Requesting a Visa

When entering the U.S. as a citizen of a foreign country, you must first obtain a U.S. visa, which is placed in your passport.

Exception to Visa Requirement:

Canadian citizens with a passport do not need a visa to enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 student status but must have a valid I-20 or DS-2019 and a SEVIS fee payment receipt to present upon arrival to the U.S.

When can I apply for my F-1 or J-1 visa?

If you requested an I-20, you may apply for an F-1 visa 365 days prior to the “Program Start Date” listed on your I-20. If you requested a DS-2019, you may apply for a J-1 visa as soon as you have your DS-2019.

How to apply for your F-1/J-1 visa:

  1. Choose a U.S. consulate or embassy where you plan to apply for your visa. You must apply for your F-1/J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate; it is recommended you apply in your country of citizenship.
  2. Schedule a visa appointment. Visit the U.S. Department of State’s website for the post at which you plan to apply.
  3. Review these helpful resources:
  4. Practice Visa interviews last between 90 seconds and 3 minutes. During that time, you will be asked what you intend to study, your plans after graduating, and your attachment to your home country. Answer all questions honestly, but refrain from providing any further information.
  5. Attend your visa interview. Bring your original I-20 or DS-2019, and all other required visa documentation. More information about the required documents will be given when you schedule your interview.

Preparing for the Visa Interview

Bring all required documents with you to the interview:

  • Valid passport (valid for at least 6 months after your entry into the U.S.)
  • Original form I-20 or DS-2019 (signed by you)
  • Financial documents you used to qualify for your I-20/DS-2019
  • Copies of your academic credentials
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • Photos
  • Any other document(s) required by the U.S. embassy/consulate

At the Embassy or Consulate

The following things will happen at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate:

  • Review biographical information. The official will perform a “name check” on your name. This compares your name to the data in several databases and may take some time.
  • Review the field of study. The embassy may ask you questions about your program of study, research topic, or field. If you are in a graduate program. Having a letter from a faculty member in your department stating what your study/research will entail can be useful.
  • Background checks/administrative processing. Students may be subjected to a background check or administrative processing. These delays, while uncommon, can take many weeks to resolve.

Application Status

Check the status of your visa application through CEAC Status Check.

After You Receive Your Visa

You should make your travel arrangements and prepare for your departure as soon as you have your visa and are ready to travel to the U.S.

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Last modified: Nov 21, 2023