Preparing for Your Student Visa Interview
This information is for people who plan to enter the United States for the first time to study. For information on bringing dependents to the U.S., returning to continue studies, renewing your visa, or in general how to apply for a student visa, refer to the U.S. Department of State website at:http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html
- Contact your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to find out how to apply for an F-1 or J-1international student visa. A list of Consulates and Embassies can be found at: http://travel.state.gov.travel/tips/embassies/embassies_1214.html
- After you receive the Form I-20 (for F-1) or DS-2019 (for J-1) from the school that you plan to attend, follow the U.S. Embassy or Consulate's instructions to schedule an interview for an F-1 or J-1 student visa. Many Embassies or Consulates recommend that appointments be made no more than 90 days from the intended date of travel, but some can make earlier arrangements for interviews.
Complete the following forms:
- Form DS-156 "Nonimmigrant Visa Application"
- Form DS-158 "Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant"
- Form DS-157 "Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application" for males between the ages of 16 and 45
- Pay the visa application fee by following instructions on your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate's web site.
In addition, pay the SEVIS fee by following the instruction below:
To Pay Online with a credit card:
Go to www.fmjfee.com to access Form I-901
For I-20 holders (F-1 or M-1 non-immigrant only):
Scroll to the bottom of the page and answer "YES" if you hold a valid I-20
Fill out next page on personal information
Our School Code which is on your I-20 is: HEL 214F 00570 000
The form requires a SEVIS Identification Number. This is the number in the upper right hand corner of the I-20 and begins with an N and has 10 digits
Check that the information is correct on the next page
Choose a payment method to pay US$200. By paying with a credit card you will receive an on-line receipt, immediately. However, credit card payments from countries experiencing problems with credit cards will not be accepted.
Print at least 2 copies of the receipt and keep one with your I-20
For DS-2019 holders (J-1 non-immigrant only):
Scroll to the bottom of the page and answer "YES" if you hold a valid DS-2019
Fill out next page on personal information
Our Program Number which is on your DS-2019 is: P101998
The form requires a SEVIS Identification Number. This is the number in the upper right hand corner of the DS-2019 and begins with an N and has 10 digits
Check that the information is correct on the next page
Choose a payment method to pay US$180. By paying with a credit card you will receive an on-line receipt, immediately. However, credit card payments from countries experiencing problems with credit cards will not be accepted.
Print at least 2 copies of the receipt and keep one with your DS-2019 form
To Pay By Mail:
- Get the Form I-901 "Fee Remittance for Certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrants" by either:
- Downloading the form from http://www.fmjfee.com/ OR
Asking for the form by phone at 1-800-870-3676 (inside the US)
- Complete the Form I-901. Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your Form I-20 or DS-2019
- Prepare a check, international money order or foreign draft (drawn on US banks only**) in the amount of $200 USD, made payable to "I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee"
- Mail the completed Form I-901 and payment to the address listed on the Form I-901.
- The Form I-797 receipt confirmation letter should be mailed within 3 days of processing the fee.
**Many foreign banks are able to issue checks or money orders drawn on a U.S. bank. You may therefore obtain a check from: 1) a bank chartered or operated in the United States; 2) a foreign subsidiary of a U.S. bank; or 3) a foreign bank that has an arrangement with a U.S. bank to issue a check, money order, or foreign draft that is drawn on a U.S. bank.
Be sure to make copies of this receipt letter, and keep it with your other important immigration documents.
You must bring the receipt of fee payment with you to the interview at the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you have lost the receipt, the Consular Officer should be able to view your payment history in his or her database.
If you are transferring schools, extending your program, applying for an F-2 or J-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.
Prepare and bring to your visa interview the following:
- A passport valid for at least six months
- Form I-20 or DS-2019 (make sure to sign on the form)
- School admission letter
- Completed visa application forms(Forms DS-156, DS-158, and, if applicable, DS-157)
- Two 2"x 2" (5cm x 5cm) photographs in the prescribed format (see http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/temp/info/info_1287.html)
- The receipt for the visa application fee
- The receipt for the SEVIS fee. If you have not received an official receipt in the mail showing payment and you paid the fee electronically, the consulate will accept the temporary receipt you printed from your computer. If you do not have a receipt, the consulate may be able to see your payment electronically if your fee payment was processed at least 3 business days before your interview.
- Financial evidence that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period you intend to study.
- Any information that proves that you will 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.
- Remain calm and answer all the Consular Officer's questions openly and honestly.
10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Non-immigrant Visa
- TIES TO YOUR HOME COUNTRY. Under U.S. law, all applicants for non-immigrant 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. If you have applied for the U.S. Green Card Lottery, you may be asked if you are intending to immigrate. A simple answer would be that you applied for the lottery since it was available but not with a specific intent to immigrate. If you overstayed your authorized stay in the U.S. previously, be prepared to explain what happened clearly and concisely, with documentation if available.
- 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! If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.
- 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. If you are a minor applying for a high school program and need your parents there is case there are questions, for example about funding, they should wait in the waiting room.
- 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 2-3 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 US 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 off-campus 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. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot be employed in the U.S. An accompanying J-2 visa holder can only work with approval from Department of Homeland Security. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the U.S.
- 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.
We would like to credit NAFSA: Association of International Educators for its' contribution to this document.