Congratulations! You have been accepted to HCC. What is Next?
Initial F-1 Students: If you are applying to become an F-1 visa student and coming to the U.S. directly from your home country, the U.S. Embassy/Consulate will make the final decision in granting you entry into the U.S. You will need to pay the SEVIS fee I-901 and apply for a visa at your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Transfer Students: If you are a continuing F-1 student who has maintained status and is transferring to HCC from another institution in the U.S., you do not pay the SEVIS fee.
1. Pay the SEVIS Fee I-901.
Your Form I-20 acts as proof of acceptance and contains the information that is needed to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee; apply for a visa or change of status, and admission into the United States. Pay your SEVIS fee. Be sure to print your receipt before closing the screen! You will need the receipt to apply for your F-1 visa.
2. Make a visa appointment with the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate. F-1 student visas are issued by U.S. Embassies and Consulates located outside the United States. Non-immigrant students may apply for a visa at the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate in their country of residence up to 120 days prior to the program start date on their Form I-20. Apply early! The local Embassy or Consulate will provide you with specific application instructions and which documents you will need to bring for your interview. Check for specific requirements in your home country. If you don’t, you may be required to return for a second time, which may delay your visa for several weeks.
The application process typically includes an in-person interview with a consular official to determine the applicant’s purpose of travel to the U.S. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary from country to country, so be sure to allow adequate time to schedule your visa interview. Check your average visa wait time here!
Commonly Asked Visa Interview Questions and Helpful Tips
- Why do you want to study at Hillsborough Community College in the United States? Have a clear plan. Describe why, where, and what you plan to study in the U.S.
- Do you have any family members or relatives in the United States? If you have relatives in the United States, identify who they are, what their relationship is to you, and where they live.
- What ties do you have in your home country that will draw you home? Establish a strong personal motive to return to your country after you complete your course of study.
- Who is funding your educational expenses? Show documents proving there is a valid source of funds, and explain clearly how they were obtained and/or will be obtained in the future.
EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State-supported network of hundreds of advising centers around the world. Each year, EducationUSA advisers at EducationUSA Advising Centers respond to millions of inquiries from international students. Visit an EducationUSA Advising Center to help prepare your visa interview!
Study in the States by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a comprehensive information hub for international students with blog posts, interactive guides, news articles and videos on how to study in the United States and how to maintain status.
3. Arrive in Tampa as early as possible! After you have secured your F-1 student visa, make the proper arrangements to fly to the U.S. Remember: You can enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date listed in section 5 of your I-20. You MUST arrive in the United States before or on that day, or you risk losing your F-1 visa status. You want to give yourself enough time to find housing, familiarize yourself with the city and the campus, and to complete check-in, academic assessment and orientation activities before your classes begin. We strongly recommend that you arrive at least two weeks prior to the start date on your I-20 to complete academic assessment testing and check-in activities.
Carry your important immigration documents (HCC I-20, HCC Admissions Letter, valid passport with F-1 visa, and financial documentation) with you in your carry-on luggage because you will be required to show these documents to the Immigration Officer at your port of entry. Your passport will be stamped with an entry date. Put these documents in a safe place. You will need to present them to HCC upon your arrival.
4. Airport transportation
Once you have cleared immigration and collected your luggage, if you do not have transportation arranged with friends or family, please utilize the various ground transportation options offered at Tampa International Airport (TPA) to reach your destination, including airport taxi and shuttle bus services. Do not accept offers from unauthorized sources or individuals.
Tampa International Airport (TPA) is located just a few minutes away from HCC’s Dale Mabry campus and our Hawks Landing student housing complex (approximately USD $15).