Getting a Visa
Checklist for obtaining an f-1 or j-1 student visa
- Apply early for your F-1 or J-1 visa as there can be a lengthy waiting period (Canadian citizens do not need a visa, but must use the I-20 when clearing customs).
- Pay SEVIS fee—you will need to pay this before you go to the United States embassy or consulate. The F-1 fee is $200 and the J-1 fee is $180 however for more information on who needs to pay this fee or to pay online go to https://www.fmjfee.com/index.html.
- Make Appointment with US Embassy or US Consulate in your home country. To learn more about obtaining a US Visa visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html.
- Bring Required Documents to your visa appointment:
- I-20 or DS-2019 Form—provided by Loyola OIP
- SEVIS FEE receipt
- VISA application Fee receipt—fee schedule can be found at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1263.html
- DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa online application—some Embassies may still use the older Forms DS-156, DS-157, and DS-158
- Passport—valid for 6 months after your expected entry date into the United States
- Financial Documents—including any scholarships or awards to show you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses described in number 8 on your I-20 or DS-2019
- Loyola's Acceptance Letter
- Transcripts and Diplomas—from previously attended institutions
- Standardized test scores—such as TOEFL, SAT, GRE, or GMAT
- 2x2 photograph—specific guidelines may be found at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/passports/photos/photos.html
Tips for your Visa Appointment
Think of your visa appointment as an interview. Business attire is appropriate. Remember the F-1 and J-1 VISAs are Non-Immigrant VISAs. An F-1 or J-1 VISA is issued to person(s) intending to return to his or her home country. You will need to prove to the VISA Officer that you will return home after your course of study is over.
Ties to Your Home Country
Under US law, all applicants for non-immigrant visas, such as student visas, are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore show you have reasons to return to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the US.
Ties to your home country are the things that bind you to your home town, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family or fiancé, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments or bank accounts. The interviewing officer may ask about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans and career prospects in your home country.
You may want to get a letter from a potential employer in your country stating that you are being considered for a job, or that the company needs people with the degree you are coming to the US to complete. You might bring statistics on the projected position availability in your field of study in your home country. Have a few sentences in mind that express how you intend to use your degree at home after you finish your program.
If you or your family owns property, like a house, apartment or land, take the deed or the lease. If your family owns a business, take letters from a bank describing the business. Bring something that shows your family resides in your home country. If you have a brother or sister who studied in the US and then returned home, you could take a copy of the sibling's diploma and a statement from their employer showing that they have returned home.
Each person's situation is different, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter which can guarantee visa issuance.
Anticipate the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do not prepare speeches. If you are coming to the U.S. solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.
The financial documentation you bring should represent liquid assets in an amount that is at least as high as the dollar figure indicated in item number 8 on your I-20. Be prepared to explain that all of those funds will be readily available to you during your studies in the US. Your visa application is stronger if at least part of your financial support comes from your home country, even if most of it comes from the US.
Make sure the country of origin for each piece of financial documentation is clear. If your financial documentation does not already show the date that each account was opened, obtain a letter from the bank official with this information, if possible.
Speak for Yourself
Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf. If you are a minor applying for a high school program and need your parents there in case there are questions about funding, your parents should wait in the waiting room.
Know the Program and How It Fits Your Career Plans
If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the US relates to your future professional career when you return home.
Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point.
The consular officer will take a legalistic view and administer the law in an impersonal way. In the US, it is considered important to be impersonal when administering laws. Do not try to negotiate or discuss personal matters.
Not All Countries are Equal
Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries from which many students have stayed as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be intending immigrants. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the US.
Dependents Remaining at Home
If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family will need you to remit money from the US in order to support themselves, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.
Your main purpose in coming to the US should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. Do not speak of plans to work in the U.S. The consular officer will want to know that you can support yourself with your own or your sponsor's funding, not from working in the US.
The availability of on-campus work is not guaranteed and cannot be used as part of your financial support for visa purposes unless the university has offered you an academic assistantship. While many students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their US education.
If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the US If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the US. Volunteering is a permitted activity for F-2 dependents. Be aware that government regulations prohibit adult F-2 dependents from attending classes unless they are avocational or recreational, which means they should not start a degree program but could take a painting class.
On the visa application form, there is a question about whether you have ever applied for permanent residency in the US. Please note that if you have applied for the US Green Card Lottery, this does not constitute applying for US permanent residency. If you have won the Green Card Lottery and proceeded with the permanent residency application, then you have applied for US permanent residency.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Be confident in making your case but once the officer has made their decision do not engage them in an argument, but rather maintain a positive attitude. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal. Try to get the reason you were denied in writing.
Be sure that your passport is valid at least six months beyond the date that you intend to arrive in the US.
It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. You will most likely only have a few minutes of interview time.
If you overstayed your authorized stay in the U.S. previously, you may be asked why. Be prepared to explain what happened clearly and concisely, and to provide documentation if it is available.
If you are denied a visa, contact the Office for International Programs and we can help you gather additional documentation and re-apply.