Preparing for the USMLE® in the United States?
Start the process by downloading our free Information Kit.
Learn key factors in choosing the right start date to ensure you excel during your prep
Understand what documents are needed to issue your I-20
A step-by-step guide to prepare you as you make your way to the US to begin your prep
Learn how to prepare and what to expect during your visa interview
Access your information kit
(must be 13 years or older).
You’ve just signed up for your Visa Information Kit—great start in becoming the U.S. doctor you want to be!
Click to download your Visa Information Kit
You are already enrolled in this event.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a non-immigrant visa?
A non-immigrant visa is an immigration document that permits a citizen of a foreign country to enter into the U.S. for a temporary period of time. It also determines what a non-immigrant is allowed to do while in the U.S. There are many different types of visas, depending on the reason for coming to the U.S. For instance, if your primary purpose for entering the U.S. is to pursue full-time study, you should get an F-1 (student) visa. For more information about obtaining a visa, please visit the US Department of State website.
Part 1: Obtaining an I-20
What is an I-20?
The I-20 is the official document Kaplan provides to students who are going to study with us full-time and have met all the requirements for its issuance. It enables students to apply for a student visa at their local American Embassy.
What documents do I need in order to obtain an I-20?
Please see Kaplan Medical’s Application. A list of documents required for an I-20 can be found there.
How much time does it take to get the I-20?
This depends on whether students have submitted a complete application and how long it takes to receive the required documents. Generally the I-20 will be issued within 2 weeks once we have all of the required documents and payment. Please keep this in mind if you want to apply for your visa as soon as possible.
What is Kaplan’s application deadline?
Kaplan has rolling admissions, which means there are no specific deadlines. Generally, if you wish to enter the US on an F-1 Visa, you must pick a scheduled start date at least 2 months in the future.
Why is an I-20 important?
The I-20, also called a “Certificate of Eligibility”, confirms that a non-immigrant has been admitted to a U.S. school that is approved by the U.S. government to enroll non-immigrants. The I-20 is issued by the Designated School Official (DSO) at the school the student intends to study at and is required by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate to apply for F-1 visa status. Once in the United States, F-1 students must maintain a valid I-20 by studying full-time to remain legally in the country after their start date and communicate regularly with their DSO to ensure they maintain legal status while in the U.S.
Can my I-20 be extended if I need more time to study?
If you are not progressing in your program and need additional time to complete your studies you can speak to your DSO to see if you qualify for an extension. However, I-20 extensions are not common and require you to meet very specific criteria. Given this, it is important that you pace yourself during your studies to ensure you meet your academic goals in a timely manner and hence complete your studies with Kaplan by the end date listed on your I-20. Please note, all requests for I-20 extensions must be made to your DSO before your last day of study. I-20 extensions will not be granted if requested after your last day of study. There are no exceptions to this policy.
How will I receive my I-20?
Your I-20 will be mailed to you and a tracking number will be provided.
Can I change my start date after receiving my I-20?
You may request a change to your start date prior entering the U.S. Please contact Kaplan to confirm your new start date as soon as you know about the change. At that time, if the change is acceptable, Kaplan will mail you a revised I-20 to show your new study dates. Failure to notify Kaplan about these changes may cause problems for you at the Port of Entry and/or U.S Embassy. Once you enter the U.S., you cannot postpone your start date. There are no exceptions to this policy. Please be advised that in order to change your start date, payment in full may be required. More details can be found on the application.
Can I change Kaplan center locations after receiving my I-20?
If you have not received your F-1 visa, you can change your Kaplan location. You must contact Kaplan to confirm the new location and a new I-20 will be mailed to you from the new location. Your original I-20 will be cancelled, so you should not use it at the U.S. Embassy or Port of Entry. If your visa has been issued, you can change locations, but you may need to get a new visa before entering the U.S. American law requires the name of the school on your I-20 to match the name of the school on your visa for successful entry to the U.S. If the names do not match because you changed center locations after getting your visa, you may be denied entry to the U.S. Check with your local U.S. Embassy/Consulate to see if a new visa is required before traveling to the U.S.
Part 2: Obtaining an F-1 (student) visa
What is an F-1 visa?
An F-1 visa is an immigration document that permits a foreign citizen to come to the US to study full-time for a temporary period of time.
Does Kaplan issue F-1 visas?
No. All visas are issued by the U.S. Department of State at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad.
How do I get an F-1 visa?
You must first apply to Kaplan. If eligible for admission, Kaplan will issue an “Initial Attendance” Form I-20. Upon receipt of Form I-20, you will need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee online at www.fmjfee.com. The SEVIS I-901 fee supports the system that tracks students and ensures they maintain their visa status while in the U.S. After paying the fee, you will then need to visit the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your home country to get an F-1 visa.
Which Embassy do I visit?
In general, you are expected to visit the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in the country for which you hold citizenship (i.e. the country that issued your passport). If your country does not have a U.S. Embassy/Consulate or if you are currently located in a different country to the one that issues your passport, you should contact the closest U.S. Embassy to see if they can accept your application for an F-1 visa. To learn more about your local U.S. Embassy, visit US Department of State website.
What documents must I present to get an F-1 visa?
All of the information relating to your visa appointment including a list of needed documents can be found here.
How long does it take to get a visa?
The average wait time varies from country to country. See website to confirm how long it takes at your local U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
For how long will my visa be valid?
Kaplan does not issue your visa and therefore cannot confirm for how long it will be valid. Instead, you should confirm this information with your local U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
Can Kaplan help me complete the government’s application for a visa?
No. Students are solely responsible for completing all government documents.
What is the likelihood that I will be approved an F-1 visa?
Kaplan does not issue visas and therefore cannot confirm the likelihood of approval. However, you should note that visa issuance is not guaranteed.
What happens if I am denied a visa?
If denied your visa, you should ask the Consular Officer the reason for denial before you leave the Embassy. You have the right to request the denial in writing as well. If the reason for denial was caused by a mistake on your I-20, Kaplan can revise your I-20 and write a support letter to help you get your visa during a second interview. If no reason or a different reason is stated, Kaplan will likely be unable to assist you further. In most cases, the government’s decision is final and there is little Kaplan can do to change their decision. Another alternative if you're having visa problems, is to try enroll in one of our online products which allow you to study for the USMLE from anywhere you’d like.
Will I get a refund if my visa is denied?
You will be refunded per our cancellation policies.
Entry into the USA
When can I enter the U.S.?
You have up to 30 days before the start date listed on your I-20 to enter the U.S.
Can I enter the U.S. after my I-20 start date?
If you travel to the U.S. after your I-20 start date, you will probably face problems at the Port of Entry, since it appears you failed to meet the requirement of reporting to the Kaplan Center by your start date. To prevent problems at the Port of Entry, you should contact Kaplan and ask that we postpone your start date if you are unable to arrive before this date. At that time, Kaplan will mail you a revised I-20 with a postponed start date.
What documents will I need to show at the Port of Entry?
In general, you must show the Port of Entry Officer the following documents. If these documents are missing or incomplete, you may be detained, questioned or denied entry altogether.
- A valid (non-expired) passport
- A valid (non-expired) F-1 visa with the name of the Kaplan Center you will be attending printed at the bottom
- All three pages of your I-20 issued by the Kaplan Center you will be attending (center name should match the name of the school listed on your visa.)
When traveling, always hand-carry all of your documents (such as your passport, Form I-20 and Form I-94). Do not pack any documents in your checked baggage.
Please visit https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/getting-to-the-united-states for more information.
What happens at the Port of Entry?
Please visit http://www.ice.gov/sevis/students/index.htm and review the document called “What a Student Can Expect.” This document discusses what you will need to do at the Port of Entry.
What is an I-94 and why is it important?
One important form is the Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record.” It shows the terms of your admission, including your legal status, length of time you may stay and expected departure date. It is important to have a copy of your Form I-94 to prove your legal visa status in the United States. If you are admitted electronically and do not receive a paper form, or if you misplace your form and need a replacement, follow the steps below to retrieve a copy.
- Go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Form I-94 Web page and agree to the terms listed.
- Once directed to the Form I-94 information page, enter your name, date of birth and passport information.
- Select “Get Most Recent I-94” or “Get Travel History.”
More details can be found here.
What is Form I-515A and what do I need to do with it if I am given one at the Port of Entry?
Form I-515A is a government form given to some travelers who are missing documentation required for entry to the U.S. If you are given this form by a Port of Entry Officer, you must ask what documentation you are missing. Once confirmed, you will be required to submit that documentation to the government within 30 days after entry. If you do not meet this deadline, you will fall out of legal status and will have to leave the U.S. immediately. If you are given this form, please speak to the DSO at your Kaplan center immediately after entry.
When do I need to start my studies?
You are required to arrive at the Kaplan center and begin full-time studies on or before the start date listed on your I-20. If you do not meet this requirement, your I-20 will be terminated, you will fall out of legal status and will have to leave the U.S. immediately. If you are outside the U.S. and unable to travel to the U.S before your start date contact Kaplan and we will update your I-20 by postponing the start date. If you have already entered the U.S. you will not be allowed to postpone your start date. There are no exceptions to this rule.
Visa terms questions
How soon can I start my course?
You'll need to begin your program on one of our listed start dates. Please see the document "Selecting Your Course Start Date" for the options that are currently available. Additionally, you'll need to apply for, and receive your F-1 Student visa before you enter the US and begin your program. Kaplan strongly recommends that you contact us at least 3 months before your desired start date to begin the process.
I didn't write a start date on my application because I want to start as soon as I get approved for a student visa. Is that acceptable?
We need to have a start date in order to process an application. Give yourself enough time for your visa to be processed and to secure accommodation.
I want to travel with my family. Can I do that?
Yes, but we will need to indicate on your I-20 that you are travelling with dependents. Please provide us with their full names, a copy of their passport, their date of birth and relationship to you. More details can be found on the application.
What happens if I do not meet Kaplan's full-time study requirements?
If you do not meet Kaplan's full-time study requirements, you risk falling out of legal status with the following consequences:
- Your I-20 will be terminated.
- You will no longer be eligible to study with Kaplan.
- You will not be eligible for a refund.
- You will be required to leave the U.S. immediately after termination of your I-20.
Can I work during my studies at Kaplan?
As an F-1 student, your primary purpose for staying in the U.S. must be full-time study, so that you can achieve your academic and/or career goals. You should not expect to work while studying with Kaplan. If you have more questions, they can be addressed to the D.S.O. at your center upon arrival.
Please note, if you are found to be working without government approval and/or in a position not listed here, your employment will be considered unauthorized. This will result in immediate termination of your I-20 in the SEVIS student tracking system. If this occurs, you will no longer be eligible to study with Kaplan; you will not receive a refund and you must leave the U.S. immediately.
Can I participate in practical training or OPT/CPT while at Kaplan?
No. As a Kaplan student, you are not eligible for practical training (OPT/CPT) under any circumstance. There are no exceptions to this rule.