To enter the United States as a student or a scholar, you must have a student visa (F-1 or J-1) or a visiting scholar visa (J-1 and J-2) by a U.S Consulate or Embassy outside of the U.S. Depending on where you plan to apply for the student visa, the visa application process can take a long time, so you should start your visa application as soon as you receive your I-20 or DS-2019.
Visa Application and Interview Scheduling
The wait time for a visa interview or appointment vary at each U.S Consulate or Embassy, so applying as early as possible is encouraged. However, you should not schedule a visa appointment until after you receive your I-20/DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to ensure that you have all the required documents for your appointment. If you schedule an appointment but do not have your COE yet, you will likely need to reschedule your U.S visa appointment.
Each country’s U.S Consulate or Embassy has its own procedures for scheduling a visa interview appointment and paying the DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application fee. To familiarize yourself with these procedures, click here
to go to the website of the U.S Consulate or Embassy where you will be applying for the visa.
Basic documents needed to apply for a J-1 Visa
- Valid passport. Generally, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the visa application date.
- Photo taken according to Department of State Specifications.
- Properly completed Form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application)
- Visa fee.
- Reciprocity fee (if applicable). When your visa application is approved, you may be required to pay reciprocity fees. Whether you are required to pay reciprocity fees and how much depends on which country you are from and what your visa classification is. For more information, see the Department of State Reciprocity Table at https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/fees/reciprocity-by-country.html
- Receipt Notice of form I-901 (indicating SEVIS fee payment) if you are going to the U.S. to begin a new J program.
- Your current I-20 or DS-2019 signed for re-entry if you are renewing the visa.
- Proof of financial support - normally not an issue if you are paid by your sponsoring institution. If you are not paid by your institution, you should show proof of adequate funding for the period of stay stated on your form DS-2019.
- Documentation of nonimmigrant intent: you must show that you do not intend to stay in the U.S. permanently. You must show ties to your home country, or intent to return to your home country after completing your J program.
- Letter from program sponsor verifying program participation. Your RO/ARO will issue this letter.
- LSUA admission letter or admission e-mail that you may have received.
- For J-2: Marriage certificate for dependent spouse and birth certificates for dependent
children, if applicable. Dependents should also have their own Forms DS-2019.
Note: You will be required to pay the SEVIS Fee before you attend the visa interview appointment.
The visa interview will be the most important part of the process. You should remember that the person who interviews you does not have a lot of time, so the more organized you are for the interview, the better the process will go.
NASFA: Association of International Educators has put together a list of tips for your interview. One of the most important aspects of the visa interview is evidence of sufficient ties to your home country. For additional information about ties to your home country and other points to remember for the visa interview, visit NASFA’S Website
Be aware that you should not buy your airline ticket until you learn that your visa application is approved.
After the visa interview
The standard amount of time it can take the U.S Consulate to process a student visa can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. You may be asked to leave documents (passport, I-20/DS-2019, etc.) at the U.S Consulate and pick them up at a later date. In some countries, the documents will be returned to you by mail. There are times when U.S Consulates may take longer to process visa applications, as in the case of additional administrative processing
requirements. There are also certain times of the year that visa application processing can take longer, like during June-August (the summer months in the U.S.) and in November-December when U.S. Consulates are closed to observe major U.S. holidays.
If your visa application is approved and you receive the student visa passport, check the visa to make sure that all the information on the visa stamp is correct: the spelling of your name, your date of birth, the type of visa (F-1 or J-1), etc.
Note: You will need to have all these documents (I-20/DS-2019, visa, etc.) ready to show upon your arrival to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials upon entry to the United States.
Visa Delays or Denials
A visa delay is much more frequent than a visa denial. The consular officer who interviewed you must give you the reason for any visa delay, and there are many reasons why your visa application may be delayed. Sometimes the U.S. Consulate will need additional time to review your application (administrative processing) or will need additional information from you or your academic department regarding your program of study. Despite everyone’s best efforts, there are cases which a visa is denied.
The most common reasons for a visa denial are failure to prove sufficient ties to your home country and/or failure to provide sufficient evidence of financial support. If your visa application is denied, the consular officer must tell you why it was denied. If he/she does not, please make sure to ask.
If your student visa is denied and you would like for International Services to provide you with some advice or suggestions, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
. Include your e-mail, the date, location of your visa interview, and all the details regarding the reason that the consular officer gave you for the denial. International Services may be able to provide you with suggestions on how to proceed.