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Applying for a Visa

NEW: The US Department of State has announced that that Embassies and Consulates are able to issue first time student visas 120 days or less, in advance of the course of study registration date. While you may apply for a visa more than 120 days prior to your start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa. You may enter the US no more than 30 days in advance of your start date.

The US Department of State has an excellent website that outlines the process of obtaining a student visa for studying in the USA.

To enter the United States with your Form I-20 (F-1 students) or your Form DS-2019 (J-1 students) and attend Muskingum University, you must pay an I-901 SEVIS fee, and make an appointment at a United States embassy or consulate and apply for a visa. 

SEVIS Fee

As of October 27, 2008 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires that each new student issued an initial I-20 or DS-2019 pay a SEVIS fee prior to his or her consular interview ($200 for F-1 visa, $180 for J-1 visa).  You can only pay the fee after the initial I-20/DS-2019 has been issued by the school you wish to attend. FORM I-901 is used to pay the SEVIS fee and is available online. The two easiest ways to pay are online at www.FMJfee.com  or by Western Union Quick Pay service.  If you use the website, please be sure to have a functional printer ready, since you will have only one opportunity to print the receipt. You may also pay with a check or bank draft drawn on a U.S. bank sent via mail or courier with your completed Form I-901 – this method is acceptable, but is not recommended since it may take up to a month for processing.  If you are transferring schools, extending your program, applying for an F-2 dependent visa, or have paid this fee and been denied a visa within the last twelve months, you do not need to pay the $200 SEVIS fee.  The SEVIS fee receipt must be taken to the consulate interview and border crossing.  To download the form or for more information on the SEVIS fee, please visit the US Customs and Immigration website:  https://www.fmjfee.com/i901fee/index.jsp.  

How do I apply for a visa?

Before you apply for the visa, you should understand the process and the rules governing visas. Many visa applications fail. Often it is because the student did not know the rules or was not prepared. We do not want this to happen to you, so please read the following information carefully and contact us if you have any questions. 

Understanding the rules for US visa applications

Before you apply for the visa, you should understand the process and the rules governing visas.  Many visa applications fail.  In some countries, most applications fail.  Often it is because the student did not know the rules or was not prepared.  We do not want this to happen to you.  Please read the following information carefully, and write to us if you have any questions.

In most countries, first time visa applicants must appear in person for an interview.   Because the rules and fees at each US Embassy or Consulate abroad are slightly different, it is important that you contact the Embassy or Consulate where you will apply to find out what the requirements are.  Find your local Consulate or Embassy at http://usembassy.state.gov/.   Although some Consulates may allow you to apply earlier to allow for visa processing and security clearance delays, the earliest that you may be issued a visa is 120 days before the program start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019.  Although we recommend that you apply for your visa as far in advance as possible, you may enter the US no more than 30 days before the start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019. 

The most important rule for applying  may seem strange to you.  The consular officer who makes the decision on your visa application is required to think of you as someone who plans to come to the U.S. permanently, and you must prove that you intend to return to your home country after completing your studies.  U.S. law clearly states that F and J visas may be given only to persons who intend to remain in the United States temporarily.  This rule is the number one reason for denials of visa applications.

The other important rules are:

  • You must have a definite academic or professional objective.  You must know what you are going to study or the professional purpose of your trip and how it will benefit your future in your home country.
  • You must be qualified for the program of study (for example, accepted into the university or accepted to participate in an exchange program activity).
  • You must be definite about your choice of school.  If you do not seem certain that you will be going to Muskingum University, you will not get a visa.  You should know basic information about Muskingum.
  • You must be adequately financed and have documents to prove it.  Except in cases were employment is authorized on your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, you may not plan to use employment as a means of support while you are in the U.S.A.

U.S. government officials are much more easily convinced by documents than by spoken statements.  When possible, have papers to show your connections to your home country.  The consular officer will take a very legalistic view.  In the U.S., it is considered important to be impersonal when administering laws.  This may be considered rude or improper in many countries, but not in the U.S. where the ideal is to apply laws equally to all, regardless of status or sex.  Do not try to negotiate or discuss personal matters.

Be prepared

  • Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point. Be honest! Do not try to hide information from the officer, even if you think the honest answer will hurt your application.
  • Be sure that all of your documents are in order and ready and that your application is complete:  your passport should be valid at least six months into the future; all the required forms should be filled out completely and correctly; your SEVIS fee must have been paid and your receipt should be with you; you have the proper photographs; and so on.
  • Be clear and definite about your purpose for coming to the United States.  Be ready to say what you want from this experience and how it will benefit your career in your home country.  Be prepared to explain why it is better for you to study in the United States than in your home country.  If you need more information on the program to which you have been accepted, request it from us before you apply for a visa.
  • With papers, show ties to your home country.  If your family owns a business, take letters from a bank, describing the business to the interview with you.  If your family owns property, take the deeds.  If you have a brother or sister who studied in the U.S. and then returned home, take a copy of the brother or sister’s diploma and a statement from an employer showing that they have returned home.  If possible, show that an individual or company in your home country will give you a job when you return.  If you cannot get a promise of a job, try to get a letter saying that you will be considered for a job, or that the company needs people with the kind of education and experience you are coming to the U.S. to receive.
  • Although you should not hide them, do NOT emphasize any ties that you may have to the United States or to family members in the United States.  Your visa application is stronger and better if at least part of your financial support comes form your home country, even if most of it comes from the U.S.
  • Do not speak of working in the United States unless employment is listed on your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.
  • Read your form I-20 or Form DS-2019.  Some of the rules you must obey are printed on page 3 of the I-20 or page 2 of the DS-2019.  Be aware of these rules, as you are responsible for following them in order to maintain legal status while in the USA. 
  • Please be aware that it is often much more difficult to qualify for a visa if you apply outside your country of permanent residence.
  • Do a practice interview with a friend or family member, but do not memorize a “speech.”  Instead, pay careful attention to what the consular official asks you, and answer those questions briefly but completely.

Citizens of Canada and the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda

Canadian citizens are not required to have a U.S. visa to enter the United States. You must present your I-20 (or DS-2019) form, your SEVIS fee receipt, and proof of financial support at the U.S. port of entry. The INS inspector will stamp your I-20 (or DS-2019) and issue you an I-94 card that indicates that you are in F-1 (or J-1) status. It is critical that you enter the U.S. in student status to be eligible for the benefits of that status, including on-campus work permission, optional practical training etc. If you enter the U.S. without any documentation, you are assumed to be in tourist/visitor status and are not entitled to these benefits.

Dependents

Your spouse and children may apply for visas with you or they may apply to join you after you come to the U.S., but only if they are mentioned on your Form I-20 or DS-2019.  Please notify us well in advance of your interview if you intend to bring dependents. You will also need to demonstrate financial support for each of your dependents.

If your visa application is denied

If you are denied a student visa, do not try to argue with the consular officer.  Politely ask the officer for a list of documents you should bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get in writing the reason you were denied.   Notify us with complete details of everything that was said at your interview.  If possible, tell us the name of the consular officer and send a copy of any written answer you may receive.

Helpful Internet websites

The following websites offer advice and instructions when applying for non-immigrant visas:  

US Department of State, Student Visas

https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange/student.html

https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange/exchange.html

US Department of State Visa page

https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en.html

US Department of Homeland Security's Study in the States Website

https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students

US Embassy, Beijing - Nonimmigrant Visa Unit, Frequently Asked Questions

http://www.ustraveldocs.com/cn/cn-gen-faq.aspl

 

NAFSA, Ten Points to Remember When Applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa

https://www.nafsa.org/findresources/Default.aspx?id=8643

 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement information for International Students and Exchange Visitors

http://www.ice.gov/sevis/index.htm