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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 College, you must make an appointment at the nearest United States embassy or consulate and apply for a visa. In order to find the US Embassy or Consulate that is most convenient for you, please click here


As of September 1, 2004 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security requires that each new student issued an initial I-20 or DS-2019 pay a $100 SEVIS fee before his or her consular interview. You can only pay this SEVIS 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 or by Western Union Quick Pay service. If you use the FMJFee website, please be sure to have a 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 $100 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.

Effective June 30, 2006, telephone number for international I-901 SEVIS fee customers will be +1 (212) 620-3418. International Students and Exchange Visitors may call the toll-free number for all questions regarding the I-901 SEVIS fee that cannot be answered after viewing the information available at

Please note that the toll-free number is for international callers only and is available during the following business hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

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

The first rule 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. Not meeting this rule is the number one reason for denials of visa applications. 

The other important rules are:

  1. 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. 
  2. You must be qualified for the program of study (for example, you must have been already accepted into Muskingum College or accepted to participate in one of our exchange programs). 
  3. You must be definite about your choice of school.
  4. You must be adequately financed and have documents to prove it. Except in cases where 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. 

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 impersonal view on administering U.S. laws. This may be considered rude in many countries, but not in the U.S., where the ideal is to apply laws equally to all regardless of status or gender. Do not try to negotiate with the officer or discuss personal matters. 

Be prepared

  • Make sure that your passport is valid at least 6 months into the future.  
  • Be clear and definite about your purpose for coming to the United States. Be ready to explain how your study at Muskingum College 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 visa 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's 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 the 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. 
  • 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 if at least part of your financial support comes from 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 2 of the I-20 or the back of the pink copy of the DS-2019. Be aware of these rules as you are responsible to follow them in order to maintain legal status while in the USA. F-1 students should be aware of the requirement for full-time study. 
  • You must apply for your visa in time to arrive at Muskingum College by the date listed in item #5 of your I-20 or item #3 of your DS-2019. You may obtain the visa up to 120 days before that date, and enter the e United States up to 30 days before that date. 

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.


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. 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: