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As an international student, you need several very important immigration documents.

Before you enter the US to study as a student or exchange visitor, you need your passport and I-20 or DS-2019. You also need to get a student or exchange visitor visa. To get a student or exchange visitor visa, you must follow these steps:

  1. Be admitted to KU
  2. Get an immigration document from KU (Form I-20 OR Form DS-2019)
  3. Pay the SEVIS Fee
  4. Schedule a visa interview
  5. Attend a visa interview

If you are already in the U.S. in F-1 status you must transfer your SEVIS record to KU.

If you are in a status other than F-1 or J-1 it may be possible for you to study in your current status. Learn more about studying on your current status here.

After you enter the US, the I-94 immigration document will be generated for you to download and print. After you enter the US, you must carry a copy of your I-94 with you at all times. Keep your I-20/DS-2019 and passport valid at all times and store them in a safe place.

A Form I-20 immigration document is required for an F-1 student visa. A Form DS-2019 immigration document is required for a J-1 exchange visa. ISS will review your application to see if you will need a Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.

If ISS determines that you need a Form I-20 for an F-1 student visa or a DS-2019 for a J-1 exchange visitor visa, you will receive an email from ISS with instructions to access the iHawk website. iHawk is the website where international students complete important immigration forms.

For an I-20 or DS-2019, you must submit the following documentation to iHawk:

  1. Proof of financial eligibility for at least one year in your program
  2. A copy of your passport
  3. Confirmation that you understand the date you are expected to arrive at KU
  4. Confirmation of the mailing method for your immigration document, if undergraduate
  5. An ‘Intent to Transfer to KU’ form, if you are currently in F-1 status studying at another school within the U.S.
  6. Information about your dependents, including a copy of their passport, if you are bringing your child or spouse to the U.S.

After you submit all required iHawk eforms for your immigration document, it will be sent for review to ISS staff. You will be contacted by email if any additional information is required.

Graduate Students: You must accept your admission in your application portal before ISS will give you access to iHawk.

Students applying to the AEC or AAP: You will submit your documents through the office to which you applied.

I-20 DS-2019
What is a Visa?

A visa is a document issued by the U.S. government, usually at an embassy or consulate outside of the United States. This allows you to present yourself at the Port of Entry and request to be let in.

Which visa do I need?

Student Visa

Most students will either get an F-1 (student) or a J-1 (exchange visitor) visa.

If you have, or will have an F-1 I-20, you will apply for an F-1 visa.

If you have, or will have a J-1 DS-2019, you will apply for a J-1 visa.

Learn more about Student Visa Types

Tourist Visa

If you enter the U.S. with a tourist visa (B-1/B-2) or under the Visa Waiver Program that your country has with the U.S., you CANNOT LEGALLY ATTEND SCHOOL.

When do I Apply?

Due to possible security-check delays, ISS encourages you to apply for your visa as early as possible. If you are applying for an F-1 visa, the earliest you 120 days before the program start date on your I-20.

Where and how do I apply?

Each embassy or consular post has their own visa application procedures and processing times. Be sure to read the web page for the post where you will be applying for the specific instructions for that location.

Visa Process:

There are several stages involved in the visa application process, and they vary by Embassy and Consulate. In general you can expect these steps:

  • Complete the Online Visa Application (DS-160) after you have received your I-20 or DS-2019
  • Schedule an Interview
  • Gather Required Documentation
  • Attend Your Visa Interview
  • Find a US Embassy or Consulate

Documents Needed to Apply for a F-1 Student or J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa

In general, to apply you will need:

  • Form I-20 (for F-1) or Form DS-2019 (for J-1)
  • Passport
  • Proof of financial support
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • Photos
  • Visa application fee
  • Online visa application forms

Check Visa for Accuracy

Check your visa for accuracy (name, date of birth, visa type – such as F-1 or J-1), and request a correction immediately if you find any errors.

Tips for Successful Student or Exchange Visitor Interview
  • Be honest, friendly, and have a good attitude.
  • Be on time and prepared.
  • Be prepared to do the interview in English.
  • Keep your answers simple, and to the point.
  • If asked, share information about your academic background and what you expect to get out of your education in the U.S.
  • Be prepared to show strong ties to your home country.
  • Organize your documentation so is can be presented without hesitation, if asked.
  • Be prepared to show sufficient financial proof that a sum at least equal to the amount indicated on the I-20 is readily available.
  • If you are married, and your family is remaining in your home country, be prepared to explain how they will support themselves in your absence.
  • Mention any family member who has complete higher education in the U.S. who has now returned to your country.
  • Be prepared to address a mandatory military service if your country has one.
  • Do not bring family, friends, electronics (including cellphones), glass, food, lighters, cigarettes, makeup, or belt buckles.
  • Do not state that you intend to work in the U.S., even temporarily, after completing your studies.


  • Show sufficient finances to support any dependents.
  • If your visa is denied, politely request the reason for the denial in writing.
Special Information for J-1 Exchange Visitors

Many J-1 Exchange Visitors become subject to the INA 212(e) two-year home country physical presence requirement. The consular officer makes a preliminary determination at the time of your interview if you will be subject to this requirement upon entering the U.S. in J-1 status. It should be marked on both your J-1 visa and your DS-2019. (Note: sometimes these initial determinations are incorrect.)

You can learn more about why and if you are subject, and the specific limitations set forth by the two-year home residency requirement.

Special information for Canadians

Canadian citizens do not need a U.S. visa, but they must present a valid passport, proof of finances, I-20 or DS-2019, and SEVIS fee receipt at the U.S. port of entry.

Special Information for Students and Visitors applying in Taiwan

In Taiwan, apply at the American Institute in Taiwan at http://www.ait.org.tw

Do I need a transit Visa?

If you are travelling through another country on your way to the United States you might need a transit visa from that country. Please check with that country’s embassy or consulate office to determine if you are required to obtain a transit visa.

Student Visa

Note: F-1 and J-1 students are required to pay a fee to the U.S. government before applying for a visa.

Who pays the I-901 SEVIS fee?
New Students to the U.S.

All students who have an initial attendance I-20 Form (F-1 students) and most students who have a “begin a new program” DS-2019 Form (J-1 Students) must pay the SEVIS fee to the US government before applying for a visa.

Dependents (F-2 or J-2) do not need to pay the SEVIS fee.

Students currently in the U.S.

Students currently studying in the U.S. usually do not have to pay the fee again. The fee is tied to the SEVIS ID number and as long as the student has maintained status, the SEVIS record can be transferred to KU without the student repaying the fee.

If you are not sure if you need to pay or need to have the fee transferred from one SEVIS record to another please visit the government’s FAQ page

When do I pay the SEVIS fee?

Pay the SEVIS fee after you have received your initial F-1 I-20 or initial J-1 DS-2019. You must pay the SEVIS fee before applying for a visa at a US Embassy/Consulate or before applying for a change of status to F-1 or J-1.

How do I pay the SEVIS fee?
  1. Follow the instructions on the SEVIS fee website
  2. Submit form I-901
  3. Pay the SEVIS fee
  4. Keep the receipt of the I-901 SEVIS Fee payment after you have finished the payment

Information on payment options are available on the SEVIS Fee website.

You will need the following code and number when paying the SEVIS fee:

  • KU F-1 (I-20) School Code: KAN 214F 00634000
  • J-1 (DS-2019) School Code: The 'Program Number' listed in Section 2 on the DS-2019 issued for your attendance at KU.
  • Your SEVIS ID Number: Located in the upper left corner of the I-20 (for F-1 students) or upper right corner of the DS-2019 (for J-1 students). This number begins with an ‘N’.
What is SEVIS?

SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System This system is used by the U.S. government to collect and maintain information about F and J status international students and their accompanying dependents during their stay in the U.S. All students who have an initial attendance I-20 Form (F-1 students) and most students who have a “begin a new program” DS-2019 Form (J-1 Students) must pay a SEVIS fee to the US government before they can apply for a visa.


All students currently in F-1 status at any type of institution (high school, college, university, intensive English institute) in the U.S. (including those on Optional Practical Training) who plan to change schools must complete the transfer procedure through SEVIS.  It is the student’s responsibility to maintain his or her F-1 student status and to complete the procedures below. 

SEVIS (I-20) Transfer Procedural Instructions
  1. Get admitted to the University of Kansas.
  2. Once you decide that you will attend KU, notify your current school (or if on Optional Practical Training your former school who recommended the OPT) of your intent to transfer to KU.
  3. Only after you have decided to attend KU, complete and submit the "Intent to Transfer to KU" e-form online:
  • Step 1 – Setup KU Online ID  (you will need your 7 digit KUID number [e.g. 2991234])
  • Step 2 – Log in to iHawk by using the blue “Login” button.
  • Step 3 – Complete and submit the “Intent to Transfer to KU from a U.S. School” e-form, under the “Get Your I-20/DS-2019” tab.  You will need to provide the email address of your current international student advisor at the transfer-out school.
  • Step 4 – The international student advisor at your current transfer-out school will complete their portion of the e-form (routed to them via email upon your submission of e-form).  In order for the advisor to complete their part, you must have already met with them to request the transfer and have determined the SEVIS record release date. To release your SEVIS record to the University of Kansas, your advisor will need KU’s SEVIS school code: KAN214F00634000. 
  1. After the release date, KU will produce an I-20 if sufficient proof of finances has been received. KU cannot produce the I-20 before the release date.
  2. Once the I-20 is issued, you will receive it in the manner which you selected on the “Intent to Transfer to KU from a U.S. School” e-form.
  3. To complete the transfer, you are required to report to an international student advisor at KU within 15 days of the report date on your new KU I-20, during orientation or at an ISS ARRIVE check-in session.

Driver’s License and SSN Issues for Transfer Students

Your transferred in SEVIS record is typically not registered (changed to active status) until orientation/ISS ARRIVE checkins are completed, you have enrolled, and classes have started.  If you can, you should wait to apply for your driver’s license or social security number until after classes have started.  If you absolutely cannot wait, consult the ISS office.

Readmitted students, transferring back to KU

Checklist of things to do:

  1. Have your SEVIS record released (transferred) to KU:
  • See instructions above
  1. Complete required check-ins to remove enrollment holds:
  • As a readmitted student, you are not required (although certainly welcome) to do the International Student Orientation, however, you are still required to complete the ISS ARRIVE Check-in prior to being allowed to enroll.  You may have other enrollment holds and check-ins to complete as well.
  • Review the details on Readmitted Student Arrival and Check-in Processes


For any questions regarding the SEVIS transfer process and I-20 issuance, email issdocs@ku.edu.

Orientation is mandatory for all new KU F-1 students, regardless of previous attendance at another institution in the US in F-1 status. Remember to Register for Orientation!

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