The basics
THE USA: Visa Guides

Canadian students applying for an American student visa

Practical advice for Canadian students travelling to the US


The US offers a vast range of prestigious and exciting institutions, with each state offering a culture of its own. Along with such exceptional diversity, you are faced with endless cuisines, traditions, histories and experiences. With all of these to choose from, we decided to make the process easier for you by breaking down the essential process of researching what visa you will need, so that you can focus on the exciting stuff. Thanks to Canada’s status as neighbour to the US, though, it’s much simpler than you might expect.

Do I need a visa?

While most international students applying to study in America need a US student visa, Canadian students do not. You will, however, have to ensure that you meet certain regulations in order that you may enter the country with the same ‘F-1’ status as other international students. This status essentially means that you are not a visitor, but there to with the intention to study.

What documents will I need?

You will need to obtain an I-20 (or DS-2019) Certificate of Eligibility from the university that you plan to attend. This can be done by contacting them directly, and can be researched via individual institution websites. When you receive this certificate, you will also be registered with SEVIS, the student tracking system used by US universities. Then, you will be assigned your own unique SEVIS number and be required to pay a registration fee.

When you cross the border to the US, then, you will need to provide the Officer with:

  • A Canadian passport or other acceptable proof of identity and citizenship
  • The original I-20 (or DS 2019) certificate
  • Proof that you have paid your SEVIS fee
  • Proof that you have the funds to pay for the school that you plan to attend (e.g. – documents certifying household income, a scholarship award notification, etc.)
  • Proof of your ties to Canada (a letter from a bank or employer, a pay-slip, etc.)

Ensuring that you have all of these documents prepared for your crossing will take no time at all, but having them organised in advance will save you from facing further delays or complications on the day.

When can I go to the US?

The US operates a 30-day policy, meaning that you will not be granted access to the country until 30 days prior to the beginning of your course.

How much will it cost?

As mentioned, you will be required to pay a one-off SEVIS registration fee. For this, you will be classed as applying for an F-1 visa (even though you are exempt). The full cost of this is $200.00 and further information on the fee can be found here.

Much simpler than a traditional visa application, the process of gaining the equivalent of a US student visa is relatively complication-free for Canadian students.

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About Author

Phoebe recently graduated with a First Class Honours degree in English Literature from Canterbury Christchurch University. She has written for various websites and print publications including music magazine, NME. Phoebe loves music, gaming, reading and writing.


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