If you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States, you must obtain an F-1 student visa in order to attend UC Berkeley Extension International Programs. If you are already in the United States on a visa other an F-1 visa, please contact our international student services office to inquire about eligibility.

Our International Student Administrative Services office is here to assist you with visa procedures. We've also provided the information below as a guide to important rules and regulations.

Non-U.S. citizens entering the country with a visitor visa (B-1, B-2) or under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are not permitted to engage in full-time study. If your status is other than F-1, please consult with International Student Administrative Services about your eligibility to study or changing your visa status.

Note: A visa stamp in your passport cannot be obtained within the U.S.

Applying for Your Student Visa

Once you have the documents below, you will need to schedule an appointment for your visa interview. Visit www.usembassy.gov to find the U.S. embassy or consulate that is most convenient for you.

  1. Passport valid for at least six months after your program completion date
  2. Form I-20 (Please review your I-20, sign and date)
  3. Form I-901, receipt for your SEVIS fee payment
  4. School admission letter (optional)
  5. Printed Form DS-160 application (completed online)
  6. Two-inch by two-inch photograph in the required format
  7. Evidence of financial ability to pay for school costs plus living expenses (the amount shown on Form I-20)
  8. Any information that proves that you will return to your home country after finishing your studies in the U.S. This may include proof of property, family or other ties to your community.

Form I-20 is the certificate of eligibility issued by a Designated School Official (DSO) at the school where you wish to enroll. It will be included in your acceptance packet and has three pages. Your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) identification number is printed on the first and second pages.

Note: Each dependent who accompanies you to the U.S. must have an individual F-2 Dependent Form I-20.

SEVIS is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. U.S. schools that have been approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to accept F-1 students are required to notify the DHS's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (U.S. ICE) to report the following information through SEVIS:

  • Your name*
  • Date and place of birth*
  • Country of citizenship*
  • Foreign address
  • U.S. address
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Registration status
  • Program start and end dates
  • Program and length of study
  • Termination date and reason

*Schools are required to report this information for all dependents in the U.S., as well.

U.S. schools are also required to notify SEVIS if:

  • there is a change in your U.S. address
  • there is a change in your present full-time status
  • you drop out of school
  • you fail to maintain full-time status
  • Prospective students with "Initial Attendance" I-20
  • Prospective students with "Initial Attendance" I-20 who are applying for a change to an F-1 status from another visa category
  • F-1 students in the U.S. filing for reinstatement if have been out of status for more than five months

Note: F-2 dependents do not have to pay the SEVIS fee.

Regulation requires all prospective F students to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before the Department of State issues you a visa. To pay the fee with a credit card, log on to FMJfee.com and complete the form. Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20. Be sure to print a copy of the online receipt and bring it to your visa interview.

If you are transferring schools, extending your program, applying for an F-2 dependent visa or have paid the SEVIS fee within last 12 months, you do not need to pay the $200 SEVIS fee.

If you are returning to continue your studies, renewing your visa or seeking more details on how to apply for a student visa, refer to the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs. During your interview, remain calm and answer all the Visa Officer's questions openly and honestly.

Consular officers do security checks for all visa applicants. They do special security clearances for some applicants as required by law. Students who study scientific and technical subjects are subject to additional background checks. These clearances may take several weeks or longer. Be sure to make your visa appointment well in advance of your intended travel.

Follow your local U.S. embassy or consulate instructions to schedule a visa interview. You may schedule your appointment as early as, but no more than 120 days before your program start date.

If your F-1 visa application is denied, the SEVIS fee as well as the visa application fee will not be refunded. However, if you re-apply for a new F-1 visa within 12 months of denial, you will not have to pay the SEVIS fee again.

  1. Contact your local U.S. Consulate or Embassy to ask about how to get an F-1 international student visa. The U.S. Department of State has a list of Consulates and Embassies.
  2. Follow the U.S. Embassy/Consulate's instructions to schedule an interview for your F-1 student visa. It is important to apply for your student visa as far in advance as possible. Many consulates recommend that appointments be made no more than 90 days from the intended date of travel, but some can make earlier arrangements for interviews.
  3. Complete the following forms:
    1. DS-156 Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form
    2. DS-158 Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant
    3. Males age 16–45 years must complete the DS-157 Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  4. If your I-20 is marked for "initial" attendance (see No. 3 on your I-20), you will need to pay the $200 SEVIS fee.

Visitors admitted to the United States on a B-1 or B-2 tourist visa are strictly prohibited from enrolling in a full-time program of study at UC Berkeley Extension. To enroll in a full-time UC Berkeley Extension International Program, you must either obtain an F-1 nonimmigrant visa from a consular officer abroad and seek readmission to the U.S. or apply to one of our international programs online and request a change of status. B-1 or B-2 visa holders may take some UC Berkeley Extension courses on a part-time basis.

Arriving and Maintaining Your Visa Status

We recommend that you wait until you have received your F-1 visa before you make and pay for travel arrangements.

The date you are expected to report to UC Berkeley Extension is the start of classes date printed on your I-20.

Hand-carry the following documents during your trip:
  • Signed Form I-20
  • Passport and F-1 visa
  • Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee payment (Form I-901)
  • The name and contact information of your designated school official:

    Olga Paly

    International Student Adviser (PDSO)

    (510) 642-2564

  • Maintain contact with your designated school official (DSO) throughout your stay.
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) gathers travelers' arrival/departure information automatically from its electronic travel records.

    If travelers need the information from their Form I-94 admission record to verify immigration status, the record number and other admission information, they are encouraged to get their I-94 Number.

    Upon arrival, a CBP officer stamps the travel document of each arriving non-immigrant traveler with the admission date, the class of admission and the date that the traveler is admitted until.

    The difference between F-1 visa and F-1 status

    Once you have been admitted to the U.S., UC Berkeley Extension and the Immigration Services will consider you as having F-1 status (which is not the same as an F-1 visa). For the most part, you will have both an F-1 visa and an F-1 status.

    There are times when you'll have an F-1 status and a different visa stamp in your passport. A common example is if you are admitted into the U.S. with an H-4 dependent visa and applied to the U.S. CIS to change your status to an F-1. Your visa stamp will remain H-4 but your status will be F-1. Please contact us for further information about the change of status in the U.S.

    It is your responsibility to maintain F-1 nonimmigrant status while you are in the U.S. The international student adviser is available to help you understand the various U.S. Immigration Services regulations that affect you as an international student in the U.S. If you have any questions about your visa or status, please make an appointment with the international student adviser.

    Although you are not likely to have much direct contact with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. DHS), you should be fully aware of the primary conditions imposed by the U.S. DHS for you to maintain your F-1 status. Violation of any of these conditions could lead to serious trouble in the form of arrest, investigations, hearings or even deportation:

    • You are not permitted to accept employment off campus without prior authorization.
    • You must be a full-time student.
    • You must report any address change (permanent overseas and/or U.S.) to UC Berkeley Extension within 10 days.
    • If you are transferring from another school, you must complete the transfer procedure within 15 days of the program start date noted on your Form I-20.

    An F-1 student is admitted to the U.S. for a period known as "Duration of Status," which is recorded on your entry documents I-94 and I-20 with the notation "D/S." Duration of Status refers to the period a student is pursuing a full course of study, plus any authorized practical training following completion.

    If you want to travel in the U.S. after your 60-day grace period, you will need to apply to the U.S. CIS for a change of status from F-1 (student) to B-2 (tourist). See your international student adviser for information about applying to the U.S. CIS for a change of status.

    Transferring Schools

    To transfer to another school, college or university, F-1 students must have maintained their F-1 status. (If your visa status is not F-1, please contact us at extension-intl@berkeley.edu about your eligibility.)

    F-1 students who are transferring from another U.S. school, college or university to UC Berkeley Extension will need to:

    1. Contact the international student adviser at your school and fill out the Transfer Verification Form. Email the form to UC Berkeley Extension International Programs.
    2. Instruct the DSO at the student's last school to release and transfer out the student's SEVIS record to UC Berkeley Extension after confirming the student's full-time F-1 status.
    3. UC Berkeley Extension International Student Administrative Services will then transfer in the student's SEVIS record and issue an I-20 to the student.

    In order to transfer from UC Berkeley Extension to another U.S. school, please notify International Student Administrative Services at UC Berkeley Extension of your intent to transfer. Indicate the name of the school to which you want to transfer, the date you wish your SEVIS record to be released to the new school and proof of your acceptance to the new school.

    Note: Although you may be applying to multiple new schools, UC Berkeley Extension can only transfer your SEVIS record to one school. Once your SEVIS record is transferred out, UC Berkeley Extension will no longer have access to your record. If you change your mind and wish to attend a different school, you must work with the school that receives your SEVIS record.

    Work Authorization Rules for F-1 Students

    If you are a student with an F-1 status and hold an I-20 from UC Berkeley Extension, you are eligible to work on the UC Berkeley Extension campus up to 20 hours per week when school is session and full-time during school breaks.

    Learn more about on-campus employment rules.

    If you are suffering a severe economic hardship due to unforeseen changes in your financial circumstances, you may apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S. CIS) for authorization to work off-campus. You

    • Must be able to demonstrate unforeseen severe financial problems.
    • Must be recommended by DSO to apply for part-time work authorization. Employment Authorization Card issued by U.S. CIS is required.
    • Must have been in F-1 status for one academic year.

    Please talk to your international student adviser before applying for this status.

    For general information, visit F-1 Off Campus Employment and International Organization Internship.

    OPT is work that is directly related to an F-1 student's major area of study. It is intended to provide students with practical experience in their field of study upon completion of a program.

    An F-1 student must meet these basic requirements:

    • Lawful enrollment on a full-time basis for one full academic year
    • Completion of the course of study

    A student may be authorized for a maximum of 12 months of practical training and may become eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he/she changes to a higher educational level. Learn more about OPT and speak to UC Berkeley Extension staff with further questions.

    Note that only post-completion OPT is available to international students enrolled at UC Berkeley Extension.

    No. Only students

    1. who receive science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees in the United States;
    2. whose employers are enrolled in E-Verify; and
    3. who have received an initial grant of post-completion OPT related to such a degree

    may apply for a two-year STEM OPT extension.

    Students may request a Reduced Course Load (RCL) for a specific semester due to either medical or academic reasons. Students must obtain an approval from the international student adviser for an RCL before dropping below full-time academic status.

    An F-1 student who is unable to meet the program completion date on the Form I-20 may be granted an extension by the DSO, if the DSO certifies that the student has continually maintained status and the delays are caused by compelling academic or medical reasons.

    Delays caused by academic probation or suspension are not acceptable reasons for program extensions. A DSO may not grant an extension if the student did not apply for an extension before the program end date noted on the Form I-20.

    An F-1 student who is unable to complete the educational program within the time listed on Form I-20 and who is ineligible for program extension is considered out of status.