Below is a guide to applying for your F-1 or J-1 nonimmigrant visa. Please follow the steps in the order they are listed below. We recommend beginning this process as early as possible once you know you will attend the University of Vermont to avoid possible delays to your studies or research. For some visitors, this process can take some time. If you are renewing an expired F-1 or J-1 visa, some of the steps below may no longer apply – it will depend on your circumstances and citizenship.
Receive I-20 or DS-2019
Pay SEVIS Fee
Complete DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application
Schedule and Prepare for Your Visa Interview
Attend Visa Interview
1. Receive and Review Your Form I-20 or DS-2019
You will need an I-20 or DS-2019 to apply for your nonimmigrant visa. The Form I-20 is for students applying for an F-1 Visa. The Form DS-2019 is for a J-1 visa. For those renewing their F-1 or J-1 visa, be sure to use your most recently issued I-20 or DS-2019 and check that it has a valid travel signature.
How you get the I-20 or DS-2019 depends on why you are coming to UVM:
- Degree-seeking undergraduate or graduate students must request your document through iStart per the instructions sent to you after you confirm your intent to enroll at UVM.
- Exchange students will automatically receive their immigration documents from the office of international education per pre-arrival information.
- International Scholars and Visitors will receive their document after your hosting department initiates and then you collectively complete a request for a form DS-2019 through our office.
Visitors coming to UVM on a J-1 status sponsored by another organization such as ISEP or Fulbright will obtain their document from that organization directly. Once you have received your document, read it carefully to be sure the information listed is correct. If everything looks correct, sign it, and go on to the next step.
2. Pay the SEVIS (I-901) Fee
Each new F-1 or J-1 visitor must pay a SEVIS (I-901) fee. You will show proof of payment to the US embassy or consulate when you apply for your visa. If you are renewing your F-1 or J-1 visa, you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again. Visit the Student and Exchange Visitor Program's website to learn about the SEVIS fee payment and to pay online. Students or scholars who were born in and/or hold citizenship in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, or Gambia may not be eligible to pay the fee online and should follow separate instructions. All F-1 and J-1 visitors should print a copy of their completed fee payment.
3. Complete the Form DS-160 Online
Complete the Form DS-160 online to begin the visa application process. You will be asked which consulate or embassy you will apply to. If you are unsure, find the location closest to you at USEmbassy.gov. After you have completed the Form DS-160 you will need to pay the visa fee. Usually you can pay this online after completing the DS-160. Keep your receipt. While the DS-160 fee is standardized, US embassies and consulates in some countries charge an issuance fee as well. The US Department of State’s website will tell you if you will be subject to additional fees and current costs of the DS-160.
4. Schedule and Prepare for Your Interview
After you complete the Form DS-160, carefully read the instructions at the end of the form for how to schedule the visa interview. As you prepare for your interview, be ready to explain your ties to your home country. You will need to make a convincing argument to the US consular officer that you have reasons to return to your home country following the program end date on your I-20 or DS-2019. These "ties" might include investments, property, personal possessions, bank accounts, family relationships, or future career goals. Every visitor's situation is different, and each case is examined individually. Thoughtfully preparing for this question is particularly important as both F-1 and J-1 visas are nonimmigrant visas.
Common list of documents to prepare for the visa interview
- Nonimmigrant visa application confirmation page
- Proof of payment for the visa fee
- SEVIS fee receipt (Form I-901)
- Passport (valid for at least 6 months)
- Form I-20 or DS-2019 from University of Vermont (or in some cases your sponsoring organization)
- Proof of funding (bank statement, scholarship statement, etc.)
- Proof of ties to home country (if available - see above)
- Acceptance or invitation letter to the University of Vermont
- Any other documents requested by the US embassy or consulate
- Any other documents you think may assist your visa application
5. Attend Your Visa Interview
Be ready to explain in English the purpose of your time at the University of Vermont. Always speak for yourself, and do not bring friends or family or mention what plans they may have for you.
Tips for the visa interview
- Answer all questions clearly but briefly – you do not need to tell your life story.
- Speak honestly, politely, and directly to the officer. Maintain a positive attitude.
- Be ready to explain how your time at the University of Vermont fits your academic and career goals.
- If you do not understand a question, politely ask the officer to repeat it.
6. Wait for Your F-1 or J-1 Visa
Check the US Department of State’s website for a list of visa wait times according to the US embassy or consulate where you applied. You will not be able to enter the US as an F-1 or J-1 visitor until your visa has been approved and your passport has been returned to you.
For some F-1 and J-1 visitors, this processing will take a long time. Occasionally, visitors must go through something called administrative processing. There is no way to know in advance if your application will need to go through administrative processing.
F-1 and J-1 visitors selected for administrative processing are commonly asked to provide some or all of the following information after their visa interview
- Invitation - This could be an invitation, offer of admission, or an enrollment verification letter from UVM. For graduate students, this letter should be written by your supervisor or advisor and include details of your work and possible applications of your research.
- Curriculum Vitae (CV) - You should provide a detailed resume or CV including your professional and academic background and a brief list of all of your publications. It should also have a brief description of your current position.
- Supervisor's CV - Your supervisor or the principal investigator (PI) for your lab/research group should provide a detailed resume/CV, including his/her professional and academic background and a brief list of all publications. It should also have a brief description of his/her current position.
- Research - You should provide a complete and detailed description of your current and past research, and any research you intend to conduct in the US. The description should include a description of the practical applications of your research or study.
- Proof of Funding - How will you pay for your stay in the US? If you have a graduate assistantship, you can provide a letter from your department with information about your assistantship and what it covers. If you are using personal funding or have sponsorship from another organization, you should provide appropriate documentation (bank statements, sponsorship letter, etc).
- Itinerary - You should provide your trip itinerary with contact information about where you will be staying in the US. If you are a graduate student, provide the contact information for the professor who will be overseeing your studies.
- Travelers - You should provide a list of the names of people coming with you to the US, including family members and colleagues.
- Travel - For this, you should list the dates and location of all your international travel for the past ten years, including travel to the US.
- If your visa application is delayed due to administrative processing, contact us to discuss your timeline for arrival at UVM.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I attend my visa interview in a country other than my home country?
This is also called applying in a "third country" and may be possible, but there are additional steps you will need to take. First, you will need to find out if you need a visa to enter the country(s) you are traveling through. Whether or not you need a visa to enter a specific country depends on your country of citizenship and legal permanent residence. Check with the Embassy or Consulate of each country to find out whether or not you need a visa. A good resource for finding foreign embassies or consulates in the US is www.embassy.org. Contact the US Consulate in the "third country" to understand the process. US Consulates/Embassies may have different processes and timelines for visa applications. Before you finalize your travel plans, consult the US Department of State website for procedures at individual consulates and to make sure they accept third country visa applications and to see how long it will take to obtain a visa appointment.
What does proof of temporary stay mean?
The F-1 and J-1 immigration statuses are non-immigrant visas. This means that you must do your best to prove that you are only coming to the US temporarily. If possible, try to include some documents to show that you will leave the US when you are done with your time at the University of Vermont. This is hard since many F-1 and J-1 visitors do not own property, businesses, or homes. Talk to your family and see if they can provide some documents that might show you are only coming to the US temporarily. If you cannot provide any documents, do not worry. Explain your plans to the visa officer. If the officer asks any questions, be clear and honest about your plans.
I am transferring to UVM from another US institution. Do I need a new visa?
It is OK if your visa lists another US institution when you transfer your immigration record to UVM. If you travel outside of the US when your visa has expired, you will need to renew it prior to reentering the US.
I already paid a SEVIS fee on another SEVIS number. Do I have to pay again?
This depends. You can learn more about transferring your SEVIS fee on the I-901 SEVIS Fee FAQ page.
The wait for the next available visa appointment is too long. Can I request an emergency appointment?
In order to request an emergency (expedited) visa appointment, you will first need to schedule an appointment online for the earliest possible date. After the initial appointment has been scheduled, you can submit an expedite request to the consulate if they are accepting such requests. In that request, you will provide a reason for why you believe you qualify for an emergency appointment. Once submitted, you will need to wait for an email response from the US embassy or consular office. Please note that not all consular offices will offer emergency appointments.
My visa is expired. Do I need a new one?
You can stay in the US on an expired F-1 or J-1 visa as long as you maintain your active status. However, if you are returning home or traveling to a country where automatic revalidation does not apply, you must have a valid visa to return to the US.
Can I apply for a new visa before my current visa expires?
Yes, if you will be traveling and your visa will be expiring soon, you can renew your visa before your current one expires. Check with your consulate office to learn more.