In most countries, first-time student visa applicants are required to appear at a U.S. embassy or consulate for an in-person interview. However, each embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas. You should consult embassy/consulate websites or call for specific application instructions.
Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months for processing visa applications, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period. You need to plan ahead to avoid having to make repeat interview visits and be sure to bring all the documents listed on the embassy/consulate website, as well as any other documents that might help establish your ties to your local community. It is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.
Please visit the following U.S. State Department website for detailed information on applying for a student visa:
- If you have access to the internet, visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs website. This website has been created to help you find the information about current visa policy and procedures quickly and easily, based on your own situation and circumstance. Whether you are a student, sponsor, tourist or business traveler, this website can serve as a useful first stop on your journey. There are many different types of visas, and this site can help you determine which kind you need and how to obtain it. If you do not have access to the internet, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for further information
- Make an appointment to visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Visa application procedures vary somewhat among Embassies and Consulates, depending on local needs. In most countries, you will need to make an appointment. This can be done by telephone, mail, over the internet or in person, depending on circumstances in your country. Wait times for appointments may be longer than in the past. Schedule your appointment as soon as you know you need to travel to the U.S. Be sure to ask what fees are required and how they can be paid. Application fees are non-refundable and must be paid before your appointment.
- Get all your documentation ready. You will need: a valid passport; appropriate applications which can be obtained through an Embassy, Consulate or on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website; Documents to support the application detailing employment, reason for travel and financial status; Proof of payment of fees. Remember, as in the past, the consular officer may require additional information or application forms. If you are a student applying for a visa to study in the U.S., talk to the U.S. academic institution or exchange program sponsoring you to obtain all the forms you will need to present with your application.
- Submit your application, passport and supporting documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Your application will then be reviewed by the consular officer and, in many cases, by officials in Washington, D.C. For most applicants, the visa is issued within a few weeks. There is no guarantee of obtaining a visa.
- In some cases, additional reviews will be required. Your information is submitted and checked in the world's foremost security database, which includes comprehensive information drawn from both U.S. and foreign law enforcement agencies worldwide. If your name or a close variation indicates security concerns, the process will be delayed. Additional steps will vary from requests for additional interviews and information to official registration and fingerprinting. This may add at least 4-6 weeks to the processing time.
Registration upon arrival in the United States is mandatory in many cases but registration can be required in any case regardless of country of origin. Seethe Bureau of Consular Affairs website for the most current information about who is affected by this requirement.
- A visa allows you to travel from your country to a port of entry in the U.S. In many cases, that port of entry will be the airport where you land. On the airplane you will be asked to complete a short arrival/departure form.
No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore final travel plans or the purchase of nonrefundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.
Entering the U.S.-Port of Entry A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. Student visitors must have their Form I-20 in their possession each time they enter the United States. Students should review important information about Admissions/Entry requirements on the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website. Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the Special Registration program. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the U.S., it's very important to keep in your passport.
Upon admission, the student must notify the international student adviser of his or her intent to request a Form I-20. The university will issue a Form I-20 to a foreign student only after the following conditions have been met:
- The student has been formally admitted with regular or provisional status to the university.
- The student submits proof of financial responsibility and other supporting documents as requested by the university. Financial responsibility will be proven by the student's submission of official documentation of cash resources in an amount equal to or greater than the cost of tuition, fees and books for one academic year and the cost of living for one academic year as determined by the designated school's official.
The university will mail all Form I-20s via expedited mail.
Upon receipt of the Form I-20, the student must submit the Form I-20 to a U.S. Embassy or consulate to apply for an F-1 Student Visa.
To affect a transfer of schools, the F-1 student must complete the steps after admission:
- Inform the school he or she is currently attending of his or her intent to transfer Request the release of the Form I-20 record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), and return a completed transfer recommendation form to the international student's adviser.
- Submit proof of financial responsibility and other supporting documents as requested by the university. Financial responsibility will be proven by the student's submission of official documentation of cash resources in an amount equal to or greater than the cost of tuition, fees and books for one academic year and the cost of living for one academic year as determined by the Designated Schools official.
- Submit copies of the following documents:
- Passport and visa pages