International students and scholars must have a valid stamp in their passport to be eligible for entry or re-entry to the United States. There are some exceptions for travel to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island for less than 30 days. Visa stamps are obtained at U.S. Consulates abroad. (Note that citizens of Canada do not need a visa stamp in their passports in order to enter the U.S.)
Although we hope that all international students are successful in their visa applications at US Consulates abroad, sometimes students encounter difficulties which could cause delays or denials of visa applications. These difficulties may include:
Paying the SEVIS fee
Please check our section on the SEVIS fee to find out if you will be subject to the new SEVIS fee and how to pay it if you are.
With the heightened security concerns around the world and the resulting changes to U.S. immigration regulations, the number of security checks done for U.S. visa applications has increased. There is no way to know for certain ahead of time whether you will be delayed by one of these security checks. There are a few things we do know. There is a "technology alert list" of subject areas which are of security concern to the U.S. federal government. If a visa applicant's area of study is on that list, the U.S. consulate may require a "security advisory opinion" to be completed prior to granting the visa.
All applicants for an F or J visa are required to demonstrate their intent to return to their home country following the completion of their academic programs. There are several ways you can be prepared to support your intent to return home in your visa interview.
- have a few sentences in mind that express how you intend to use your degree or research at home after your finish your program
- bring a deed to any property (land, house, apartment) that you own in your home country
- bring bank statements of any accounts that you maintain in your home country
- if you have an employer who intends to employ you when you return home, bring a letter from that employer
- bring something that shows that your family resides in your home country (perhaps your parents have deeds or bank accounts)
Interviews Required for Visa Applications
Recently, the regulations governing visa applications have been revised to require that U.S. consulates interview nearly all internationals applying for non-immigrant visa stamps. There will be only rare situations in which an applicant will be able to get a visa without the interview. The requirement for the interview will mean that you may experience longer delays in getting an appointment at the U.S. consulate than you have in the past.
SEVIS and the Consolidated Consular Database (CCD)
If you are applying for an F or J visa stamp, you must be entered in to the SEVIS database and have a SEVIS generated certificate of eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019) in order to apply for and receive a visa stamp. We have entered all of our students and scholars in to the SEVIS system, so if you do not yet have your SEVIS immigration document, contact our office.
However, even though we have entered you, as evidenced by the SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019, the consulates still may not be able to see your record. This is because the consulates actually look at your SEVIS record through their own database, referred to as the Consolidated Consular Database or the CCD. Records from SEVIS are supposed to be exported and uploaded to the CCD every 24 hours. Unfortunately, the system is not working perfectly, and the records of the CCD are not always complete. If a consular officer informs you that your records are not available in SEVIS, please contact our immediately. We will then contact the National SEVIS helpdesk and attempt to resolve the problem. Unfortunately, we are not able to make any advance arrangements to ensure that your record will be seen by the consulate.
We are here to help you in whatever ways we are able. If you do plan to travel out of the U.S.and are going to need to apply for a visa, come in to our office before you go to discuss the documents you need to have with you:
- valid passport
- valid I-20, DS-2019, or other documents such as H1B approval notice
- recent financial support documents
- certificate of enrollment