Immigration & Visa Process
Do not use a tourist visa to enter the United States to study at Smith.
If you do not already have a U.S. visa valid for study in the U.S., Smith College will need to sponsor you to obtain one. The most common visa students use is the F-1 student visa. For information about other visas for studying at Smith, please contact us.
Getting Your F-1 Student Visa
You must request an F-1 Visa to enter the United States for the purpose of study at Smith as a full-time student in a degree program. In order to obtain an F-1 student visa, you will need to collect a series of paperwork from our office and other places to apply for your visa at home.
Below are the documents you'll need, in the order you will collect them.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your entry date into the U.S.. If you do not already own a passport or will need to renew it, please apply for one as soon as possible. The ISSO will need a copy of the picture page in your passport when you send in your documents to us—that way we can ensure that the visa paperwork we issue matches your passport exactly.
For those receiving aid from the college, you will need to bring your award letter to your visa appointment. Student Financial Services will mail this to you in early May, along with your Certification of Finances.
When you are admitted, you will receive a copy of Smith’s Certification of Finances. For those receiving financial aid from the college, it will have your aid package preprinted on the form. For those not receiving financial aid, the ISSO will send out a blank form to you in late April or early May. The form must be completed, signed, and sent to the ISSO by June 1 to ensure timely processing. We will mail back a copy of your completed Certification of Finances for your visa interview.
When you fill out your Certification of Finances, make sure you provide a complete and legible address, including a postal code and telephone number so that we can send the I-20 to you using a courier service.
You’ll send the ISSO financial documentation to ensure that you and your family can cover the costs of Smith College. Be sure to keep a copy of them for yourself as well, as they may be reviewed during your visa appointment.
Once we have your Certification of Finances and any accompanying financial documents, showing that you and your family have the resources to pay for your Smith education, we will create and mail you your I-20, a Certificate of Eligibility for your F-1 visa.
All I-20 forms for the entering class, including early admitted students, will be issued in late May and early June, provided our office has received all necessary paperwork from you.
Once you have received your I-20, you will need to pay a one-time online payment of $350. This is known as the “SEVIS fee” and payment of this fee activates your account in SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System). Pre-payment of this fee is required to ensure that your visa appointment goes smoothly. In most countries this payment can be made online at www.fmjfee.com.
Please note: If your financial aid package includes a "SEVIS fee grant," this will be awarded to you upon arrival at Smith. It will be processed as a credit on your financial account, reducing the amount that you will need to pay in each of your first two semesters by $100. You are responsible for the up-front cost of your SEVIS I-901 fee, regardless of Financial Aid status.
Apply For Your Visa**
Once you have these documents, you are ready to apply for your F-1 visa. The first step is to fill in a DS-160 form online. There will be a $160 fee, and then you can make a visa appointment at the U.S. Embassy or consulate in your country of residence. They will ask for your SEVIS number, which is located on the top right hand corner of your I-20 starting with “N00.” Please book your visa appointment as soon as possible after receiving your I-20, as visa processing times can vary by country and consulate.
After Your Visa is Issued
After you have received your F-1 visa inside your passport, make sure that you also have the I-20 form returned to you by the U.S. Embassy. You will need the I-20 in order to enter the United States. You should carry your I-20 anytime you travel internationally, and you should always enter into the U.S. in F-1 status throughout the duration of your program.
Customs & Border Protection/ I-94 Arrival Record
Upon arrival to the United States an immigration officer will check your passport, F-1 visa, and I-20 at the border. They will stamp your passport to indicate that you have been lawfully admitted as an F-1 student to the United States. This entry creates an online arrival record, called an I-94. It’s a good idea to check your online I-94 anytime you enter the U.S., just to make sure your information is recorded correctly. During ISP, we will show you how to access your I-94 online.
** Canadian Citizens:
If you will travel using a Canadian passport, you will not need an F-1 entry visa. Instead, you may carry your I-20 and passport directly to the border. It is important to present your I-20 to the Immigration Officer to ensure being admitted in F-1 status to the U.S.
Visa Transfer Information
If you already have F-1 status in the U.S., we can utilize that status to streamline your process to arrive at Smith. If you have attended another U.S. institution (high school or college), please download our transfer verification form to learn the process for transferring your F-1 visa. When you send in your Certification of Finances to our office, include your Transfer Verification Form. When your Transfer Release date arrives, we will print your new I-20 and either mail it to you or give it to you in person at ISP. Another benefit of transferring your visa is that you may remain in the U.S. during your break between programs. However, if you decide to the leave the U.S. you will not be able to re-enter the country until 30 days of your new program start date at Smith.
Other Visas/Change in Status
If you plan to change from one visa status to another from within the U.S., please contact the ISSO as soon as possible. Changes from one visa category to another can be done in two ways: 1.) by exiting the U.S. and re-entering in the new visa category; or 2.) by applying for a "change of status" from within the U.S. This second option can often take up to a year to process, so please plan accordingly.