Visa Application Process

In most countries, first-time student visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview. However, each U.S. Consulate/Embassy sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas.


Please be sure to consult your local U.S. Consulate/Embassy for specific application instructions.

In general, however, all applicants for a student visa must provide the documents below to the consular officer:

  • Completed I-20 form (all three pages)
  • Completed non-immigrant visa application form (DS-160) with a photo for each person applying. (A separate form is needed for children, even if they are included on a parent's passport)
  • Passport valid for at least six months after proposed date of entry into the United States
  • Payment receipt for visa-processing fee. This fee is paid when students go to the U.S. Consulate/Embassy to apply for the student visa. Fee payment receipt will be issued and international students must keep this receipt for each applicant, including each child listed on a parent's passport who is also applying for a U.S. visa. (The receipt(s) must be presented to the consular officer during the interview)
  • SEVIS I-901 Fee Payment Receipt
  • Financial documentation

Applicants with dependents must also provide:

  • Proof of the student's relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates)
  • It is preferred that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder's passport and visa, along with all other required documents

In addition to those documents, we advise that all applicants be prepared to provide the following:

  • Transcripts and diplomas from any previous institutions attended.
  • Scores from standardized tests such as the TOEFL, SAT, ACT, IELTS, PTEA and GRE
  • Any additional documents that might help applicants establish strong social and economical ties to their home country. (Please see the next section for tips on demonstrating ties to the home country)

Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and that it may be difficult to secure interview appointments during that time.

It is important to plan ahead to avoid repeated visits to the embassy: you need to receive the visa in a timely manner so that you may be able to attend the International Student Orientation. Visit the U.S. Department of State website to view visa processing times at various U.S. consulates and embassies.

Showing Ties to Home Country

Occasionally students have been denied visas due to the consular officer not being sufficiently convinced of the student's intentions to return to his or her native country after completing their studies.

The common reason for a visa denial is on the basis of Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that states: "Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a non-immigrant status..."

This essentially means that the student must prove beyond doubt "permanent residence" or "strong ties" to his/her home country. Fortunately, a visa denial is not permanent and can be reversed, if the student can show new, irrefutable evidence.

Here are some tips for demonstrating students’ strong ties to their home country:

  • Convince the consular officer that the sole (not just "primary") purpose of the visit to the United States is to pursue a program of study
  • Outline post-graduation plans upon returning to the home country
  • Document family ties, business interests, and assets in the home country 
  • Discuss job prospects in the home country upon completion of education in the United States

Tips on Interviewing with a Consular Officer

In addition to providing the right documents and having the right reasons, making a positive impression on the consular officer is critical in the application process.

Here are some interviewing techniques suggested by NAFSA–Association of International Educators:

  • Speak in English—Practice interviewing in English with a native English speaker. Being fluent and confident will help present the case. However, avoid preparing a speech.
  • Speak for yourself—Make your case independently. Having parents or others speak on your behalf does not make a good impression on the consular officer.
  • Be brief—Keep answers and explanations short and to the point, as consular officers can only spend a few minutes with each applicant.
  • Be positive—Do not argue with the consular officer or come across as rude and sarcastic even if your visa application is denied.

In the event that you are denied a student visa, it is important not to get upset or argue with the consular officer. Most often, students who were denied will be given a letter explaining why the request has been denied.

Students should politely ask the officer how they could improve their chances the next time and what additional documentation they should provide to reverse the denial. They should thank the officer and take down their name for future reference. Students should conduct a thorough re-evaluation of their case and contact us at the Global Education Office for assistance.

NOTE: When students successfully receive their student visa, the consular officer will seal their immigration documents in an envelope and attach it to their passport. Students should not open this envelope. The officer at the U.S. port of entry will open it.