Before You Arrive

See what you need to do:

As soon as you are accepted

Because it can take up to a month to receive your visa, you will need to take the steps below as quickly as possible after you are accepted to your program.

1. Read and sign the Form I-20.

  • Once you are accepted, IHOPU will issue you an I-20 and send it to you via international express carrier
  • When the I-20 arrives in the mail, please read it thoroughly to check for accuracy and then sign and date the bottom of the first page in blue ink.
  • If you are under the age of 18, your parent/guardian must also sign in blue ink.
  • The form should arrive already signed by a Designated School Official (DSO) at IHOPU. Email internationaladmissions@ihopu.org immediately about any errors.

Read more about the Form I-20 »

2. Pay SEVIS fee and print your receipt. SEVIS stands for Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. The US government uses SEVIS to monitor international students.

  • Upon receiving your I-20 in the mail, you need to pay your SEVIS fee. This is a $200 fee assessed by the government; IHOPU does not collect any portion of the fee.
  • For acceptable payment methods, please visit Homeland Security’s “Study in the States” website.
  • As soon as you finish paying the SEVIS fee, please print the receipt that is generated. You will need it at your visa interview and when you enter the US.

Pay the SEVIS fee »

3. Apply for an M-1 vocational student visa. You can find an application for a student visa, called a DS-160 form, at ceac.state.gov/genniv or on the website of the US embassy or consulate closest to you.

Every embassy has different processing times for student visas. To find the estimated processing time for the embassy you plan to interview at, please click here.

All international students and interns at IHOPU need an M-1 vocational student visa. There is a fee for applying ($160; check to confirm) and you must present a machine-readable visa (MRV) fee receipt at your visa interview.

Read about status of Canadian and Bermudan students »

Read more about visas »

4. Schedule your visa interview.  (If you are Canadian or Bermudan, skip to your section below.) In order to obtain your M-1 visa, you must schedule a visa interview at the nearest US Embassy. IHOPU strongly recommends that applicants apply for their M-1 visa in their country of citizenship.

When you attend your interview, you will need to bring all of the items listed below. As it is possible for the required documents can vary, check the website of the closest embassy/consulate against the list below.

  • Passport – valid at least six months beyond the date on your I-20
  • Visa fee or machine-readable visa (MRV) fee payment receipt
  • SEVIS fee payment receipt (pay the fee at least three days before the date of your visa interview to make sure it shows up in the SEVIS system) – Read more above »
  • Required photo(s) – see the visa application requirements on the website of the embassy/consulate closest to you
  • Proof of financial resources—the bank statements and the Affidavit of Financial Support form you submitted as part of the IHOPU application process
  • Signed Form I-20 sent to you by IHOPU – Read more »
  • Evidence of ties to your home country (bank account, property you own, promise of a job upon your return, etc.)
  • TOEFL score or other proof of English proficiency
  • Academic records (transcripts, test scores, grade scale, etc.) with certified translation if not originally in English

Visa denial

  • When a student visa is denied, it is usually because the student failed to provide proof of financial resources/support and/or proof of ties to their home country.
  • The visa officer is legally required to tell you why they are denying your student visa application.
  • If your visa is denied, email internationaladmissions@ihopu.org immediately.

Canadian and Bermudan international students 

  • You do not need an M-1 visa in your passport to study in the US.
  • You must, however, present your I-20 and SEVIS fee receipt at the border when you enter the US. This will allow you to be admitted as an M-1 student.
  • It is also recommended that you bring your proof of your finances with you when you cross the border, in case the officer requests it.
  • When you cross the US border, you will be issued an I-94 admission number and an I-94 stamp in your passport. This is not a visa; it simply states your status as a legal Canadian/Bermudan student in the US.
  • Your I-94 stamp should say “M-1.” The expiration date should be 30 days after the program end date listed on your Form I-20.

Once your visa is issued

1. Book your flights.

Now that you have your student visa, it is finally safe to plan your trip! You may have already been doing some planning, but we highly recommend waiting until after you obtain your visa to make travel arrangements.

Please note: It is very important that you arrive to IHOPU by the program start date indicated on your I-20. It is equally important that you do not enter the US any more than 30 days before the program start date, as you will not be able to enter as an M-1 student.

2. Arrange for airport pick-up. Public transport in Kansas City does not extend far enough to get you from the Kansas City international airport to IHOPU or the International House of Prayer. However, there are many shuttle services available to transport you for a fee, such as Onething Exclusive Shuttle Service (compare with other services by researching online).

3. Purchase health insurance. International students are required to have health insurance. While you are free to make your own arrangements for the required coverage, IHOPU offers coverage through ISO, an international student agency. Once you have been accepted to your program, International Student Services will email you regarding your options for health insurance. Read more »

4. Respond to emails from IHOPU about setting up your account. IHOPU administration will contact you about setting up your student account and student email account.

5. Explore the Student Hub. We hope to provide you with helpful resources as you prepare to enter the US and during your course of study at IHOPU. Please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the resources available to you, as well as the administrative processes and IHOPU policies.

6. Find a place to live. IHOPU does not offer student housing, however the Student Housing office offers resources to help you find a place to live and, if you wish, a roommate also. Keep in mind that unless the accommodation is fully furnished, you will may need to purchase household items and possibly furniture. Make sure you find out what is included in the cost of rent before you sign a lease/rental agreement.

We do not advise finalizing living arrangements until you have received your student visa and purchased your plane tickets.  Read more »

7. Get an international driver’s license. If the driver’s license from your home country is not in English, you may need an international driver’s license in order to drive in the US. If so, you will need to get one while you are still in your home country. Read more »

8. Decide how you want to manage your finances while in the US.

  • While you do not have to open a US bank account, we encourage you to consider doing so in order to avoid high fees associated with using US automated teller machines (ATMs).
    View American banks close to IHOPU »
  • You may encounter difficulty in using some types of credit/debit cards in the US. It is a good idea to check with the bank in your home country to make sure your card will work internationally, and to understand what the international transaction fees will be.
  • Traveller’s checks cannot be processed by all American businesses, especially if your purchase is inexpensive and your traveler’s check is for a large amount.

Read more about banking and finance in the US »

9. Find a phone service that will suit your needs as a student.

  • Unlike most other countries, you are not able to switch SIM cards in American phones and you may not be able to use the phone you use in your home country.
  • Research cell phone carriers in the Kansas City region or choose to purchase a pay-as-you-go phone.
  • Consider creating a free Skype account to make phone calls from a computer, tablet, or phone. Skype is a very inexpensive way to call internationally—it is free from one Skype number to another.

The week before traveling to the US

1. Have some US dollars on hand for traveling. It is wise to carry at least $200 in cash with you while traveling in case of emergencies. It is a good idea to have some smaller bills and coins in American currency in case you need to make small purchases or use a pay phone before you are able to visit a bank. Some businesses are not able to make change for large bills if your purchase is small.

2. Pack.

  • As you think about what you may need during your time in the United States, read about the weather in our region. Kansas City experiences four distinct seasons, including occasional very hot and very cold weather, including snow and ice.
  • Consider bringing photos of family and loved ones and some items to remind you of home. This may seem unnecessary now, but you may be grateful for them later.
  • Make sure your luggage complies with your airline luggage policies (see airline website).
  • Prepare yourself for the American Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints by reading about how to pack and what you can include in your carry-on luggage.
    Visit TSA website »
  • Make sure you pack enough in your carry-on luggage to last at least 24 hours in case your checked baggage is delayed.

3. Gather all important documents. Make sure you have the following documents in your carry-on luggage.

  • Passport
  • I-20
  • SEVIS fee
  • Proof of finances
  • IHOPU contact information (below)

Keep all your immigration documents together in a secure place (i.e., in something they cannot fall out of). Do not pack them in luggage that you plan to check. You need to have easy access to them at all times while traveling. It is wise to make photocopies of all of your official documents and keeping them in a separate part of your luggage in case the originals happen to be lost.

4. Gather a list of contacts. Make sure you have the contact information below. Also make sure you have the contact information for any airport shuttle service you reserved. You may not have access to a good Internet connection while you travel, so it will be important to keep a hard copy of this information somewhere.

International Admissions
internationaladmissions@ihopu.org
(816) 763-0200 x.3315

Andy Won, PDSO
Director of Admissions
(816) 763-0200 x.3312

Jenna Lease, DSO
Assistant Manager of International Admissions
(816) 763-0200 x.3315

5. Read about New Student Orientation. If you have not done so already, read about New Student Orientation.

While traveling

1. Carry your important documents, contact information, and cash on you. If an item of your luggage is checked below the plane at the last minute, make sure you remove these things from it before you check it in.

2. When you arrive at the US port (location) of entry, present:

You will receive an I-94 admissions stamp in your passport. Read more »

3. Make sure you leave the port of entry with all of the above documents still in your possession.

You have just successfully entered the US, but you need all of these documents for future reference and use. They are expensive to replace.