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International Services Office

Applying for a U.S. Visa Stamp Abroad

Helpful Resources

» Visa Wait Times

» List of Consular Websites

» How to Pay the SEVIS Fee

» NAFSA: 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa

What You Should Know

It is strongly recommended that you allow ample time to obtain the appropriate visa stamp from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Per the U.S. Department of State: U.S. Embassies strongly encourage intending travelers to apply for visa stamps well in advance of their proposed journey, and to always refrain from making irrevocable travel plans until the visa stamp has been issued and they are in receipt of their passport and visa stamp. Visa stamp issuance to certain individuals may be very slow due to security clearances. Plan your travel carefully and consult the visa wait times posted on the U.S Department of State website.

All international scholars planning to apply for a visa stamp should first thoroughly read the U.S. Consulate’s website to know that consulate’s specific visa stamp application requirements. Be prepared for a brief interview with the consular officer.

The visa stamp, once issued, includes a adhesive stamp on a page in the passport. This stamp is your "door key" to enter the U.S. The visa stamp has an expiration date signifying only the amount of time during which one can enter the U.S. and does not affect how long one can stay in the U.S.

The length of stay is determined by date on the I-94 Admission Record. The I-94 Admission Record for most F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors is marked "D/S," meaning, duration of status. Duration of status means that the person is permitted to remain in the U.S. until the program end date displayed in area #5 on the I-20 or area #3 on the DS-2019.

Visa Application Requirements

In general, a visa application requires:

  • A valid passport
  • An eligibility document (I-20 for F-1, DS-2019 for J-1, I-797 for H-1B, etc.)
  • Proof of funding
  • Photographs
  • Payment of application fees
  • Completion of the visa application form, DS-160
  • J-1 and F-1: Receipt showing payment of SEVIS fee

SEVIS Fee

As noted above, as part of the visa application process you will be required to pay both a visa application fee and a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee.

Information on paying the SEVIS fee will be included with your visa documents. This fee must be paid prior to your visa stamp appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you have any questions in regards to the SEVIS fee payment, please contact us.

Dependents: F-2 and J-2 dependents are required to pay the visa application fee but NOT the SEVIS fee.

NOTE: SEVIS is currently unable to accept credit card payments from residents of Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria. If this applies to you please see NAFSA's I-901 SEVIS Fee Credit Card Advisory.

For F-1 and J-1 Visitors

Once you have your I-20 or DS-2019, contact your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate to schedule your visa stamp appointment.  Once the visa stamp has been issued you must enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before, and no later than 30 days after the program start date as noted in field #5 on the I-20 or field #3 on the DS-2019.

When entering the U.S., the following must be presented to the port of entry officer:

  • A passport valid for at least 6 months into the future
  • A valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp
  • An eligibility document; either an F-1 I-20 or a J-1 DS-2019
  • Proof of funding
  • Students: Verification of acceptance into the TSRI graduate program

Visa Delays and Denials

Due to heightened security requirements in the U.S., the number of security checks for U.S. visa stamp applications has significantly increased. There is no way to know ahead of time which applicants will be subjected to a security check. For more information on security checks, please read the following site: Further Administrative Processing. If your visa stamp application has been denied, please notify the International Services Office immediately.