International students must have a valid and unexpired visa at the time that you enter the U.S.  It is okay if your visa expires while you are in the U.S, but it must be valid any time you leave and re-enter the country.  Canadian citizens are exempt from this requirement, but they must still pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.

Caution: Do NOT enter the U.S. in visitor status (B1/B2 or WB/WT-Visa Waiver)  Individuals with this visa status are not eligible to register for classes.

Applying for a Visa

Visas can only be obtained outside of the U.S. at a U.S. embassy or consulate.  If your visa has expired and you are planning on traveling outside the U.S., it is necessary to apply for a new visa before you return.    

Below is more information on applying for a visa (note that steps 1 and 2 do not apply to returning students unless you have been out of the country for more than 5 months).

1. Get your I-20/Decide among multiple schools

Once you are admitted to UMD, you will be issued an I-20.  If you have been admitted to more than one school, you may have more than one I-20.  You should NOT apply for a visa until you are certain which school you would like to attend.  You MUST attend the school that is indicated on the I-20 that you use for your visa application.

2. Pay the SEVIS fee

Once you decide to come to UMD and you have your I-20, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.  For more information, you can watch the I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment Tutorial.  Remember to print a copy of the receipt as proof that you paid the fee for your visa interview and when you enter the U.S.

Returning students who have been absent from the U.S. for less than 5 months generally do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again.

3. Locate the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country

Find your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and complete the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application.

4. Schedule an appointment for your visa interview

Your local embassy or consulate will have specific instructions for scheduling an appointment.  You should schedule your appointment as soon as possible after receiving your I-20. Approximate visa wait times at consular locations can be found at the Department of State website.

5. Prepare for your visa interview

Tips for Your Visa Interview

10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa

Check the Status of Your Visa Application


Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 are eligible to accompany you to the U.S. with a dependent visa (F-2 or J-2). You must request a dependent I-20 or DS-2019 document for each of your eligible dependents. For more information, contact the office responsible for your visa document. Be aware that F-2 visa holders may not work in the US, nor may they be a full-time student at a University or other post-secondary institution in the US.