Visa Process

FAQ's | Applying for a Visa | Arrival in the United States | Canadian Students   

Most students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States will seek an F-1(non-immigrant) student visa, which is the most common type of visa for those who wish to study in the United States.  If you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda, you do not need a visa, but you will need to obtain a Form I-20.  The International Student Coordinator is the PDSO and works with SEVIS matters. We will send information regarding the process of obtaining a Form I-20 to you and your parents in late April. If you will come to study on another type of visa, please consult the relevant websites and government agencies to determine which type of visa will be authorized for your situation. Students who currently attend another institution in F-1 non-immigrant status need to complete the SEVIS Transfer In Form.

Here you will find some helpful hints and highlights that we hope you will find useful.  The information contained on our website is intended to be an introductory guide and is not a substitute for consulting the relevant government agencies.  Government agencies, consulates, and embassies have the most complete and up to date information.  It is important that you learn as much as you can about this element of your academic pursuits in the United States. 

The related links to the left will lead you to various websites that explain the requirements for obtaining a visa that will authorize you to study at Phillips Exeter Academy.

 Review our checklist for new F-1 students (Checklist will be available early April, 2016.)

If you have any questions about your student visa, please contact Mrs. Jennifer Smith, International Student Coordinator and PDSO:


  • What is a Visa?

    Your Visa is permission to enter the United States for a specific purpose.  Your Visa is like a key that allows you to enter the United States.

  • What is SEVIS?

    Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is an internet-based system that maintains data on foreign students and exchange visitors before and during their stay in the United States.  The system is maintained by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

  • What is an F-1 student? 

    An F-1 student is a nonimmigrant who is pursuing a full course of study to achieve a specific educational objective at an approved institution that has been enrolled in SEVIS.

  • What is an I-20?

    The I-20 is a multi-purpose government form used in connection with many F-1 procedures and benefits.  It is a 3-page document issued through SEVIS by the school and retained by the student.  This form is only a “certificate of eligibility” for F-1 Status.  The student must use the I-20 to acquire F-1 status.


Applying for a Visa

  1. To acquire F-1 status a student needs to receive Form I-20, produced in SEVIS. For PEA to issue the Form I-20 to enrolled students, they must meet the following conditions:
    1. Provide documentation that the student has financial resources adequate to meet the expenses while studying at PEA. Complete and submit the Financial Verification Form. We recommend that you bring an original of the Financial Verification Form to your visa interview as proof of financial support and submit a copy to PEA.
    2. Be officially admitted to the school.
  2. Apply for F-1 Visa
    1. Review your visa status, and find out if you need a U.S. visa or a renewal. If you are currently abroad, and do not yet have a valid U.S. student visa, you generally apply for one at the U.S. Embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. 
    2. Review the Visa Wait Times information for interview appointments and visa processing at each embassy and consular section.
    3. Schedule your interview.  Thoroughly review all information on the specific Embassy’s Consular Section website.  Wait times for appointments vary greatly and you need to plan carefully to make sure that you have enough time to schedule your interview.  Expect that you will be required to make your appointment at least four to eight weeks in advance. 
    4. Pay the Federal SEVIS fee of $200.00
    5. Check the date on  your passport: your passport must be valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry in to the United States.  If you plan to enter on September 1, then your passport must not expire before March 1.  This condition is applicable every time you enter the United States.  Upon entry into the United States your passport must be valid for a minimum of six months beyond the date of entry.
  3. Bring the following with you to your visa appointment: 
    1. Passport
    2. Required photos
    3. Visa fee
    4. Federal SEVIS I-901 Fee payment receipt
    5. U. S. non-immigrant visa application forms(unless you will complete at the embassy)
    6. Phillips Exeter Academy admission letter
    7. Phillips Exeter Academy SEVIS I-20
    8. Test scores and academic records
    9. Proof of financial support
    10. Evidence of ties to your home country

The above information and fees were published on the U.S. Department of State's website in March 2010.  Regulations and fees can change at any time.  Students must check the information posted on the U. S. Department of State's website.  The above information is intended to be an introductory guide to help you as you begin the process.   

Review the information on applying for a Student Visa on the U.S. Department of State's website.  In addition, review the embassy specific instructions


Arrival in the United States

You may not enter the United Stated more than 30 days before the program start date listed on your SEVIS I-20 form.


Port of Entry Procedures

 Be sure to have with you the following:

  • Your passport valid for six months beyond the date of entry
  • Your visa in your passport
  • Your form I-20
  • Proof of Federal SEVIS fee payment

After you have entered the U.S. you will complete the remaining documents:

  • Flight attendants will distribute Customs Declaration Forms (CF-6059).  
  • The Customs and Border Protection CBP is in the process of automating the Form I-94 and is moving from the paper form to an electronic form I-94.  A CBP officer will review your documents and will create the electronic I-94 record during the inspection process at the time of admission.  Students should  receive an admission stamp in their passport indicating the class of admission (such as F-1, J-1 or M-1), the date of admission, and the admit to date or "D/S" (Duration of Status for length of stay).  The CBP has established an I-94 website where travelers will have access to the record and can print a copy.  
  • The U.S. Customs and Border Protection CBP  website provides information about the rollout of the new arrival/departure record-process for foreign visitors.
  • When you leave the port of entry, you should have your stamped passport and your I-20 with you.  Review the stamp in your passport and check that the date, class of admission, and length of stay are correct. The United States State Department sponsors a program called Education USA.  The website has useful information outlining the process of obtaining a visa and defines all of the terms.  You may find the Education USA website helpful.



Pre-Arrival Information for Canadian Students
following admission to PEA

Checklist for new Canadian students:

  •  Submit required documentation to PEA for form I-20. Financial Verification Form.

When you receive your form I-20:

  • Review the information.  Your name must match on your I-20 and your passport.
  • You and your parents (if you are under 18 years of age) must sign it.
  • Pay the Federal SEVIS fee of $200.00
  • Your form I-20 must be issued before you pay this fee.
  • For information
  • Check the date on  your passport: your passport must be valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry in to the United States.  If you plan to enter on September 1, then your passport must not expire before March 1.  This condition is applicable every time you enter the United States.  Upon entry into the United States your passport must be valid for a minimum of six months beyond the date of entry.

At the border:

Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain a U.S. visa to enter the United States.  However, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will inspect your papers either at a pre-inspection site in Canada or upon entry to the United States.  You must have with you:

  • Your Canadian passport
  • Your admission letter to Phillips Exeter Academy
  •  Proof of Federal SEVIS Fee payment
  • Your form I-20
  •  Proof of financial support that corresponds to the information on your I-20
  • Do not attempt to enter more than 30 days before program start date on I-20