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. For some students, 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


Complete Form DS-160 

Schedule Interview / Prepare Materials

Attend Interview / Submit Materials


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: You must request your immigration document through iStart per the instructions sent to you after confirming your intent to enroll at UVM.
  • Exchange students: You will automatically receive your immigration document from our office following your acceptance into the exchange program.

Students 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

A SEVIS (I-901) fee activates a Form I-20 or DS-2019. It must be paid for any new initial immigration document, including those who do not need a visa from a US consulate or embassy (such as Canadians). It is not paid for individuals transferring an already active F-1 or J-1 status to UVM. This fee is not paid again for each visa renewal unless you received a new SEVIS ID for some reason. Consult with our office if you are unsure.

To pay, visit the Department of Homeland Security's website to learn about the SEVIS fee payment and to pay online. Students 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 students 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 After you have completed the Form DS-160 you will need to pay the visa fee which is separate from the SEVIS (I-901) 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.

If you are asked for the contact information of an official in the United States, you can use the name of the person who signed your immigration document. Our address which you can use as your address of record for the form DS-160 is 633 Main Street, Burlington, VT, 05405 and our email address is

4. Prepare Your Application Materials

After you complete the Form DS-160, read the instructions at the end of the form carefully. This is when you will schedule your visa interview appointment or determine you are eligible for a visa interview waiver. Either way, you will need to prepare materials to support your visa application. 

Common list of documents to prepare

  • 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)
  • 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

Visa Interview Waiver

Certain F-1 and J-1 visa students do not need to attend a visa interview as part of their visa application process. In some cases, students will be able to mail in their application materials or use drop-box processing in place of attending the interview. Whether or not you receive a visa interview waiver is up to the discretion of the consulate you will be applying at. Check your consulate's website for visa interview waiver eligibility requirements, or contact your consulate directly for more details.

5. Attend Your Visa Interview or Submit Interview Waiver

If you will be attending a visa interview, be prepared to address the following questions: 1) What is the purpose of your time at UVM? 2) How will you pay for your time at UVM? 3) How can you demonstrate ties to your home country, or in other words, your non-immigrant intent? These "ties" might include investments, property, personal possessions, bank accounts, family relationships, or future career goals. See below for more visa interview tips.

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.
  • Speak for yourself, and do not bring friends or family or mention what plans they may have for you.
  • 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.

7. Next Steps

Once your visa has been issued, you can begin to make plans to travel to the US. See our page on Travel Entry to the US for important information on what to bring and what to expect at a US port of entry.

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 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.

What is Public Charge and How Does it Affect My Visa Application?

By definition, someone who is a "public charge" relies on the US government for financial support or institutionalization for long-term nursing or mental health care. Under immigration law, a person who is (or is likely to become) a public charge may be denied a visa, barred from entering the United States, and/or determined to be ineligible to adjust their status (i.e., become a green card holder). Not everyone is subject to the public charge test. If you are not submitting a visa application to enter the US or applying for permanent resident status (green card), public charge may not apply to you. In general, accepting public (state or federal government) benefits that provide direct cash assistance for income maintenance or for institutionalization may affect future visa or immigration applications. Benefits not designed for income maintenance, such as food assistance, childcare assistance, housing assistance and healthcare, are generally not subject to public charge consideration. What it means to be a public charge is a complex area of immigration law, and you are encouraged to consult a qualified immigration legal services provider if you have questions about what this means for you and your family. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center maintains a variety of helpful resources to understand public charge.