For Students & Parents

Frequently Asked Questions

Applying at your selected university

Who can apply?
How does GEMS help me apply to a university?
How long does it take to apply through GEMS?

Financing your study

Do you offer financial assistance of any kind?
Can I get a scholarship?
Can I work while I am studying in the U.S.?
How can GEMS save me money?

Visa application and Processing

What kind of visa do I need?
What is the I-20 Form?
What is the SEVIS fee?
Who must pay the SEVIS fee and when?
How much is the SEVIS fee and how do I pay it?
If I have already paid the SEVIS fee for one school, and then decide to attend another, do I have to pay the fee again?
Is the SEVIS fee refundable if I am denied a student visa?
What will they ask me in the visa interview?
Can I travel outside of the U.S.?
How can I get USCIS forms?

Universities in the United States

What is the difference between a college and a university?
How are university partners chosen by GEMS?

Traveling to the United States

When should I arrive at the university?
What should I do when I get to the airport in the U.S.?
What can I expect living in the U.S.?

Who can apply?

Any student can apply for short-term study in the United States; however, it is important that certain requirements are met in order to be accepted at a partner university. A typical student who is accepted for enrollment:

  • Has completed a first year of study at their home university,
  • Is a non-American citizen with principal residence outside the USA
  • Has a statement of finances indicating adequate funds to support either a semester or a full year of academic study including personal expenses
  • Has spoken and written English proficiency for university study, and
  • Has a letter of recommendation from their home university.    
    Back to top

How does GEMS help me apply to a university?

GEMS Admission Advising provides international students with:

  • GEMS Initial Review, to ensure you meet general admission requirements for short-term Global Study Abroad
  • Advice on which programs best suit your interests and needs
  • Application processing and support, including assistance in collecting necessary documentation required for specific programs,
  •  Assistance throughout the visa application process,
  • Information and support for students prior to arriving in the USA for short-term study
    Back to top

How long does it take to apply through GEMS?

The application process at each partner university can vary. Generally, once the university has received your complete application including all required supporting documentation, you will be notified of the admission decision within three weeks. GEMS cannot guarantee that even with a completed application package, you will be accepted for short-term study. However, if you are accepted, you still have to apply for a student visa through the U.S. consulate in your home country. In general, visa processing takes about five to eight business days once the U.S. consulate receives all application materials.
Back to top

Do you offer financial assistance of any kind?

GEMS does not offer financial assistance of any kind. It is important that you have available finances to cover your stay in the U.S. (including extra money for living expenses). The university’s declaration of finances form will include the total cost of living in the U.S. (including living expenses for the entire length of study).    
Back to top

Can I get a scholarship?

Unfortunately, we do not offer scholarships. GEMS works hard to negotiate tuition discounts at our partner universities. GEMS cannot offer you any further discounts. We encourage you to contact your relevant government agency to inquire about international study scholarships or student loans.
Back to top

Can I work while I am studying in the U.S.?

The F-1 student visa allows students to work at on-campus jobs up to, but not exceeding, 20 hours a week during their studies. The job need not be related to your course of study. There is no waiting period, as soon as your classes begin, you can start working and earning money.                       
Back to top

How can GEMS save me money?

GEMS works hard to negotiate a discount at each of our partner universities. When available, we highlight any additional savings the university may be able to offer you. Check the university specific information when you search our programs.                  
Back to top

What kind of Visa do I need?

An F-1 visa is required for full-time students enrolled in an academic program. A full-time course load must be maintained and the studies must be completed by the expiration date listed on the I-20 form. Students can remain in the U.S. an extra 60 days after the expiration date listed on your I-20 form. Students with an F-1 visa may not work off campus during a short-term study program.                                                                                       
Back to top

What is the I-20 Form?

The institution will issue your I-20 form, which allows you to apply for a student visa at the American consulate or embassy in your country. It does not guarantee that you will receive a visa. The American consulate must determine that the reason you are applying for a visa is genuine. They will also confirm that you will return to your country when finished with your education program in the United States. If the American consulate or embassy rejects your application, please contact us. We can assist you to re-apply for a student visa either immediately or at a later date when you have addressed the concerns of the U.S. consulate officer.
Following university acceptance, a deposit at the university will be required to release the I-20 immigration document. Generally, this deposit is refundable in the event of a visa denial however any refunds to the student in the event of a visa denial are at the sole discretion of the university.          
Back to top

What is the SEVIS fee?

SEVIS fee payments will be used by the United States Department of Homeland Security to fund the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. This fee went into effect September 1, 2004. This program makes it possible for international students and exchange visitors to attend schools in the United States. The fee also funds the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a computer system employed to track international students and exchange visitors during their stay in the United States.
This SEVIS fee is required of all international students who come to the United States for the purpose of pursuing study at a university. It is payable one time for each single educational program in which an F-1 student participates, extending from the time the student is granted F-1 status to the time the student falls out of status, changes status, or departs the U.S. for an extended period of time.                                                            
Back to top

Who must pay the SEVIS fee and when?

The SEVIS I-901 fee is mandated by the U.S. government to support the program office and the automated system that keeps track of students and exchange visitors and ensures that they maintain their status while in the United States. Each student or exchange visitor issued an initial Form I-20 or DS-2019 on or after October 27, 2008, is responsible for paying this fee to SEVP.
The fee is used to:

  • Maintain and update SEVIS
  • Hire and train SEVIS Liaison Officers
  • Staff and manage the SEVP Office to:
    • Support the current version of SEVIS and develop and deploy the next generation of SEVIS
    • Develop SEVP policies and procedures
    • Offer SEVIS-related training, assistance and problem resolution to the schools and exchange visitor program sponsors
  • Maintain enforcement oversight to ensure that:
    • Schools are maintaining accurate, timely information
    • Students or exchange visitors who fail to maintain status either leave the United States or apply for reinstatement.                                   

      Back to top

How much is the SEVIS fee and how do I pay it?

Generally, the rule levies a fee of $200. The purpose of the fee is to cover the costs of developing and deploying the next generation of SEVIS as well as administering and maintaining the current version of SEVIS, which includes ensuring compliance with the system’s requirements by individuals, schools and exchange visitor program sponsors.
To pay the fee, you will need to fill in a Form I-901 with information from your Form I-20 and pay the required fee. For most people, the SEVIS I-901 fee is $200. You have the option of paying an additional $35 to have your receipt sent by expedited delivery (courier service) rather than by mail.
You can fill in the Form I-901 online at www.fmjfee.com (If you have Internet access, completing the form online will help ensure that you provide all the information in the correct format, this helps speed processing) or send a paper version to:

By Mail
I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee
P.O. Box 970020
St. Louis, MO 63197-0020
United States

By Courier (to expedite delivery to SEVP)
I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee
1005 Convention Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63101
United States

Phone Number: 1-314-418-8833 (United States Country Code 011)

Paper forms are scanned and read by machine. If information is missing or hard to read, the form will be manually reviewed. SEVP will attempt to fill in missing or hard-to-read information. This could cause a short delay in processing your form or could result in the form being returned to you for correction. When using a paper form, please print clearly. Your SEVIS ID number, last name (surname or family name) and date of birth are critical data elements. These are needed to match the information on your Form I-20 or DS 2019.
Back to top

If I have already paid the SEVIS fee for one school, and then decide to attend another, do I have to pay the fee again?

You need to keep the copy of the Form I-20 or DS-2019 for the school or program you paid for.
 
If you have not entered the country, you will be able go to your visa interview with:

  • The Form I-20 or DS-2019 you used to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee
  • Your SEVIS I-901 fee receipt
  • The Form I-20 or DS-2019 for the program you now wish to attend
When you arrive in the United States, you need to request that SEVP transfer your fee payment information from the SEVIS ID number you paid on to the one for the school or program you are actually attending.        
Back to top

Is the SEVIS fee refundable if I am denied a student visa?

In general, all students, regardless of the reason, have 3 months (90 days) from the date of the I-901 fee payment to request a refund. If the refund request is not made within this time period, thestudent is not entitled to a refund.                                                                                        
Back to top

What will they ask me in the visa interview?

In order to issue your visa, the Consular Officer must be satisfied on three counts:

First, are you a legitimate student?
The officer will ask about your educational background and plans in order to assess how likely you are to enroll and remain in college until graduation. Be prepared to discuss the reasons you chose a particular college, your anticipated program of study, and your career plans. Bring school transcripts, national examination results, and SAT or TOEFL scores (if these tests were required by your college) and anything else that demonstrates your academic commitment.

Second, is your sponsor financially capable?
Visa requirements differ from country to country, but generally host governments want assurances that you won't drop out of school or take a job illegally.

How can you show that your sponsor is able to finance your education?

  • Your chances are improved if your parents are sponsoring your education. If anyone other than your parents is sponsoring you, you should explain your special relationship with this person, who may be committing thousands of dollars to your education.
  • Provide solid evidence of your sponsor's finances. This assures the Consular Officer that adequate funds will be available throughout study program. If your sponsor's income is from several different sources (such as salary, contracts or consulting fees, a farm, rental property, investments), have the sponsor write a letter listing and documenting each source of income.

Third, are your ties to home so strong that you will not want to remain permanently in the host country?
Laws generally state that you must demonstrate sufficient economic, family, and social ties to your place of residence to ensure that your stay in the U.S. will be temporary.

Economic ties:
These include your family's economic position, property you may own or stand to inherit, and your own economic potential when you come home with a U.S. education. The Consular Officer will be impressed to see evidence of your career planning and your knowledge of the local employment scene.

Family and social ties:
How many close family members live in your home country, compared to those living in the States? What community or school activities have you participated in that demonstrate a sincere connection to your town or country? What leadership, sports, and other roles have distinguished you as a person who wants to come home and contribute your part?    
Back to top

Can I travel outside of the U.S.?

The basic requirements for an F-1 to reenter the United States after traveling abroad on pleasure or personal business include:

  • A SEVIS Form I-20, endorsed for travel and signed by your DSO
  • You have been out of the United States for less than five months
  • A current passport valid for at least six months after the date of your reentry
  • A valid, current visa or you traveled to contiguous country or adjacent island for less than thirty days
  • Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses

Bringing your most recent I-94, Departure Card, will facilitate your reentry, if reentering through a land POE (Point of Entry). If you are flying, the airline will collect your I-94 prior to departure and you will complete a new one upon reentry.
Back to top

How can I get USCIS forms?

Learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and much more by visiting the Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply.
Required Documentation for VISA Processing
Each applicant for a student visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below:

  • Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students. You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school. You and your school official must sign the I-20 form.
  • A completed application, Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant, Form DS-156, together with a Form DS-158. Both forms must be completed and signed. Some applicants will also be required to complete and sign Form DS-157. A separate form is needed for children, even if they are included in a parent's passport. The DS-156 must be the March 2006 date, electronic "e-form application." Select Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156 to access the electronic version of the form DS-156. Important Notice : At certain U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad, nonimmigrant visa applicants are now required to apply for their visa using the new DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, instead of the nonimmigrant application forms DS-156, 157, 158, and other related forms. Learn more and find out which Embassies have converted to the DS-160 Online process.
    Back to top

What is the difference between a college and a university?

In many countries, a college is an institution of lower ranking to a university, and offers only vocational courses. This is not the case in the United States. In fact quite the opposite is true, and many of the finest private liberal arts institutions in the U.S. are called colleges. Traditionally, only universities offered graduate studies, but today, even this is no longer the case, and many of our college partners also offer graduate programs. Please note: GEMS short-term study programs are undergraduate only.
Back to top

How are universities partners chosen by GEMS?

All of our partner universities are carefully chosen by GEMS because of their ability to offer international students a unique and rewarding short-term study experience. We work with schools that offer short-term study programs for international students but also have a reputation of academic excellence.
Back to top

When should I arrive at the university?

You should aim to arrive at the university in time to start the international orientation program at your selected institution. Each university may have a different start date and you should review the specific information included in your acceptance package to determine the date you should arrive. Your F-1 student visa allows you to arrive up to 30 days prior to the start date of your program. If you decide to arrive early, you must plan to have extra finances and housing. If you arrive prior to the start date of your program, the university will not be able to provide you a place to stay until your program begins.
Back to top

What should I do when I get to the airport in the U.S.?

Remember to bring your University acceptance letter, I-20 and F-1 visa with you on the plane. You may be asked by an immigration officer why you are in the U.S. Please be prepared to answer questions about your travel (i.e. Where are you going and what do you intend to study?) You should arrange for travel from the U.S. airport prior to your departure. Should you have any questions about travel from the airport please contact us and we can assist you.
Back to top

What can I expect living in the U.S.?

Life in the U.S. will almost certainly be different from what you are used to. It’s difficult to say what to expect as people’s attitudes and outlooks vary according to where you are studying. The United States is a very diverse country with many ethnic backgrounds. As you become accustomed to living here you may find yourself adapting to all sorts of things. This could include: offering, accepting and refusing hospitality; expressing your opinion; running your own bank account, and preparing your own food.
Back to top






8 Loew Circle Milton, MA 02186 T: 617.933.8134 F: 617.532.0725
Home | About GEMS | Student Aid Administration | Global Study Abroad | International Student Loans | Contact Us
Privacy Policy | Disclaimer | © GEMS · All Rights Reserved.

How to Apply

Application Process

Apply Now

Tuition and Fees

Student VISA

Why Use GEMS?

Programs

Partner Colleges
and Universities
United States
Canada
England
Ireland
Australia
New Zealand

Payment Information

About Short-Term Study

GEMS Admissions Advising

General Admissions
Requirements

English Language
Requirements

Academic Record

Declaration of Finances

VISA Requirements

Ask GEMS

Placed Students

Pre-arrival Information

Health Insurance

Travel Programs

Resources

Frequently
Asked Questions