Applying for Visa

The Department of State is planning a phased resumption of routine visa services. You can find more information at

All student applicants must have a SEVIS generated I-20/DS-2019 issued by an educational institution approved by Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Once a prospective student, receives the Form I-20 or DS-2019, they should pay the required SEVIS Fee (see SEVIS I-901 Fee for more information). Once the fee is paid, the individual can schedule a visa interview at an U.S. Consulate or Embassy. During the visa interview, the consular officer will verify the Form I-20/DS-2019 record through the SEVIS system.

For more information concerning the visa application process, please refer to the Department of State website dedicated to student visas at

Below please find detailed information about the visa application process including:
  • SEVIS I-901 Fee Information
  • Information about Consular Officers
  • Visa Interview Expectations
  • Visa Ineligibility and Denial
  • U.S. Department of State Embassy and Consular Videos

Information Pertaining to Applying for a Visa 

The SEVIS fee is established by Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In order to pay the SEVIS fee, students will need their SEVIS Number found on the Form I-20 or DS-2019.
ISS strongly encourages students to pay the SEVIS Fee prior to scheduling their visa interview. However, ISS understands that is not always possible. At a minimum, the SEVIS fee should be paid at least 3 days prior to the visa appointment at the U.S. Embassy/ Consulate. The U.S. Department of State requires proof of the payment before they will issue the requested visa.  
Note: The Department of State will verify that the SEVIS number to which the fee was paid matches the materials provided by the applicant during the interview.

To pay the SEVIS fee please go to the DHS website, Department of Homeland Security - Form I-901 (
More information regarding the SEVIS I-901 Fee can be found on the DHS website, Department of Homeland Security - Form I-901 (

The United States (U.S.) Department of State (DOS) determines eligibility for and issues U.S. immigrant and non-immigrant visas. Consular Officers are DOS representatives who are trained to determine if an individual meets the eligibility criteria for the visa they are seeking. Their mandate requires that they facilitate travel to the U.S. while upholding U.S. National Security policies. Ultimately, visa issuance is at the discretion of U.S. Consular Officers.
Consular Officers will expect interviewees to possess all necessary materials at the time of the interview. This may include your passport, original Form I-20 or DS-2019, proof of funding, admissions letter, etc. If you are unsure of what materials to bring to your interview contact or check the website of the U.S. Embassy/Consulate where you will interview for guidance. During the interview, consular officers can choose whether or not to review the materials in your possession. If you are missing a required document, you may be denied a visa (see Visa Denials for more information). It is important to understand that the time spent in the visa interview varies from applicant to applicant, country to country, etc.
Consular Officers are examining the totality of the individual before them. This means that they are examining the intent of the person seeking a visa and that individual’s ties to their country. Specifically, consular officers want to know:

 1) Who are you?
 2) What are your intentions? Student? Tourist?  Etc.
 3) How will you fund that pursuit? Scholarship? Assistantship? Family Funds? Etc.
 4) Why did you choose that program at that institution?

Typically, applicants are notified at the conclusion of the interview if they are approved or denied a visa. If denied, at the end of the interview you may receive a form indicating the reason for the denial. Listen carefully to the consular officer as they will provide you with specific instructions in either circumstance.

Non-Immigrant Intent
Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas are viewed as intending to be immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. Therefore, you must be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. They may ask about your home country ties, "ties" to your home country are the things that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. You should be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program.  If you are a prospective undergraduate, 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. Each person's situation is different and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter, which can guarantee visa issuance.

NOTE: 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 United States. Be prepared to address what your F-2 spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the United States. Volunteer work and attending school part-time are permitted activities.

English Proficiency Points

Anticipate that 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. You should be prepared to speak on your own behalf. It is recommended that you conduct your interview independently. If you are not able to articulate the reasons why you are wanting to study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are capable of studying at a U.S. institution. You should also be able to explain how studying in the United States relates to your future professional career when you return home.

It should be clear at a glance to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you may only have about 2-3 minutes of interview time.

Remember to be polite and courteous. You should treat your visa interview as if you are interviewing for a job. Be professional. If you are denied a student visa, the consular officer may provide you with a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal. Do not engage in an argument with the consular officer. You will receive a letter stating the section of the law under which you were refused. If it says 214(b), it means that the consular official was not convinced of your non-immigrant intent.

Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick efficient interview. They will make decisions on the impressions they form during the first minute or two 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.
  1. Do you have any immediate or distant relatives living in the United States? 
  2. Has any of your immediate family been denied a visa to the United States?
  3. Have you or any family members ever applied for U.S. permanent residency or participated in a United States visa lottery program?
  4. What are your ties to your home country? 
  5. Do you have any information, items, etc. to indicate that you will return home after completing your degree?  For example, will you be able to get employment outside the United States with the degree you are pursuing?
  6. Why have you chosen ____field of study at ______ institution?
  7. What do you plan on doing with your degree after graduation?
  8. Do you have problems expressing yourself or communicating in English?
  9. Have you been to the United States before?  If yes, when, where, and in what visa category?
  10. Have you ever been arrested or charged with a crime?

NAFSA 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Student Visa
1. Ties to Your Home Country and Residence Abroad
2. English
3. Speak for Yourself
4. Know the Program and How It Fits Your Career Plans
5. Be Brief and Maintain a Positive Attitude
6. Supporting Documentation (Know Your Specific Situation or History)
7. Different Requirements for Different Countries
8. Employment
9. Dependents Remaining at Home
10. Other Special Considerations

Students who were previously issued a visa and need to apply for a visa renewal while outside the United States should take the following into consideration.

Plan Ahead:

It could take a considerable amount of time to renew the visa.  You can check the processing times at

Additionally, you should schedule your appointment at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Please visit​ to locate the apporpriate location, based on country. 

Know what documentation to take with you:

ISS recommends taking at the very least the following documents:
  • a recent transcript;
  • a letter of academic status from your academic department, if possible;
  • updated proof of financial support. Students who have had a substantial change in their funding should submit a Change of Financial Support request within Terra Dotta prior to applying for a visa renewal. 
    • F-1 students who wish more information about the process or to start their request through Terra Dotta can do so by visiting F-1 Change of Financial Support
    • J-1 students who wish more information about the process or to start their request through Terra Dotta can do so by visiting J-1 Change of Financial Support
  • copies of standardized test scores
  • valid passport
  • most recently issued Form I-20 or DS-2019. 
For more information regarding the required documentation, please visit It is highly recommended to also check the embassy or consulate web page to determine if additional information or documentation is needed.

Students in STEM Majors

If you are a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) major, then you may want to have information about your research available.  A letter from your academic advisor explaining your program or research subject in plain English at the time of your interview may be helpful.


Visa Ineligibility and Denial
Visa denials occur because an individual failed to meet the bar of eligibility for the visa category they are requesting. For example, consular officers may deny a visa because an individual lacked proper documentation, failed to show non-immigrant intent, applied for the wrong visa, was disrespectful to the consular officer, failed to communicate effectively, etc. Do not lose hope if you are denied a visa, ineligibility in one category does not necessarily equate ineligible in all categories. In some circumstances, you may be able to re-apply for the same category and show that you have overcome the ineligibility reason of the prior denial. Per DOS, there are three categories of visa ineligibility which we will outline below. 

This applies only to nonimmigrant visa categories of which F-1 Student and J-1 Exchange Visitor are two. Per DOS, those found ineligible for this reason ‘did not sufficiently demonstrate to the consular officer that [they] qualify for the nonimmigrant visa category [they] applied for; and/or did not overcome the presumption of immigrant intent, … [did not] sufficiently demonstrate strong ties to [their] home country that will compel [them] to leave the United State at the end of [their] temporary stay.’  Ties are the aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence: your possessions, employment, relationships, etc. A denial under Section 214(b) does not prohibit an individual from applying for a different visa category nor does it prohibit an individual from re-applying for the same category. However, denials for this reason are not eligible for appeal, i.e. the request won’t be re-opened. If you reapply after a 214(b) denial be prepared to show what specific or significant changes have occurred since your last application.
Visa denials under 221(g) result when consular officers are unable to determine at the time of interview that an applicant is eligible for the visa they are requesting.  Denials of this type fall into the following scenarios (1) the application is incomplete and further documentation is necessary, and/or (2) administrative processing (i.e. further review) is needed before a decision can be reached.  Visa 221(g) denials are commonly referred to as visa delays since more information is needed before a visa can be issued. Visa 221(g) denials are unique in that applicants will be informed of the denial during the interview AND provided with explicit verbal and written instructions on how to potentially overcome that denial. If you receive a 221(g) denial it is important that you respond to DOS per their instruction as soon as possible. If you miss the indicated deadline and/or fail to submit all requested information you may have to re-start the visa application process. Once DOS has received all requested information your visa application will continued to be processed to conclusion (i.e. approval/denial). Administrative processing times vary based on individual circumstance and embassy/consulate circumstances. Therefore, it is important that you closely listen to and follow all verbal and written instruction.
Section 212(a) is comprised of 10 subcategories of ineligibility. They are: (1) Health Related Grounds, (2) Criminal and Related Grounds, (3) Security and Related Grounds, (4) Public Charge, (5) Labor Certification and Qualification for Certain Immigrants, (6) Illegal Entrants and Immigration Violators, (7) Documentation Requirements, (8) Ineligible for Citizenship, (9) Aliens Previously Removed, and (10) Miscellaneous. A detailed explanation of these ineligibility subcategories can be found on the DOS’s website. The circumstances surrounding these ineligibilities vary greatly depending on the applicant’s history and the visa category they are seeking. Some of these ineligibilities are more common, some less so. Some apply only to immigrant visas while others apply to both immigrant and non-immigrant categories. In some circumstances, it may be possible to overcome the ineligibility.
Historically, International Student Services has observed that denials due to Section 212(a) are often applied to individuals who have previously spent time in the United States either in the status they are seeking or in a different status. For example, individuals have received denials due to previous drinking and/or drug related charges, arrests, and/or convictions; breaking state and/or local laws (ex: failure to pay parking fines), lack of proper immigration documents (ex: passport with minimum 6 months of validity). 
Note: While marijuana is decriminalized in several U.S. states it is still considered a controlled substance by the U.S. Federal Government and as such grounds for visa ineligibility.
International Student Services is working on creating a program for students to directly inform staff if they are experiencing a visa delay or have been notified of a possible denial. Once the program is launched, this section of the website will be updated. In the meantime, if you are denied an F-1 or J-1 visa, please send an email to with your full name, UIN, and a detailed description of your visa interview. If you received a denial notice, please attach a copy to the email. You will also want to inform your academic department that you are experiencing visa delays that could impact your ability to fully participate in your academic program.

U.S Department of State Videos
Please understand that these videos were published by the U.S. Department of State and ISS takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided therein. All information is subject to change it is YOUR responsibility to confirm all requirements with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will interview.