apply for the proper visa. F and J entry visas can only be obtained outside of the United States at a U.S. embassy or consulate. To apply for an entry visa, follow the steps below.

1. Review DS-2019 or I-20 for Accuracy. Please review your form DS-2019 or I-20 to ensure its accuracy and sign the bottom of your I-20 or DS-2019 in blue ink. To avoid problems or delays in obtaining your visa and entering the United States, ensure that all of your immigration documents reflect the same name, exactly as it appears in your passport. Do not use "nicknames" or shortened names on any of your documents, including your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, entry visa stamp, I-94 card, or any other official government documents that you acquire after arriving in the U.S. Please contact the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) office immediately if you see any errors in your name, date of birth, or citizenship (your name should exactly match that on your passport).

Note: The major field of study listed on your admission letter and the major field of study listed on your I-20 or DS-2019 may not appear exactly the same. This is due to a coding discrepancy between SEVIS and the university and is not a cause for concern.

2. Determine the type of visa you need. If you received an I-20 document from the university, you will apply for an F-1 visa. If you received a DS-2019 document from the university or another U.S. agency, such as IIE, you will apply for a J-1 student visa.

Caution: Do NOT enter the U.S. in visitor status (B1/B2 or WB/WT-Visa Waiver) or in F-2  or J-2 (dependent of F-1 or J-1) status. Individuals with these visa statuses are not eligible to register for classes. If you have questions about any other visa types, please contact the ISSS Office.

3. Pay the SEVIS fee. International students must pay the SEVIS fee before applying for an entry visa or entering the United States. This fee is assessed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is not administered by the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. For more information about how to pay the fee and to pay the fee online, click here. It is important that you keep your SEVIS fee payment receipt along with your other immigration documents, in case you are ever asked to show proof of payment of the SEVIS fee.

You may need the following information when paying your SEVIS fee:

  • Your SEVIS ID Number = located on Page 1 of your I-20 (starts with N)

*Note: if you are citizen of Canada you can skip the remaining steps as you are not required to obtain a F-1 visa.

4. Locate the nearest US embassy or consulate in your home country. Embassy and consulate information is available on-line at or at http://www.embassy-worldwide.com/.

5. Schedule an appointment for your visa interview. Your local embassy or consulate will have specific instructions for scheduling an appointment. Schedule your appointment as soon as possible after receiving your I-20 or DS-2019, since you may not be able to make an appointment with the embassy for several weeks or longer. Approximate visa wait times at consular locations can be found at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html.

6. Prepare documents for your visa interview. All visa applicants must provide the following documents to the US embassy or consulate at the time of the application:

  • Valid passport
  • Form DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa ApplicationApplication fee
  • Certificate of Eligibility (i.e. I-20 or DS-2019)
  • Passport photo
  • Proof of SEVIS Fee payment (I-901 Receipt)
  • Any other supporting documents requested by your embassy/consulate, which typically includes (but is not limited to) documented proof of financial support for at least one year

7. Practice for your visa interview and review this advice. During the interview at the embassy, you will need to prove that you will only study temporarily in the U.S. and will return home after your studies are complete. Answer all questions truthfully but only provide information related to the question asked. Be prepared to answer confidently and clearly in English:

  • Your area of study
  • Your reason for wanting to study in the U.S.
  • Proof of sufficient funds and how your funds are able to cover all of your expenses for a minimum of one year
  • Your good reasons for returning home after you complete your studies. You must be able to provide documentary evidence where possible of the strong ties you have to your country. It could include having all of your family in your country, having a job offer awaiting you when you return, or proof of property ownership. Other facts to emphasize are specific future educational, employment, or career goals that will be carried out in your home country. Do not emphasize relatives who live or study in the U.S.

Visa Denials

If your visa is denied, ask the consular officials to provide you with a written explanation of the denial, then contact the ISSS office for assistance.

Arriving in the U.S.

You can enter the United States NO earlier than 30 days before the start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019. If you are booking a return flight, be aware that J-1 students are allowed to stay in the U.S. up to 30 days after their program end date, and F-1 students are allowed to stay in the U.S. up to 60 days after their program end date. Your program end date is the date on which you complete all the requirements for your degree.


Your spouse and children under 21 are eligible to accompany you to the U.S. with a dependent visa (F-2 or J-2). You must request from ISSS a dependent I-20 or DS-2019 document for each of your eligible dependents. Note that F-2 visa holders may not work in the U.S. or be a student at UW-Platteville or other post-secondary institution in the U.S. J-2 dependents are eligible to apply for employment authorization from the USCIS as long as the employment is not for the purpose of supporting the J-1. Currently, the regulations do not have a prohibition for J-2s engaging in post-secondary study on a full-time basis, as long as their primary purpose in the U.S. is to accompany the J-1 status holder.

Deciding between multiple schools

You must attend the school that is indicated on the I-20 or DS-2019 that you use for your visa application. If you received more than one I-20 or DS-2019 from different schools, you should not apply for a visa until you are certain which school you would like to attend. Once you have made a decision and applied for your visa, return any unused I-20s or DS-2019s to the school or agency that issued them to you.

More Information

Click here for more information on how to apply for an F-1 Student Visa.

Click here for more information on how to apply for a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa.

Click here for pre-arrival, packing, and arrival information.

Contact Us - ISSS

Contact Us

International Student and Scholar Services Office
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
1 University Plaza
Royce Hall
Platteville, WI 53818

Donna Anderson
Director, International Programs
Royce Hall 101
Tel: 608.342.1726
E-mail: anderdon@uwplatt.edu

Liz Kruse
Assistant Director, International Programs
Royce Hall 111B
Tel: 608.342.1852
E-mail: krusee@uwplatt.edu

Nina Elskamp
Incoming Exchange  Coordinator/Office Manager
Royce Hall 111
Tel: 608.342.1726
E-mail: elskampn@uwplatt.edu

Jane Auge
International Student Success Advisor
Royce Hall 105
Tel: 608.342.1726
E-mail: augej@uwplatt.edu

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