- New Students
- Immigration Status
- Employment & Training
- Life @ SBU
- About Us
Applying for a Visa
A visa is a document that is placed in your passport and is used to seek entry into the U.S.
A visa entitles the visa holder to travel to a U.S. port of entry and ask to be admitted to the U.S. The inspector at the port of entry, upon examining the visitor's documents, will decide whether or not they may enter the U.S.Where to apply
You must apply for your F-1/J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. It is recommended you apply in your country of citizenship.When to apply
If you were issued a Form I-20, you may apply for an F-1 visa earlier than 120 days before the program start date to allow for visa processing and security clearance delays. Even if you apply earlier than 120 days, though, the consulate still cannot actually issue the visa until 120 days before the program start date.
Unlike F students, J exchange visitors issued as DS-2019 are not subject to the 120-day limit on how long before their program begin date they may apply for a J visa.How to apply
You must schedule a visa appointment at your local U.S. consulate or embassy. The wait period for visas vary by country, so be sure to make your appointment as soon as possible.
Visit the U.S. Department of State's website for the post at which you plan to apply.Canadian citizens
Canadian citizens (passport holders) do not require a visa to enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 student status, but do require an I-20 or DS-2019.
Canadian citizens must present a valid I-20 or DS-2019 and SEVIS fee payment receipt at the airport or border to be admitted in F-1 or J-1 status.
- Preparing for Your Visa Interview
Preparing for Your Visa InterviewRequired documents
Be sure to have all required documents with you at the time of your appointment:
Disclosure of social media use
- Passport, valid for at least 6 months after your entry into the U.S.
- Original form I-20 or DS-2019 (signed by you)
- Financial documents you used to qualify for your I-20/DS-2019
- Copies of your academic credentials
- SEVIS I-901 fee receipt
- Any other document(s) required by your specific U.S. embassy/consulate's website
Visa applicants are required to disclose social media use and prior contact information. Applicants should be prepared to provide:
- A list of social media platforms they have used within the previous five years, and their username(s) for each platform. Passwords are not required and should not be provided.
- Their current email and phone number details, as well as a list of additional email addresses and phone numbers used in the previous five years.
Consular officers may use social media information – including professional profiles and public personal information – during the visa adjudication process. Profiles, postings and details that appear inconsistent with the purpose of a visa applicant’s trip, other information in the visa application, or past immigration benefits applications, could result in additional security clearances and even visa refusals.Information on the interview process
Visa interviews last between 90 seconds and 3 minutes. In that amount of time you will be asked about what you intend to study, your plans after graduation, and your ties to your home country. Truthfully answer all questions, but avoid offering additional information.
- Visa Expiration
Expiration of Visa vs. Expiration of Status
Although your passport and I-20 or DS-2019 must remain valid while you are in the U.S., it is okay to remain in the U.S. with an expired student visa.
The visa expiration date is separate from your length of authorized stay in the U.S. If your visa expires while you are in the U.S. and/or its number of entries has been used, or if you have changed your nonimmigrant status while in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa in order to return to the U.S.
Visas can only be obtained outside of the U.S. at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate (Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa stamp to enter the U.S.).
- Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked QuestionsCan I apply for a visa in a country that is not my country of citizenship or permanent residence?
Applying for a visa in a country which is not your home country, called a “third” country, can be more difficult than applying at home. You may need to prove that you have continuously maintained lawful non-immigrant status during your time in the U.S. or you may be sent to your home country to apply for the visa.
Step 1: Find out if you need a visa to enter all of the countries you are traveling through
Your country of citizenship and legal permanent residence will determine if you need a visa to enter a specific country. Check with the embassy or consulate of each country you will travel through to see if you need a visa. If your plane is landing in another country, you may need a visa for that country even if you do not intend to exit the plane.
Step 2: Contact the U.S. consulate in the "third" country to investigate procedures
Each consulate or embassy has different procedures and timelines for visa applications. Before you finalize your travel plans, consult the U.S. Department of State to make sure they accept third country visa applications, find the specific procedures, and see how long it will take to obtain a visa appointment.
Step 3: Obtain and carry all the documents you may need to be issued a visa
- A valid passport
- A valid I-20 or DS-2019
- A valid signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 (review travel information for F-1 students and J-1 students)
- Expired visa (if available)
- Enrollment Verification from the Registrar
- Letter of invitation from a person or organization in the third country that helps explain the reason you are traveling to that country, if necessary
- Financial information showing sufficient proof of funds which meet or exceed the estimated expenses for one academic year.
While all of this documentation may not be strictly required, it is safest to bring as much as possible with you. You will also need to have the visa application fee, photos, and other standard visa application materials as specified by the consulate.My visa has expired but I'm traveling to Canada/Mexico for Spring Break; what are my options?
If you are only traveling to Canada or Mexico for a period of less than 30 days, you may be eligible to re-enter the US on the basis of an expired visa in your passport under a process called “Automatic Visa Revalidation.”
In order to take advantage of Automatic Revalidation all of the following must apply:
- The visit is ONLY to Canada or Mexico and you may NOT travel to any other country.
- You can not apply for a new US visa stamp while in Canada/Mexico.
- Your passport must be valid for at least six months from your date of re-entry to the U.S., unless your country is a member of the so-called “six-month club.”
- You must possess an unexpired I-94 record* or admission stamp.
- You must apply for readmission to the U.S. within the authorized period of your immigration status.
- You must have maintained and intend to resume your non-immigrant status.
Automatic revalidation is not available to nationals from countries identified as state sponsors of terrorism. Individuals who apply for a new visa in Canada and/or Mexico, but are denied such a visa, are also not eligible to benefit from the automatic visa revalidation option.
We recommend that individuals planning to re-enter the US under the Automatic Visa Revalidation process carry with them the CBP article on automatic visa revalidation. In addition, please print the relevant regulations.
For the "Top 10 Things You Should Know about the F-1 Visa Interview," view the following presentation given by immigration attorney and former U.S. Consular Officer Mandy Feuerbacher on May 5, 2021.