University of California, Santa Barbara

Office of International Students & Scholars - Santa Barbara, CA 93106-7150 Telephone (805) 893-2929 Fax (805) 893-7132

F-1 Visa

Students admitted to UCSB in the F-1 category will receive a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant (F-1) Student Status, to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Please note item #5 on the form contains a statement about the “normal length of study.” UCSB’s standard length of study for the purposes of the I-20 form is as follows for each degree.

  • Bachelors     60 months     (5 years)
  • Masters         48 months     (4 years)
  • Ph.D.             84 months     (7 years)

It is quite likely that you will complete your degree program before the end date on your I-20. Students should review the form and sign at the bottom on item #11. Keep all pages of the I-20 form together. NOTE: If you are transferring your F-1 student visa sponsorship to UCSB, please see below.


The U.S. government now requires a fee of $200 for all new F-1 international students. This fee must be paid prior to applying for your F-1 visa or, if you do not require a visa (i.e., Canadians), before entering the U.S. Payment of the fee will need to be verified at the time of the visa interview at the U.S. Consulate or upon entering the U.S. at the airport or border crossing. The SEVIS fee is paid using a Form I-901. To obtain the form and more information about the SEVIS fee click here


If you are outside of the United States and require a visa to enter, you can apply for an F-1 visa at an American Consulate or Embassy abroad. If you have immediate family members (spouse and minor children) accompanying you to the U.S., they should apply for an F-2 visa at the same time. Your family members applying for the F-2 visa will need their own I-20 form issued by our office. To apply for the visa you will need to present a valid passport, I-20 form, and documentation of all your financial support. If you are receiving financial support from your UCSB academic department, (i.e., teaching or research assistantship, fellowship), you should include your award letter with the financial documentation you present to obtain your visa.

It is good idea to apply for your visa as soon as possible. The Consulate or Embassy may take longer than you had planned to issue a visa or may require you to obtain additional documents. You may want to contact the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy to inquire about the details of their visa application procedure: for example, how long will it take, what documents are required, what is the fee? If the application is approved, you will be issued the visa stamp in your passport with the classification “F-1” (or “F-2” for dependents). The Consular Officer should return the I-20 form and other documents to you. You will need to present these documents along with your new visa to the Immigration Officer when you arrive in the U.S. You may enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the expected reporting date indicated on item #5 of the I-20 form; you may not, however, be allowed to arrive after that date (please contact our office if you are not able to arrive on or before the expected reporting date).

IF YOU DO NOT REQUIRE A VISA TO ENTER THE U.S (Canadian citizens): Please present the I-20 form along with your passport to the Immigration Officer at the port of entry when you arrive in the U.S. You should also be prepared to present the documentation of your financial support and payment of the SEVIS fee if requested by the officer.


When you arrive in the U.S. you will go through a process called immigration inspection. This will occur at the airport or border crossing – if traveling by land from Canada or Mexico. You will be required to present your passport, F-1 visa stamp (if applicable), I-20 form and financial documentation. The immigration officer will inspect your documents and make a determination whether to admit you into the U.S. in F-1 student status. The officer should place an admission stamp on your I-20 form, with the notation admitted in “F-1” until “D/S”. The “F-1” notation refers to the status in which you are being admitted into the U.S. The “D/S” notation indicates that you are being admitted into the U.S. until the “duration of your status”, or the duration of your study program. The officer will return your I-20 form to you.

The immigration officer will also process what is called an I-94 form, also referred to as the Admission/ Departure Record. This form was probably given to you on the airplane to fill out. The officer will process the I-94 form by again placing the admission stamp on it with the notations “F-1” and “D/S”. The immigration officer will then give you the bottom section of this form, which will be a white card approximately 4 inches by 4 inches – note: some airports may issue I-94 forms that may look different. This is an important document.

Upon leaving immigration inspection, you should be in possession of your I-20 form and the I-94 form. These two documents should include an admission stamp with the notation “F-1” and “D/S” (It is especially important that the I-94 form contains this stamp and notation.) Please be sure before leaving immigration inspection that your documents have been properly processed. Immigration officers at the port-of-entry admit hundreds of visitors in a day, entering the U.S. for different purposes and with various visa types. Errors in this processing can occur. If your documents are not properly processed, this could be a serious inconvenience to you and will take quite some time to correct later. So again, please review your documents before leaving the immigration inspection area.


If you are currently attending another institution in the United States as an F-1 student, you will need to transfer your F-1 status sponsorship in the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) from your current school to the University of California, Santa Barbara. To initiate the transfer process, you should contact your present International Student Adviser and inform them that you want to transfer your F-1 student record in SEVIS to UCSB. You should determine with your current adviser what date they should release your SEVIS record to UCSB.

UCSB cannot issue an I-20 to a student who is transferring their SEVIS record until after the transfer release date.

Merely receiving the I-20 form from UCSB does not complete your F-1 status transfer. To complete the transfer process, you are required by immigration law to report physically to the Office of International Students and Scholars no later than 15 days after the start date in item #5 on your I-20 (usually the first day of classes). Failure to report to OISS within 15 days of your program start date will result in your falling “out of status,” and you will be required to apply for reinstatement to F-1 student status with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a costly and complicated procedure.