Applying for U.S. Visa
Things to do before your visa interview
- Consult the U.S. embassy or consulate about specific instructions on their application and interview procedures.
- Apply early. Applications for visas are taking longer to process due to the increased security checks. Students from Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria will be subjected to an extra security check. Also, students studying 'sensitive' fields like nuclear technology, will also have an extra security check. However, there is no limit to how early you may apply.
- Pay the SEVIS Fee: After September 1, 2004, the Department of Homeland Security required every F-1 and M-1 international student applying for a visa to pay a fee to support the SEVIS database. Most J-1 exchange visitors will also have to pay this fee. J-1's participating in federally sponsored exchange visitor programs (program codes start with G-1, G-2, or G-3 on the DS-2019) do not have to pay the fee. Make sure to have your proof of payment receipt prior to applying for a visa. SEVIS fact sheet.
- Pay the visa application fee. This fee must be paid before the interview. Each consulate will have instructions on how to pay this fee.
- Obtain two 2 inch x 2 inch photographs of yourself which meets the non-immigrant visa photo requirements.
- Fill out and sign the forms DS-156 and DS-158. If you are bringing your spouse and children over as F-2 or J-2 dependents, fill out forms for them as well.
Things to do during your visa interview:
- Tell the truth. State the facts of your own case. Never lie. If you are caught in a lie, your visa request will be denied and any future attempts will likely result in denial. Do not memorize answers beforehand, but give honest, direct answers to all the questions. Vague answers will only work against you.
- Organize your supporting documentation so that it can be logically presented without hesitation.
- Dress well. Wear business attire. This will show that you are serious.
- Know your educational objectives and be prepared to explain them.
- What are your educational goals?
- A four year bachelor degree?
- A graduate degree?
- An intensive English program to improve English skills?
- Be prepared to discuss what you expect to get out of your education.
- Show that you are qualified for the program.
- Share information about your academic achievements, thus far, in your own country. If your grades are below average, ask a teacher to write a letter explaining why you will still be able to succeed in the U.S.
- What are your educational goals?
- Know facts about ESU. The interviewer may ask you if you have been in touch with other schools or why you chose ESU. State the facts and submit the documents.
- Be ready to present documentation:
- I-20 or DS-2019 from Emporia State University (ESU)
- I-20's or DS-2019's for your spouse or children if they are coming as dependents
- Proof of your relationship to your spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates) if they are coming with you.
- Your passport, valid for at least six months after the date of entry into the US
- Proof of payment of visa application fees (this is usually a receipt)
- Proof of payment of SEVIS fee (this WILL be a receipt)
- Proof of proficiency in English, TOEFL score, if available
- For graduates, bring other relevant test scores (GRE, GMAT, etc.)
- For undergraduates, bring other relevant test scores (SAT, ACT, etc.)
- Transcripts of secondary and higher education
- Additional materials from ESU
- Two photographs which meet the standards of the U.S. Department of State.
- Financial documents that show your sponsor's salary or income. Income tax documents, original bank books, and business licenses are very useful. If funds are coming from another country, explain how that will not hinder the payment of your expenses. DO NOT list work in the U.S. as a means to fund your education unless you have a job listed on your I-20, like a GTA position.
- Any property ownership documents and deeds
- Any documents that show a reason for your return to your home country after completion of your studies.
- Mention family members who have studied in the USA. If you have had any family member complete higher education in the U.S. who has now returned to your country, mention that. If possible, bring the family member's diploma and documentation of the family member's current employment in your home country.
- Don't state that you intend to work in the United States, even temporarily after completing your studies.
- Maintain a positive attitude, be yourself, be calm, be confident and be friendly. Do not try to negotiate or argue with the consular official.
What to expect during the interview:
- Be prepared to explain why studying your degree in the U.S. is better than studying elsewhere. Do some research on your field of study and bring documentation.
- Be prepared to describe the program you are studying, the university you chose, and where you will live.
- Be prepared to prove that you will return to your country after finishing your studies in the USA. State the fact that after graduating from an American university you will have a great future in your country. If possible, bring documentation showing that your field of study can lead to career opportunities in your home country.
- If you are married, especially with children, and your family is remaining behind in your own country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. If your family is coming with you as dependents, show that you have enough funds to support them without hindering your education.
- Be prepared to discuss family, business or social ties you will be maintaining in your home country. If your family owns a business, mention that and bring documentation. If one of your direct family members holds an important post in government, education, or business, bring documentation to prove that as well.
- Be prepared to address questions about mandatory military service, if your country has one.
Things to do after your visa interview:
- If you were denied a visa, you may appeal and apply again. Most visa applications are denied because the student failed to show the likelihood of returning to his or her home country after completion of studies. (This rule is from Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act).
- If you were accepted, notify Emporia State University and send in your travel schedule. Carefully read all the materials sent to you from ESU and read about the new US-VISIT system.
- If your visa is not issued in time for you to start studies during the semester of your choice, return your I-20 to ESU so we can issue a new one for you.
The following are the visa types most commonly encountered when meeting students or prospective students. The different types of visas provide varying opportunities and restrictions.
F-1 (Student Visa). The immigration regulations governing students on this type of visa require that the student be enrolled as a full-time student seeking a specific degree or certificate. These students are not eligible for employment during the first 9 months in the United States . After the first 9 months, permission for employment off-campus can only be requested by OIE on behalf of the student. Permission is based on economic need. Employment on-campus must be approved by the OIE administrator. The form used to obtain an F-1 visa is Form I-20. Authorization to issue I-20 forms comes from the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
F-2 (Spouse or child of F-1 student). An F-2's spouse can take courses part time but are not allowed to work. To be a full-time student, the F-2 must change to F-1 status. Children may attend elementary/high school but must change to F-1 status before attending a university or college.
J-1 (Exchange Visa). This visa type encompasses scholars, research assistants, professors, trainees and people with special skills as well as degree seeking students. These students are all sponsored either by the U.S. or foreign governmental agencies or institutions. Any change in the student's status at the University such as a change in major, leave from school, or extension of expected length of degree program must be approved by the sponsor. Students on J-1 visas have flexibility in planning their schedules and work as long as their education is completed according to the agreement with the sponsor. The form used to obtain a J-1 visa is an DS-2019. Authorization to issue DS-2019 comes from the U.S. Department of State.
J-2 (Spouse or child of J-1). J-2's can enroll in courses (either part-time or full-time) and are allowed to work.
A "U.S. visa" is an entry document issued to a foreign national by the U.S. Department of State at a diplomatic visa-issuing post abroad (embassy or consulate office). This document, which is placed in the person's passport, gives the individual consideration for admittance to the U.S. However, possession of a valid visa does not guarantee permission to enter the country. The determination of admissibility is left to the discretion of the examining immigration officer at the port of entry.
When someone is legally admitted to the country, they acquire a "status". This term refers to the condition of legal presence within the country, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service regulates it. Just like visas, there are many categories of status, which are defined by non-immigrant classification designations. Generally speaking, the type, or classification, of visa used for entry into the country will determine the person's status. Form I-94, created at the time of entry, will indicate the designated status as well as the expiration date of that status. Form I-94 contains an admission number that can be found by simply going to the following website www.cbp.gov/I94
A student under F-1 or J-1 status may legally remain in the country for "duration of status", which will be indicated as "D/S" on their I-94. This means that as long as the person is doing what the regulations specify they need to do to maintain their F-1 or J-1 status, then they have status until they are done with their specified academic program, plus an additional allowable period (60-days for F-1; 30 days for J-1) to prepare for departure from the country. Other status types, such as B-2 (tourist), will have a specific expiration date for their status, and they must depart the country by the specified date or face possible legal consequences, including potential deportation and/or being barred from future admittance to the U.S.
It is sometimes possible to change from one status to another while inside the U.S. by making application to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. A change of status from within the country, however, does not change the visa. Therefore, traveling out of the country after changing status necessitates acquiring a new visa of the class corresponding to the new status to use for reentry, if retaining that status designation upon return to the U.S. is desired. Similarly, it may also be possible to obtain a different status by simply reentering the country using a visa type corresponding to the category of intended status.