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Obtaining a Passport

How to apply for a passport

All those applying for an F-1 (student) or J-1 (exchange visitor) visa have to be entered first in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The sponsoring organization enters the information about the applicant and the appropriate form is then printed. For students this is the I-20 Form; for exchange visitors this is the DS-2019 Form.

The I-20 or DS-2019 Form is taken to a U.S. Consulate if the student is outside the U.S. to apply for a visa. Before applying, however, an appointment must be made at the Consulate and the appropriate fees must be paid.

For more information and to pay the fee, please visit: You may also pay by mail and will find instructions at the same site. Print a copy of the receipt because you will need to submit this receipt with your visa application. Note that the fee must be paid at least three days prior to submitting your visa application.

Those outside the U.S. will need to contact a U.S. Consulate for an interview appointment, and consulates differ in the length of time needed to get an appointment.There are also security forms such as the DS-156, DS-157, or DS-158 which can be downloaded and filled out in advance if they are required.

Finally, those from certain countries must also pay a visa issuance fee. This is a reciprocity fee and countries which charge U.S. citizens a fee for a visa are in turn charged a fee by the U.S. Relatively few countries have such a fee.

In Summary

Admitted students apply to the school for an I-20 or DS-2019. With the I-20 or DS-2019 in hand, they apply for an interview, pay the SEVIS and visa application fees, and take the required forms, receipts, and a passport with them to the interview.

Note that the earliest the F-1 visa will be granted is 120 days before the reporting date for the beginning of school, but the student can only enter the U.S. 30 days before the reporting date.

Passport Photos

The photo requirements for most USCIS and foreign visa applications are:

  • Two identical photographs of yourself taken within 30 days of filing your application. 
  • Photos must have a white to off-white background, be printed on thin paper with a glossy finish, and be unmounted and unretouched.
  • Passport style photos must be 2" x  2". 
  • Photos must be in color with full face, frontal view.
  • Head height should measure 1” to 1” 3/8” from top to bottom of chin, and eye height is between 1 1/8” to 1 3/8” from bottom of photo. 
  • Your head must be bare unless you are wearing a headdress as required by a religious order or which are a member.

Where to get your photo taken?

  • CVS
  • Walgreens
  • Fedex