Obtaining Your Visa
- Document checklist
- SEVIS fee payment
- Preparing for a visa interview
- Department of State websites
- Re-entering the United States
International students must present their Form I-20 and proof of payment of the SEVIS fee to a U.S. Consulate with a Statement of Financial Support to obtain a student visa to enter the United States. Students should keep a copy of their financial statement for later use. Sponsored students will have to present a letter of sponsorship to the International Student Admissions Office prior to registration.
You will need to have on hand the following documents when applying for an F-1 visa:
- Properly completed Form I-20
- Proof of having paid the $200 SEVIS fee
- Evidence of financial ability to meet expenses
- Evidence of English ability sufficient for course of study
- Evidence of intent to depart the United States after completion of studies
- Passport valid for at least six months
- Form DS-156, "Nonimmigrant Visa Application" (PDF)
- Form DS-157, if applicable (Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa, PDF)
- Form DS-158 (Contact History & Work History, PDF)
- Machine Readable Visa Surcharge (MRV) surcharge fee
- Visa reciprocity fee (if applicable)
Individuals seeking F-1 or J-1 visas must pay a fee of $200 U.S. This fee helps pay for the cost of maintaining the SEVIS system that U.S. schools use to produce the I-20 and DS-2019 forms. this fee is in addition to the visa application fee.
You must pay the fee before you apply for your visa. You can pay the fee through the Internet, through Western Union Quick Pay Service in your home country (if available), or by mail/post. You must include Form I-901 with the fee. A family member or friend can pay the SEVIS fee for you inside or outside the U.S.
|Pay Your SEVIS Fee Through the Internet (strongly recommended)
|Pay Your SEVIS Fee Locally by Western Union Quick Pay Service
This payment option is available only in countries where Western Union offers its Quick Pay service.
|Pay Your SEVIS Fee by Mail/Postal Service
We recommend that you use this option only if you are unable to use either of the two options above.
The visa application process often includes an interview with a visa officer (only a couple of minutes in length). Visas are generally denied because of the following U.S. laws:
- 214 (b): Intention to immigrate to the United States
- 221 (g): Insufficient documentation.
- 212 (a)(4): Likely to become a public charge (insufficient funds).
The biggest barrier to obtaining a visa is 214 (b). The visa officer is required to assume you really want to immigrate. It is your responsibility to prove differently. The officer will try to determine if you and your documents are "believable." The following questions are designed to be a general guide in helping you prepare for your interview. The questions may not actually be asked, but they will increase your understanding.
1. Do you have any family members in the United States? What is their status?
Issue: This question is on the visa application. If immediate family members are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, the officer may believe you also may plan to immigrate.
2. Have you or anyone acting for you indicated to a visa or immigration officer a desire to immigrate to the United States? Have you applied for the visa lottery?
Issue: These questions are also on the visa application. A "yes" answer is usually viewed negatively.
3. How long has it been since you visited your home country? How many times have you returned home?
Issue: If it has been a long time since you returned home, it may be interpreted to mean that you no longer have strong ties to home. Frequent visits (at least every 1-2 years) will be a positive factor.
4. How many job opportunities with your major and degree level are available for you in your home country?
Issue: If the visa officer believes that you are over-educated (e.g., that your major or degree level iis not relevant for your country), he may assume you are planning a career in the United States.
5. Have you attended high school in the United States?
Issue: It is often assumed that high school is a "center of acculturation" and you may be too American to want to return home.
6. If you are married, are your spouse and children currently residing in your home country?
Issue: If they are in the United States, the officer knows it will be easier for you to remain in the United States. If they are at home, you will return. This is why some students find it difficult to obtain visas for their families to join them in the United States. This is sometimes referred to as the "hostage factor".
7. Do you have documentation for any of the following items?
- Job offer letter for future employment in your home country
- Personal bank account in your home country with a substantial amount of money
- Personal ownership of property or family properties you will inherit.
- Family business in your home country that you will return to and/or inherit.
- Other documents that indicate strong ties to home.
Issue: Any of these documents may help the visa officer believe you have strong ties to your home country.
8. Have you always maintained your legal status in the United States? Do your transcripts show any semester with less than full-time hours, even if you received permission to drop a course?
Issue: If you have violated your legal status, it may be more difficult to obtain a visa. If your transcripts show any semester with less than full-time hours and it was authorized by ISO, ask us for a letter to be attached to your transcripts.
9. What kind of relations does your country currently have with the United States?
Issue: The policies governing the issuance of visas varies; for each country. U.S. Embassies and Consulates are designed to operate on a reciprocal basis. If U.S. citizens have difficulty obtaining visas to enter your country, you will probably have similar difficulty entering the United States. If visas for U.S. visitors are for a limited time, your visa will probably be granted for a limited time. Changes in relationships between the United States and your country may also affect your application. Students from some countries may have to wait several days extra or return at a later time for a visa, if the consular requires a security clearance first.
10. Are you planning to apply for a visa in your home district or in a third country?
Issue: Most visa officers prefer that students apply for a visa in their home district in their home country. If you apply in a third country (e.g., Canada, Mexico, etc.), the consular may deny your visa simply due to insufficient information.
11. Have you changed your status in the United States after your original entry into the United States?
Issue: Visa officers may view students who change their status in the United States negatively. They see this as an attempt to bypass the routine visa application process. Some officers may even view it as proof that fraud was used in applying for the original visa. Changing your status in the United States from certain classifications (e.g., B-1/B-2 tourists changing to F-1) may affect your ability to obtain future visas.
12. What was your initial experience like in applying for a visa? What is the current situation like in your country?
Issue: Every U.S. Embassy, Consulate, and visa officer is autonomous. They have complete authority to make their own decisions. Each decision is final and may not be appealed. A review of the decision may be requested, but this is usually limited to procedural issues only. If there is a history of applicants from your country using false documents (visa fraud) in applying for visas or remaining in the United States, it may be more difficult for you to obtain a visa. Keep in mind that policies at embassies and consulates may change at any time, both positively and negatively. Past information may not be reliable for evaluating current or future circumstances.
- http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/forms/forms_1342.html - download visa applications from this site