Obtaining Your Visa
The U.S. Department of State maintains an authoritative website on the visa application process and should be studied carefully.
International students should apply for the visa in their home country, unless circumstances or travel plans make this impossible.
If the student applies in a third country, the application may take more time and be reviewed more critically than if it was applied for at home.
Required Documents for Obtaining a Visa
- Complete visa application form and pay visa fees.
- Receipt for payment of the I-901 SEVIS fee if applicable. (More information on SEVIS fees)
- Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the U.S.
- You will need a 2" x 2" photograph.
- Form I-20 or DS-2019 for the school or program you wish to attend.
- Financial evidence detailing source and amount of funding. Consular and immigration officers exercise considerable discretion in determining whether financial support exists and is sufficient to cover your entire period of stay. Prepare documentation that is thorough, consistent, credible and varied.
- Official academic transcripts, confirmation of enrollment, and proof of English language proficiency may also be requested.
- Evidence of continuing ties to your home country (i.e. family, career, or property).
- Visa applicants are presumed to be "intending immigrants." Your visa will be denied unless you satisfy the consular officer that you will return home. Unfortunately, there is no single explanation, document, or letter that can guarantee visa issuance.
Tips for Obtaining a Visa
- Apply for the visa in a timely manner. Consult the embassy or consulate where you will apply to see their wait times at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html
- If students are denied the visa, they should ask the visa officer the reason for their denial and then consult with an international advisor in Global Services.
Often, the initial impression a consular interviewer receives from you is critical to your success. Reviewing the tips provided below may help you during your consular interview.
- Keep your answers concise. Be honest in everything you write on your visa application and say during the interview. Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English. Do not bring other people to speak on your behalf.
- Be able to explain the reasons you want to study in the U.S. and remember that your main reason for coming to the United States is to study, not to work.
- If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your home country, be prepared to explain how they will support themselves in your absence. If they are accompanying you to the U.S., what are the financial arrangements?
- As a temporary visitor you may be questioned about your intention to return your home country after completing your studies. You should be ready to provide evidence that you do not intend to emigrate to the U.S. and that you intend to return to your home country after completing your studies. Examples of evidence include proof that you or your parents own an apartment or house, a bank account, a voter registration card.
- If you are denied the visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring the next time you apply, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing. Maintain a positive attitude! Do not engage the consular officer in an argument.
Security & Name Checks
Certain visa applicants are subject to an additional name check clearance procedure before being issued a nonimmigrant visa.
The procedure requires consular officers to send the visa applicant's name to be checked against information in various security, law enforcement, and intelligence databases.
Visa applicants affected include (but may not be limited to) males between the ages of 16 and 45 from one of the following countries:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen and students in certain areas of study.
Reports indicate that the procedure can take at least 20 business days. Please factor this extra time into your planned visa processing time if you believe you may belong to an affected group.
- What is a Visa?
- Visa Applications & Instructions
- Applying for Visa Renewal
- SEVIS Information
- SEVIS Fee Frequently Asked Questions
- Visa Wait Times
- Temporary Visitors to the U.S.
- U.S. Embassies and Consulates Worldwide