in-person visa interview
Once the SEVIS fee is paid, you will need to make an appointment for an in-person visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the United States. Keep in mind that waiting times for an appointment can be lengthy (several weeks or longer), especially during the busy summer months or over the winter holidays. Schedule your appointment as soon as possible after receiving your I-20 or DS-2019. A list of embassies and consulates can be found at the website of the U.S. Department of State. Note: if you are a Canadian citizen you do not need to obtain an F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Canadian citizens activate their F-1 student status when they go through immigration entering the U.S.
Many embassies and consulates will allow you to make an appointment online and they also state average processing times for student visas. Be sure to schedule an appointment early enough to allow sufficient time for visa processing and travel to the U.S.
In order to apply for a student visa you must submit the following forms and documentation:
- Your I-20 Certificate of Eligibility sent to you from SFAI or your DS-2019 if you are a Fulbright student.
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160. Visit the DS-160 webpage for more information
- Your passport valid for at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States.
- One - 2x2 photograph. Visit the U.S. State Department’s page about Photograph Requirements for details.
- A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee.
- The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.
For more information on required documents, visit the U.S. State Department student visa webpage
You should be also be prepared to provide:
- Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions you’ve attended
- Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.
- Financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your study at SFAI.
Note: some U.S. Embassies or Consulates may require additional information or different documents. Be sure to check the website of the embassy or consulate that you plan to apply to for specific instructions on the required forms and how to access them.
Visas for Family Members
If you received an I-20 or DS-2019 for a family member that will accompany you to the U.S. as a dependent, he or she will need to be present at the visa interview. In addition to the documentation above, be sure to bring the following required documents with you to the interview for your family members:
- I-20 or DS-2019 for each family member
- Valid passport for each family member (valid for at least six months after your planned arrival into the U.S.)
- Proof of the F-2/J-2’s relationship to you (marriage certificate or birth certificate)
While the average visa interview lasts around four minutes, it is important to be prepared and anticipate the questions of the consular officer. One of the most important things the officer will determine during the interview is if you are able to demonstrate sufficient ties to your home country. If you or your family owns any land, property, or perhaps a small business, you should be prepared to demonstrate this. Additionally, if there is employment that ties you back to your home country, this is also a good thing to discuss.
Once your visa is approved and you have received your passport, be sure to check the visa for accuracy.
Visa Delays or Denials
In rare instances, some students may face significant visa delays or denials. If you are told that your visa will be delayed or denied, ask for the reason in writing before you leave the visa interview. Some students will be subject to additional security clearance checks that will delay the issuance of your visa by several weeks or months. This is NOT a denial. Most applicants who go through security clearance checks will receive their visas; however, there is nothing that SFAI can do to speed up the process. If your visa is either delayed or denied, please contact the SFAI Global Programs Office immediately.
CAUTION: Do NOT enter the U.S. in a tourist or visitor status (B1/B2 or Visa Waiver) status. Individuals with these visa statuses are not eligible to register for classes. If you have questions about this or any visa status other than F-1 or J-1, contact the Global Programs Office.