Obtaining a Student Visa
International students applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa are indicating to the US Embassy or Consulate their intention to study at a particular US university. In order to obtain the non immigrant student visa the individual will need to prepare the appropriate documentation to have a strong visa application for a successful visa interview. If the visa is approved and issued the student should only enter the United States 30 days prior to the program start date on their I-20 or DS -2019 with the valid visa for the university where they intend to study. You must also arrive to the university by the scheduled program start date.
If you intend to study at another institution you should not enter the United States with a Fairleigh Dickinson University visa or I-20/DS-2019. You would be required to obtain the visa for the institution where you intend to study. (This is a requirement for initial entry students and not required for returning or continuing students)
How to Apply for an Initial F-1 Entry Visa if You are Outside the U.S.
Make an appointment at a U.S. Consulate to apply for an F-1 or J-1 Student entry visa. You will require the I-20 or DS 2019 form from Fairleigh Dickinson University at the time of your appointment. DO NOT MAKE AN APPOINTMENT UNTIL you have received the I-20 or DS 2019. While the U.S. Consulate will not issue the student entry visa until 120 days before the reporting date on the I-20 or the start date of your DS-2019 program period, you should apply for your visa as soon as possible. Check the following websites for more information on visa appointments.
For information about current wait times for the appointment and for visa issuance. Note that the processing wait times DO NOT include any extra time that may be required for security clearances.
Check your form I-20 or DS 2019 for completeness and correctness. Your I-20 or DS-2019 indicates that we have created a record for you in SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), a national database for international students and scholars. Your unique assigned SEVIS ID number is in the upper right corner of page 1. Check to see that all information is correct and that your expected completion date is in the future.
If you have informed us that your dependents (husband, wife, or children under the age of 21) will come with you to the U.S., each of them will receive their own “dependent” I-20 or DS 2019 needed for applying for their F-2 or J-2 visas and entering the U.S. in F-2 or J-2 status. If your family name is different from your dependents, be prepared to show documents that prove your relationship.
Make sure your passport is valid. When you apply for a visa or enter the U.S., your passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future. Some countries are exempt from this requirement and have their passports automatically extended for 6 months which means that you can use your passport up until the written expiration date. This rule applies to subsequent entries to the U.S. while traveling as a student. See list of countries exempt from this rule.
Pay the SEVIS fee and print the receipt. Go to the I-901 payment site at www.fmjfee.com and follow the instructions. You will need the I-20 or DS-2019 available because the SEVIS ID number is required. Print copies of the receipt; you will need one with you for the visa interview and you should keep one for your own records. You can only access the receipt at the time of payment so be sure your printer is working before paying the fee. You will not be able to get a receipt later.
If you have been a student in the U.S. and are transferring schools or beginning a program at a new level of study, it is possible you may not have to pay the SEVIS fee. Refer to information posted at SEVIS website.
Complete the required Department of State application form DS-160. Everyone applying for a non-immigrant visa must complete this form. Be sure to print and keep the DS-160 barcode page.
The US State Department has implemented security clearance procedures that may result in an extensive delay in visa issuance; please allow for this when planning your arrival to FDU. Click on US Consulates for a list of US Consulates around the world, US State Department for important instructions on applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa, and Form DS-160 to access the online visa application form. Those consulates not yet accepting the DS-160 may ask you to submit the former F-1 Visa Application (Form DS-156) along with Form DS-158. Male applicants 16 to 45 years of age who are unable to submit the electronic Form DS-160 must also submit Form DS-157 to the US Consulate.
Refer to step one and follow instructions for paying any visa fees required in advance of your appointment. Procedures may vary from country to country, and even post to post within the same country. Note that application and issuance fees are based on reciprocity and generally reflect your country’s policies in granting visa privileges to visiting U.S. students.
Bring a passport-size photo less than six months old. Check Nonimmigrant Visa Photograph Requirements for details.
The following is very important. Prepare for your interview appointment by learning what to expect. You will be applying for an F-1 or J-1 student visa, a non-immigrant classification. According to U.S. immigration law, “Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a non-immigrant status.” This means you need to establish that you have no intention of staying in the U.S. permanently, but are coming here for a temporary purpose, i.e. to pursue your educational objective. While the consular officers are aware that it may be difficult for students to demonstrate strong professional and economic ties to their home countries, you should still bear this in mind as you prepare for your interview.
Additional helpful resources:
- Applying for a Student or Exchange Visitor Visa Published by Education USA, a division of the U.S. Department of State
- See You in the USA: An eJournal published by DOS. Note article “On the Other Side of the Visa Window”, by U.S. visa officer in Cairo
- Ten Points to Remember When Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa published by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, in consultation with the U.S. State Department. Although published in 1997, these general points provide good guidance and still are relevant today.
Checklist of what to take with you to your visa interview:
____ A passport valid for at least six months
____ Form I-20 or DS-2019 (sign the form under Item 11)
____ School admission letter or invitation letter
____ Completed DS-160 visa application bar code page
____ A photograph in the prescribed format (see Step 7)
____ A receipt for the visa application fee
____ A receipt for the SEVIS fee payment
____ Financial evidence that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period you intend to study. If sponsored then an affidavit of support or letter of support written by the sponsor must be included.
____ Any information that demonstrates your intention to return to your home country after finishing your studies in the U.S. This may include proof of property, family, or other ties to your community.
After the visa is processed, make sure you got what you requested. Check your passport to be sure you obtained an F-1 or J-1 visa, and that any dependents obtained an F-2 or J-2 visa. Also, be certain that the I-20 or DS-2019 was returned to you, as you must have the original with you when you arrive in the United States. Sometimes, the document is returned to you in a sealed envelope, which must be presented to the immigration inspector when you arrive.
Upon entry to the US you must attend the scheduled ISS orientation. If you do not attend the scheduled orientation your immigration record may be terminated for “no show”.
If You Are Already in the U.S.
Those Currently Not in F-1 Status
Students who do not plan to leave the U.S. before beginning studies at Fairleigh Dickinson (and are currently in an immigration status other than F-1) are required to change status by application to the USCIS. For more information on changing your status to F-1, follow this link: Change of Status to F-1. The Office of International Student Services will be happy to assist you with this application.
Transferring Students in F-1 Status at Another Institution
F-1 students previously enrolled in another U.S. school who are planning to enroll at Fairleigh Dickinson University must complete the Transfer Process to satisfy both University and USCIS requirements.