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Applying For a New U.S. F-1 or J-1 Visa Abroad 

INTRODUCTION
Has your U.S. visa stamp inside your passport expired?  If it is still valid, is it for multiple entry, or has the entry been used up?  Finally, is the category for which the visa was issued the status you currently hold (for example, if your visa is F-2, are you currently in F-2 status or did that status change after you entered the United States). 

Any student who is traveling outside the United States whose U.S. visa has expired or for whom the status has changed will need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. visa issuing post abroad before the student can return to the United States.  In most cases, the visa application will be filed in your home country.  Appointments are now required for virtually all non-immigrant visa applications.  This has resulted in significant delays at some U.S. visa issuing posts abroad, especially during holiday periods and summer.

Doctoral level students and visiting research scholars who are majoring in the hard sciences, engineering, or computer science are likely to encounter additional delays due to “administrative processing” (security check) issues.   You are urged to check with the U.S. consulate or embassy where you will apply for the visa, or its web site link: http://www.usembassy.gov/ BEFORE leaving the United States to determine that particular post's policies and procedures.  For information on waiting times for student visa appointments at embassies and consulates world-wide, visit the following link:http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html

You should start the visa process at the earliest possible time upon your arrival back in your home country.  

It’s important to note that holiday periods and the summer vacation period are extremely busy times at visa issuing posts due to the large numbers of travelers and reduced staff who may be taking vacation.  Also, in the event of any protests, threats, or terrorist attacks that are judged to be threatening to U.S. embassy or consulate personnel, government officials at those posts may temporarily close or alter their operational hours.

The State Department has also prepared two information sheets about student visas on its web site which may be useful to you as an international student.  They may be obtained at 
http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html for F-1
http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1267.html for J-1

SECURITY CHECKS
Individuals from Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, both male and female, will not be eligible to obtain a new non-immigrant visa unless it can be determined that the individual does not pose a security threat.  Such individuals will undergo a security check that will lengthen the processing time for their visa applications.

Males between the ages of 16 and 45 from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen who will need to renew their U.S. visas while abroad may be required to undergo security checks that will lengthen the processing time for their visa applications.

BACKGROUND CHECKS:
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, there has been an increase in the number of criminal background checks done for all visa applicants.  State Department consular posts use a computer program called the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS) to check names and visa eligibility of all visa and passport applicants.

If you have ever been arrested, or if you have a name that is the same as or similar to someone who has been arrested, the record will need to be cleared before a visa can be issued.  This process can take as long as six to eight weeks, or longer.

TECHNOLOGY ALERT LIST AND SENSITIVE AREAS OF STUDY
Graduate students who are considered to be majoring in “sensitive areas of study” as determined by the U.S. government may also be required to undergo “administrative processing” (security clearances) before a visa can be issued.  There is a document called the “Technology Alert List” that visa officers consult for this purpose.  China, India, Israel, Pakistan and Russia have received special mention by the U.S. State Department in the context of this list because these countries are considered to possess nuclear capability that is of concern to U.S. national security.

But even if you are not a citizen of one of the countries listed above, your field of study (especially if you are a doctoral student majoring in the sciences, technology, computer science or engineering) might require your visa application to undergo a security clearance REGARDLESS of the country you are from. The State Department has announced that these clearances generally take up to four weeks to review.  Once granted, the clearance will be valid for the duration of a student’s study, to a maximum of four years, unless the field of study changes.

Be sure to include the following with your visa application:

  • A copy of your resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
  • A description of your research plan
  • A copy of your advisor’s University webpage, that describes his/her research interests.

To describe your research plan, it is strongly recommended that you obtain a letter from your faculty advisor that explains the nature of your studies and/or your research. The letter should also include your faculty advisor’s e-mail and telephone number.  The letter should be written using language that is easy to understand, and should not exceed the front side of one page.

If you find that your visa application is delayed due a need for the consulate or embassy to send your file for review for any of the reasons listed above, please notify the ISSS by e-mail, fax or telephone of the situation.

SEVIS REQUIREMENTS AND THE FEDERAL SEVIS FEE
Visa officials are required to verify your record in the SEVIS system before a visa can be approved.  This is also true for any dependents.  Several years ago, there were data transfer problems of some SEVIS records between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State that resulted in lost information, but most of these problems have been resolved.  If the visa official is unable to access your record in SEVIS and you have a SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019, please contact the ISSS by e-mail, phone or fax to alert us to the problem.

Continuing F-1 and J-1 students are not required to pay the Federal SEVIS fee. In the rare event that you are asked to show proof of SEVIS fee payment and you are a continuing student, contact the ISSS by e-mail, fax or telephone.  We will want to know the date and location of your visa interview.  We will verify your records and then provide you with information showing that the SEVIS fee is not required.

VISA APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS
To apply for a new visa, you will need to complete the appropriate visa application form. Many U.S. visa posts have moved to a completely electronic visa application known as DS-160. Check the website of the US Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for your visa to learn if the DS-160 form is required.  Over time, all U.S. visa posts will be switching to this electronic application. If you will not be filing form DS-160, you will be asked to file form DS-156.
Both the DS-160 and the DS-156 may be found at: http://evisaforms.state.gov/ 
 
Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the date on which you plan to return to the United States. You will also need one photograph 1 and 1/2 inches square, showing full face, without head covering, against a light background. You will need to have sufficient currency to pay the required visa fees, or a receipt showing that you have paid the visa fees.  You will need your SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 form. If you have previously paid the Federal SEVIS fee due to having an initial entry I-20 or DS-2019 with a start date on or after September 2004, or a reinstatement I-20, have the SEVIS fee receipt with you.
 
You will also need to show proof of financial support, binding ties to your home country which you have no intentions of abandoning, and that you plan to return to your home country upon the conclusion of your studies.  Some U.S. consulates will ask you how you plan to use your U.S. education in your home country.  Most consulates will ask you to present copies of your academic transcripts to prove that you have been maintaining student status in the United States. and that you have been making satisfactory progress in your program.  If you are on optional practical training, you will need to present your EAD card and have a letter from your employer, verifying that you are currently employed (or have a job offer), your job title and description of duties, and that you are returning to the United States to resume employment.  It is also recommended that you carry two or three pay stubs with you, to verify that you are in fact, employed.

U.S. visa posts abroad have implemented biometric requirements for visa issuance.  You should expect to have your fingers scanned and a digital photograph taken as part of the visa process.

VISA APPLICATIONS IN CANADA OR MEXICO

Since 2002, any non-immigrant who chooses to apply for a new visa while in Canada or Mexico (but is not a citizen of either of those two countries) is no longer eligible for the "automatic revalidation" benefit during the course of that trip, but will have to wait until the visa is approved in order to re-enter the United States. If the U.S. visa application is denied, that individual will not be permitted to re-enter the United States, and will instead have to return to his or her home country. So, international students should consider this matter carefully when applying for a U.S. visa in Canada or Mexico.

Individuals from Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are not be eligible to obtain a new non-immigrant visa in either Canada or Mexico.

If you hold “landed immigrant” status in Canada, or are an applicant for such status, you are strongly advised not to apply for a new U.S. visa unless you have established a residency in Canada for which you can show proof; such as rent receipts, employment in Canada, immediate family living there, etc. Individuals who have "landed immigrant status" in Canada but who have not established residency in Canada will find it impossible to prove to a U.S. visa official that they have strong ties to Canada, and equally impossible to prove that they still have strong ties to their home country (U.S. visa officials will assume that anyone who has obtained "landed immigrant" status in Canada no longer plans to return to their country of citizenship). In such instances, U.S. visa officials will deny the visa application.

“TRANSIT” VISAS
Check your travel itinerary.  If you are traveling to your home country, but your tickets include an intermediate stop in a third country, find out if a transit visa is required, and if so, if it needs to be obtained in advance.  The following web link will take you to a listing of all foreign embassies in the United States and their individual web sites: http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/dpl/32122.htm

From there, you can link to visa information for any country you may visit. This is most common for students with flights stopping in the United Kingdom.  For information on the requirements for “Visitor in Transit” visas in the UK, visit the following web link:
http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/doineedvisa/


DOCUMENTS YOU WILL NEED TO APPLY FOR A NEW F-1 OR J-1 VISA

___SEVIS I-20 OR DS-2019: Please make sure there is an updated travel signature on the third page

___PASSPORT: Check the expiration date of your passport. If traveling abroad, your passport MUST be valid at least six months into the future upon your return to the United States. Passports may be renewed at your country's embassy or consulate in the United States, or in your home country.

_______FINANCIAL DOCUMENTATION: Documented proof of financial support in the amount that appears on your I-20 or DS-2019 is required if you will be applying for a new F-1 or J-1 visa. If your funding is being provided by anyone other than yourself, please be prepared to show a letter of support from your sponsor that states they will be supporting your education and living expenses at Binghamton University.

___MAINTAINING STATUS
Have you been maintaining the conditions of your non-immigrant status? If you are an F-1 or J-1 student, this means maintaining full time registration each semester at the school you are authorized to attend, reporting changes of address to the ISSS within ten days, refraining from unauthorized employment, not letting your I-20 or DS-2019 expire, and following the appropriate procedures for school transfer and extensions. J-1s are also required to have health and accident insurance for both themselves and their J-2 dependents, and the insurance must include a medical evacuation and repatriation benefit. If you think you may have violated the conditions of your status, be sure to speak to staff in the Office of International Student and Scholar Services BEFORE departing the United States, as you may risk being denied permission to return.

___BU TRANSCRIPT: Official or BU Brain print-out, reflecting continued attendance (and future enrollment, if applicable)

___RESEARCH PLAN, RESUME/CV, AND ADVISOR’S BU WEB PAGE (GRADUATE STUDENTS ONLY): Graduate students should prepare the following documents:

  • A copy of your resume or curriculum vitae (CV)
  • A description of your research plan
  • A copy of your advisor’s University webpage, that describes his/her research interests.

To describe your research plan, it is strongly recommended that you obtain a letter from your faculty advisor that explains the nature of your studies and/or your research. The letter should also include your faculty advisor’s e-mail and telephone number. The letter should be written using language that is easy to understand and should not exceed the front side of one page.

___OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING: If you are on Optional Practical Training post-completion of studies and will need to obtain a new F-1 visa before returning to the United States, you must have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with you, your SEVIS I-20 endorsed for practical training with a travel signature on page 3 that is less than six months old, and a letter from your employer, verifying your employment status. It is also recommended that you carry two or three pay stubs with you, to verify that you are in fact, employed. Students are warned that visa issuance for individuals on practical training can be highly problematic, since you may have a hard time proving that you do not intend to immigrate to the United States. Such students are urged to discuss their situation with staff in the Office of International Student and Scholar Services before they travel.

Last Updated: 8/28/14