Visa Information for First-Year Students

OISS Visa Information for First-Year Students

If your primary purpose of visit to the United States is to study, you must apply for a student visa.  LMU hosts both F-1 and J-1 visas for international students.  F-1 is a popular visa and is issued for students enrolled in a full-time academic program at LMU.  In order to apply for the F-1 visa, you need to have received the I-20 A-B form, commonly referred to as I-20. The I-20 is a three-page form with a LMU official's signature.  The J-1 visa is an exchange visitor visa issued to students at all academic levels, although special restrictions may apply.  In order to apply for the J-1 visa, you need to have received the DS-2019 form. The DS-2019 is a two-page form with a LMU official's signature.  

How do you apply for a student visa?

In most countries, first time student visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview. However, each embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas. Students should consult Embassy web sites or call for specific application instructions.

Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period. Students need to plan ahead to avoid having to make repeat visits to the Embassy. To the extent possible, students should bring the documents suggested below, as well as any other documents that might help establish their ties to the local community.

What do you need to apply? 

  1. All F-1 visa applicants must pay for SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) Fee using Form I-901. SEVIS fee can be paid by mail or online. Please obtain a proof of payment or receipt for your visa interview. If paying electronically, please print a copy of the online receipt.
  2. Apply for the F-1 Student Visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate having jurisdiction over your place of residence;
  3. In addition to the SEVIS Fee, each applicant for a student visa must pay a nonrefundable US$160 application fee and present the following documents:
    • More and more embassies require a new online non-immigrant visa application Form DS-160. Please check if the new form is required at the US embassy in your country;
    • A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the U.S.;
    • A digital phot can be uploaded when using DS-160. Please check specific guidelines for passport photo;
    • Form I-20 A-B or Form DS-2019 issued by LMU (Please be sure to sign the bottom of page 1);
    • Proof of funding for the total amount listed on your I-20 or DS-2019;
    • Proof of residency in your home country that you have no intention of abandoning;
    • A receipt for the SEVIS fee;
    • Additional documents as requested by the Visa Officer.

Documents

In addition, all applicants must be prepared to present the following documents: 

  1. Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
  2. Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.;
  3. Financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study. For example, if you or your sponsor is a salaried employee, please bring income tax documents and original bank books and/or statements. If you or your sponsor own a business, please bring business registration, licenses, etc., and tax documents, as well as original bank books and/or statements.  

Tips for Visa Interview

In addition to providing the right documents and having the right reasons, making the right impression on the consular officer is equally critical in the visa application process. Here are some interviewing techniques suggested by NAFSA: 

  1. Speak in English. Practice interviewing in English with a native English speaker. Being fluent and confident will help you present your case better. However, avoid preparing a speech.
  2. Speak for yourself. Make your case yourself. Having your parents or others speak on your behalf does not make a good impression on the consular officer.
  3. Be brief. Keep your answers and explanations short and to the point, as consular officers can only spend a limited amount of time with each applicant.
  4. Be positive. Do not argue with the consular officer or come across as rude and sarcastic; even if you are denied a visa. Instead courteously ask the officer to suggest additional documents you could bring in order to overcome the refusal.

Visa Denial

To qualify for a student visa, you must meet the visa requirements. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA 214(b). Section 214(b) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It 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 nonimmigrant status..."

The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the prospective student possesses a residence abroad he/she has no intention of abandoning. Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.

Strong ties differ from country to country, city to city, individual to individual. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, a bank account. "Ties" are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence: your possessions, employment, social and family relationships.

Fortunately, a visa denial is not permanent and can be reversed, if the student can show new, incontrovertible evidence.  Despite your bona-fide intentions, if you are still denied a student visa, do not get unduly upset or argue with the consular officer. Most often, you will be given a note that explains why your request has been denied. Politely enquire from the officer how you can improve your chances the next time and what documentation you should provide to reverse the denial. Thank the officer and take down his/her name for future reference. Upon your return, conduct a thorough re-evaluation of your case and contact OISS for assistance.