Applying for a VISA and Tips for VISA Interview BE PREPARED Be sure that your passport is valid! Visit this website for additional tips for your visa interview: www.nafsa.org/content/ProfessionalandEducationalResources/Immig rationAdvisingResources/10points.htm What to take with you to the US Embassy or Consulate. To obtain a student visa, you must contact the nearest US Consulate or Embassy in your country for information on application requirements and processing time. Some countries require you to make an appointment in advance. When you go for your interview, most consulates will ask you to present the following documents. Form I-20 (for F-1 status). Receipt for SEVIS I-901 fee payment. Letter of admission from the College/University. Financial documents such as a bank statement or scholarship letters that verify you are financially able to support yourself while attending school in the US. Evidence of intent to return to your home country upon completion of your studies. Valid passport (passport must be valid at least six months from the date of application). Two photographs. An application fee (if required by the US Embassy in your country). What is considered evidence of your intent to return home? This is not always an easy answer. Under US law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas are viewed as intending to immigrant until they can prove to the official that they intend to return to their home country. You must therefore show that you have strong reasons to return. Examples of these connections include: a family, a job, financial prospects, property, a current place of residence. Be prepared to answer questions about your long-term objectives and career goals in your home country. Advice in getting your Visa According to NAFSA (National Association of Foreign Student Advisors), there are a few points to remember when applying for an F-1 visa: 1. Be able to demonstrate ties (strong ties!) to your home country. Ties show that you have a compelling interest that you will be returning. Examples include: family, job or strong prospect for a job when you complete your studies, investments, or property. 2. English. Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English. It may be helpful to practice with a native English speaker before you go to your interview. If you are coming to the United States to study intensive English, be prepared to show why learning English will benefit you in your home country. 3. Speak for yourself. Do not bring parents or friends with you to your interview. You will leave a negative impression if it appears that you can not speak on your own behalf. 4. Know the program and how it fits into your career plans. If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will be studying a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study. You should also be able to explain how studying in the US relates to your future plans in your home country. Be prepared to explain why it is better for you to study in the U.S. than at home. 5. Be concise. Most consular officials need to make a decision within the first few minutes of the interview. Consequently what you say first may be the most important part of the entire interview. 6. Bring supplemental documentation. It should be clear at a glance to the consular official what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Label the top of the documents in English. Full written explanations will take too long to read. 7. Know that all countries are not equal. Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the US as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the US. 8. Read your Form I-20. Some of the rules you must obey are printed on the back of page 1. Be aware of these rules-especially the requirement that you study full-time. Look at the date entered in item #5 on page 1 for reporting to the school. You must apply for the visa in time to reach the school no later than that date. You may obtain the visa and enter the U.S. up to 30 days before that date. 9. Employment. Do not speak of working in the United States unless employment is authorized on your Form I-20. Though limited work permission is possible for students in F-1 status (but not for dependents in F-2 status), employment is not guaranteed and cannot be used as part of your financial support for visa purposes. You must be able to fully articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. 10. Maintain a positive, confident attitude. If a consular official denies your application, do not argue with him or her. Ask for a list of documents he or she would recommend you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing. DEPENDENTS Your spouse and children may apply for visas with you or they may apply to join you after you come to the U.S., but only if dependents are mentioned in item #7c of your Form I-20. Please not that F-2 dependents cannot work in the U.S. How do students and exchange visitors pay the $100 SEVIS fee? The fee may be paid to DHS by mail, by submitting Immigration Form-I-901 together with a check or money order payable in U.S. currency. You can access the form at the following website: http://www.ice.gov/graphics/sevis/pdf/I-901.pdf The fee may be paid electronically, by completing Form-I901through the Internet and using a credit card at this website: https://www.fmjfee.com/index.jhtml The fee may be paid using Western Union's "Quick Pay" service at: http://www.ice.gov/graphics/sevis/i901/wu_instr.htm The Western Union office collects the SEVIS fee in local currency, electronically transmits the payment to DHS, then issues a receipt that serves as proof of payment. DHS will accept payment from the student or exchange visitor, or from any person paying the fee on the student or exchange visitor’s behalf. DHS will issue a paper receipt, regardless of payment method. If the fee is paid by mail, express delivery service for the receipt may be requested at additional cost. Persons submitting the fee electronically will be able to print a receipt at the time of payment. Receipts must be presented to a consular officer at the time of the visa interview, and to an immigration officer at the port of entry into the U.S. It is currently not possible to pay the SEVIS fee at a U.S. embassy or consulate, or at a U.S. port of entry, or by any means other than those listed above. DHS is considering a wider rage of payment options for the future. The SEVIS fee is non-refundable. However, if the visa is denied, the fee will not have to be repaid if a subsequent visa application is submitted within 12 months of the initial denial. Remember to PRINT AT LEAST 2 COPIES OF THE RECEIPT!!!! You can now check the status of your payment online at www.fmjfee.com. Required I-901 SEVIS Fee Fact Sheet for F & J Nonimmigrant Students & Exchange Visitors Beginning September 1, 2004 the Department of Homeland Security will collect a congressionally mandated fee to cover the costs for the continued operation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). International students and exchange visitors are subject to this fee which will be used to administer and maintain the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), support compliance activities, and establish SEVIS Liaison Officers. Liaison Officers will serve as local resources for schools and students, providing timely and accurate program and reporting information and assistance. SEVIS, the automated system for collecting, maintaining and managing information about foreign student and exchange visitors during their entry to, stay in, and exit from the United States, will be used to record and track the I-901 fee payment. Who pays the fee? Those who wish to enter the United States either as a student or an exchange visitor with a Form I-20 or DS-2019 dated on or after September 1, 2004. Participants of federally sponsored exchange visitor programs, which are designated by program codes beginning with G-1, G-2, orG-3 are not subject to this fee. Spouses and dependent children (F-2) of students or exchange visitors (J-2) do not pay this fee. How much is the fee? For F-1 Students $100 For spouses and dependent children (F-2 or J-2) of students or exchange visitors None For J-1 Exchange Visitors (J-1) $100 When do prospective students or exchange visitors pay the SEVIS fee? • Applicants who require a visa to enter the United States must pay the SEVIS fee before going to the U.S. embassy or consulate for their visa interview. • Applicants who are citizens of Canada, Bermuda, Bahamas and residents of certain other islands (see 8 CFR 212.1a) wishing to apply for F-1 or J-1 status at a Port of Entry into the United States must pay and process the SEVIS fee before appearing at the Port of Entry. • Nonimmigrants currently in the United States who apply for student or exchange visitor status must pay the fee prior to filing their change of status application. How is the fee paid? • Through the Internet at www.fmJfee.com by using a credit card and completing the online Form I-901 (Fee for Remittance for Certain F and J Nonimmigrants); or • Through the mail by submitting a completed Form I-901 and a check or money order drawn on a US Bank and payable in US currency; or • By a third party such as a school or sponsor; or • By selected sponsors of an exchange program by submitting a bulk or group payment. When must the fee be paid? The fee must be paid to ensure that the payment can be deposited and recorded in SEVIS prior to the scheduled visa interview. The interviewing consular officer will confirm that the fee has been paid by accessing SEVIS. To allow for adequate processing time the fee must be paid: • At least three business days prior to the visa interview date for electronic submissions. • At least three business days before the scheduled visa interview for mail submissions to allow for delivery at the DHS address listed on the Form I901. This time frame allows the fee payment to be deposited and recorded in SEVIS. How will the payment be verified? The payment will be recorded in the SEVIS system. However, it is recommended that the paper I-797 or the Internet generated receipt be brought to the visa interview. • DHS will issue an official paper receipt (I-797) for every payment received. • Individuals who file electronically will be able to print an electronic receipt immediately at the time of payment. • Individuals may request Express delivery service for the I-797 receipt at an additional cost of $30. When must continuing students (F-1 nonimmigrants that have begun, but not finished, a program) pay the SEVIS fee? Continuing students must pay the SEVIS fee before: • Filing an application for reinstatement when they have been out of status for more than 5 months; or • When applying for a new visa or returning to the United States after an absence of more than 5 months that did not involve authorized overseas study; or • When filing an application for a change of status to an For J classification When must continuing exchange visitors (J-1 nonimmigrants who have begun, but not finished a program) pay the SEVIS fee? Continuing exchange visitors must pay the SEVIS fee before: • Filing a reinstatement application after a substantive violation;or • Filing a reinstatement application after they have been out of status between 121 and 269 days;or • Applying for a change of exchange visitor category unless the new exchange visitor category is fee exempt For visa related issues please see the Department of State: www.state.gov For additional information about this program please see SEVP on the web at www.ice.gov/graphics/enforce/imm/sevis/index.htm If you have additional questions about the I-901 fee, please contact the SEVP program office By phone @ 785.330.1048 for the SEVIS I-901 Fee Payment Help Desk or by email @ firstname.lastname@example.org 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa http://www.nafsa.org/advanced_search.sch/view 1. Ties to Your Home Country Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas, are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. "Ties" to your home country are the things that bind you to your home town, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you are a prospective undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans and career prospects in your home country. Each person's situation is different, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter which can guarantee visa issuance. If you have applied for the U.S. Green Card Lottery, you may be asked if you are intending to immigrate. A simple answer would be that you applied for the lottery since it was available but not with a specific intent to immigrate. If you overstayed your authorized stay in the United States previously, be prepared to explain what happened clearly and concisely, with documentation, if available. 2. English Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do NOT prepare speeches! If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country. 3. Speak for Yourself Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf. If you are a minor applying for a high school program and need your parents there is case there are questions, for example about funding, they should wait in the waiting room. 4. Know the Program and How It Fits Your Career Plans If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the United States relates to your future professional career when you return home. 5. Be Brief Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point. 6. Additional Documentation It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you are lucky. 7. Not All Countries are Equal Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the United States as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be intending immigrants. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the United States. 8. Employment Your main purpose in coming to the United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the United States. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the United States. Volunteer work and attending school part-time are permitted activities. 9. Dependents Remaining at Home If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support themselves, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa. 10. Maintain a Positive Attitude Do not engage the consular officer in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing. NAFSA would like to credit Gerald A. Wunsch, Esq., 1997, then a member of the Consular Issues Working Group, and a former U.S. Consular Officer in Mexico, Suriname, and the Netherlands; and Martha Wailes of Indiana University for their contributions to this document. NAFSA also appreciates the input of the U.S. Department of State.