How to Obtain an F-1 Visa


Applying For A Student Visa
         Paying The I-901(SEVIS) Fee
          The Process

Preparing For The Visa Interview
          Ties To Your Home Country
          English
          Speak For Yourself
          Know The Program And How It Fits Your Career Plans
          Be Brief
          Additional Documentation
          Not All Countries Are Equal
          Employment
          Dependents Remaining At Home
          Maintain A Positive Attitude

 

Preparing For Departure
          Pre-departure (Immigration)
          What To Pack

Applying For A Student Visa

Paying The I-901(SEVIS) Fee
 The SEVIS I-901 fee is mandated by the United States Congress to support the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is the automated system that keeps track of students and exchange visitors coming to the U.S.

Before applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa you must submit an I-901 form and accompanying fee. We recommend that you pay online and be sure to print several receipts. You will need this receipt or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official paper receipt (referred to as an “I-797”) when applying for your visa and entering the U.S. Please keep this receipt as a permanent record. To pay online go to http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/. For more information visit http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/faq.htm.

The Process
Today, as in the past, most travelers to the U.S. must obtain a visa. The process includes application forms and possibly interviews that may take several weeks or longer. So, please allow extra time to avoid having to make repeat visits to the Embassy. While individual experiences may differ, here are the basic steps you should follow and what you can expect throughout the process.

Visit http://travel.state.gov/visa/. This Web site has important information about current visa policies and procedures. If you do not have access to the Internet, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for further information.

Make an appointment to visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Wait times for appointments may be lengthy. Schedule your appointment as soon as possible. Be sure to ask what fees are required and how they can be paid. Application fees are non-refundable and must be paid before your appointment.

Get all your documentation ready. You will need:

  • • Passport (valid for at least 6 months from the anticipated start of classes)
  • • Applications - These can be obtained through an Embassy or Consulate or at http://travel.state.gov/visa/.
  • • Documents to support your application
  • -Official Acceptance letter
  • -I-20 or DS-2019
  • -Financial documents
  • • Proof of payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee. You may use the receipt printed after you make on-line payment or the official I-797 receipt.

NOTE: The consular officer may require additional information or forms.

Submit your application, passport, and supporting documents to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Your application will be reviewed by the consular officer. For most applicants, the visa is issued within a few weeks. Remember, there is no guarantee of obtaining a visa.

In some cases, additional reviews will be required. Such reviews can include additional interviews, further requests for information, official registration and fingerprinting. This may add four to six weeks to the visa application processing time.

After you secure a visa, you may travel from your country to a port of entry in the U.S. In many cases, that port of entry will be the airport where you land. On the airplane, you will be asked to complete a short arrival/departure form called an I-94. Write your name in standard English characters. It must match your name as it is shown on your passport and visa. The I-94 form is very important so be careful not to lose it!

When you deplane, follow directions for non-citizen entry. At the airport, a U.S. official will interview you and verify all of your paperwork. Once admitted, you will receive an immigration stamp – make sure the officer properly stamps your I-94 card! Then, you will proceed to baggage claim and U.S. Customs.

For a list of Web sites of U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide and for information about U.S. visa policies and procedures, visit http://travel.state.gov/visa/.

Preparing For The Visa Interview

Ties To Your Home Country
Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas, are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore 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. “Ties” to your home country are the things that bind you to your home town, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. 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, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter which can guarantee visa issuance.

English
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, but do NOT prepare speeches!

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.

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 U.S. relates to your future professional career when you return home.

Be Brief
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.

Additional Documentation
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. Remember that you will have two to three minutes of interview time, if you’re lucky.

Not All Countries Are Equal
Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the U.S. 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 U.S.

Employment
Your main purpose in coming to the United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students do work during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. In addition, 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 U.S. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the U.S. F-2s may do volunteer work and may participate in part-time study that is vocational or recreational in nature.

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 United States 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.

Maintain A Positive Attitude
Do not engage the consular officer in an argument. 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, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.

Preparing For Departure

Pre-departure (Immigration)
Note the program start date on your I-20 form and read the remarks. You must arrive in the U.S. no more than 30 days before the program start date and no later than the program start date.

Schedule long layovers between connecting flights. You will normally be checked through Customs and Border Protecting (CBP) quickly. However, if the CBP officer cannot clear you in a minute or so, you will be sent to Secondary Inspection. Don’t panic. This doesn’t mean that you are being accused of anything. Usually, there’s just something that needs further clarification. However, Secondary Inspection often requires a wait of approximately two hours.

Collect your immigration and supporting documents into a packet. (Do not pack them into checked luggage!) Be prepared to show the following to the inspecting officer at the port of entry:

  • Passport, valid for at least six months (Important note: your passport must remain valid at all times while you are in the U.S.)
  • Form I-20 or DS-2019 issued by Dalton State College
  • Receipt for the I-901 (SEVIS) fee
  • Evidence of financial resources
  • Name and contact information for your “Designated School Official (DSO)” or “Responsible Officer (RO)”
  • If you’re bringing dependents, each dependent must have an I-20 or DS-2019 of their own

What To Pack
Deciding what to pack can be challenging. Check the luggage restrictions for your airline as overweight luggage can be very costly. Also know that there are many places in Dalton to purchase needed items.

Dalton State, 650 College Drive, Dalton, GA 30720
706.272.4436 • 1.800.829.4436 • www.daltonstate.edu