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Visa Application Process

When applying for a nonimmigrant visa to come to the United States, you must:

  • Schedule an appointment with the US consulate or embassy that has jurisdiction over your residence or physical presence
  • Pay the appropriate application fee(s)
  • Prepare your documentation and materials
  • Complete a short personal interview with a consular officer

Besides the application form, the specific documents you need to demonstrate eligibility will depend on your requested visa category. Some applicants need to provide additional information about their financial ability to support their activities in the United States and their plans to return home.

We recommend that you apply in your home country, as those officers will be aware of any regional documentation practices and other considerations. Contact us if you are applying for a visa from outside your home country.

Apply Early

The visa application process can take considerable time. Potential delays include limited availability for appointment scheduling, incomplete documentation, administrative processing requirements, and the need to reapply after an initial visa denial.

We recommend beginning the visa application process at least two to three months in advance of your intended travel. If you need specific documentation from the University before applying for the visa, work with your department as early as possible to allow for in-house processing.

Scheduling the Visa Appointment

The US Department of State is responsible for all visa applications. To start the process, you will need to complete the DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form. You will be asked to provide:

  • Information from your passport
  • Notes about your previous US travel history
  • Details related to your intended activities in the United States

If you are applying for a University-sponsored visa category, you will need specific documentation from the University to complete this form, such as the F-1 Form I-20, J-1 Form DS-2019, or H-1B Forms I-129 and I-797.

A digital photograph must be uploaded with the application as well.

Once you have completed the DS-160 online, you will be able to pay the required application fee and contact your local US consulate to schedule the appointment.

Reminder to F-1 and J-1 applicants: You need to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before scheduling your visa interview.

Preparing for the Interview

The visa interview is typically short, often as few as 2-3 minutes.

It helps to have your documentation organized in advance, though the consular officers generally only ask for certain documents and may not review all that you have prepared.

For a detailed list of documents you may need during your visa appointment, see our visa categories page.

The consular officer uses the interview to determine if you are eligible for the visa category you have requested. For applicants required to demonstrate Nonimmigrant Intent, the officer will also consider whether you have sufficient ties to your home country to suggest that you will return home after completing your program or planned activities in the United States.

You will be notified at the end of the interview whether the visa is approved or denied. In some cases, the visa may be approved subject to administrative processing, which can delay the visa issuance for several weeks. For more information, see our visa application decisions page.

Applying for a Visa from Outside Your Home Country

Immigration regulations require that “an alien applying for a nonimmigrant visa shall make application at a consular office having jurisdiction over the alien’s place of residence” [22 CFR § 41.101(a)(1)]. Regulations also allow visa applications at any other US consulate where the applicant is physically present and which accepts applications from “Third Country Nationals.”

Many US consulates accept these types of nonimmigrant visa applications. However, it is more difficult for a consular official outside your home country to evaluate your application, especially your ties to a residence abroad and nonimmigrant intent.

Do not attempt this type of application without first speaking to an ISO advisor to evaluate your risk. Contact us for an advisor appointment.