International students (except Canadians) and scholars must appear before a United States consulate or Embassy in order to secure an F-1 or J-1 visa. The following items must be presented at your interview:

  • Form I-20 for F-1 students OR Form DS-2019 for J-1 students/scholars issued by University of Maine at Farmington,
  • Proof of SEVIS I-901 fee payment,
  • UMF Admission letter/Invitation letter/Contract,
  • A valid passport,
  • Proof of sufficient financial support.

If you plan to bring dependents (spouse or children) you will also need to present:

  • For each dependent: Form I-20 is also used for F-2 dependents / Form DS-2019 is also used for J-2 dependents
  • Proof of marriage or birth certificate showing dependent child
  • Proof of sufficient financial support for both you and your dependents

Students and Scholars are encouraged to apply for a visa as early as possible.

Students with F-1 status who are transferring from an educational institution in the United States should consult with the international student adviser at their present school for instructions on the Immigration Service’s transfer process. This should be done as early as possible to avoid any difficulties.

What To Do With Your I-20 (F Students) or DS-2019 (J Students/Scholars)

1. Read all pages carefully.

2. Check to make sure all of your personal information is correct: spelling/order of names, date of birth, city of birth, country of citizenship. If anything is incorrect, please contact the Office of Global Education immediately at (1) 207-778-7122 or

3. Sign page one where indicated.

4. Use your I-20 or DS-2019 to apply for your F-1 or J-1 visa at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. (Canadians are not required to apply for a visa stamp).

5. You will need to refer to your I-20 or DS-2019 in order to pay your SEVIS fee online, prior to making your visa appointment at the U.S. embassy or consulate.

6. Use your I-20 or DS-2019 to apply for your F-1 or J-1 visa at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Be sure to keep your document in a very safe place until it is time to depart your home country.

7. Travel to the U.S. with your DS-2019 or I-20, SEVIS Fee Payment Confirmation Receipt, Admission Acceptance Letter / Letter of Invitation, Contract, Passport, and proof of financial resources on your person at all times. Do not pack any of these items in your checked baggage. This is very important, as you will need to present these documents to the Port of Entry Official after de-boarding the airplane in the U.S.

8. Present the I-20 or DS-2019 to an Immigration official at the Port of Entry (border or airport) with your passport.  DO NOT WAIT FOR THE OFFICER TO REQUEST IT.  HAVE IT READY FOR INSPECTION WITH YOUR PASSPORT.

9. Keep your I-20 or DS-2019 safe.  This document along with the entry stamp in your passport proves your lawful status in the U.S.

10. Report for the Mandatory International Orientation Program. Arrival/Orientation information.


Canadian citizens are required to pay the SEVIS fee before entering the U.S. All other citizens are required to pay the SEVIS fee before applying for a U.S. visa.


Canadian citizens do not require a visa stamp in their passport. They need only present Form I-20 or DS-2019, proof of payment of the SEVIS fee along with the financial documentation and letter of admission/invitation at the port of entry. If arriving through a land border you may be required to complete a Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) at the point of entry. Arrivals by air or sea will generate an electronic I-94, which you can later access and print a copy from Please note: Immigration regulations require a processing fee to be paid at all land border ports of entry.

All other citizens: To obtain a United States visa, you must take Form I-20 or DS-2019 furnished to you by the University of Maine at Farmington, proof of payment of the SEVIS fee, documentation of your financial support, your letter of admission/invitation/contract, and your passport, valid for more than 6 months after you will begin your studies, to the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy and complete the application process for the appropriate student visa. In addition to the basic U.S. visa application fee, you may also be charged a “reciprocal fee.” This varies by country as does the amount of the fee. Please read the tips on applying for a non-immigrant visa.  To find the nearest embassy or consulate, please visit the website:

Detailed information and link to the online Non-immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160, can be found HERE.

10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Non-immigrant Visa


Under U.S. law, people who apply for nonimmigrant visas, such as F-1 or J-1 student visas, are viewed as “intending immigrants” (who want to live permanently in the U.S.) 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 “residence abroad” (usually in your home country) that are stronger than reasons for remaining in the United States, and that you intend to depart the United States at the conclusion of your studies.

“Ties” to your home country are the things that connect you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, owning a house or apartment, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you are a prospective student, the interviewing officer may ask about your specific plans 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. Diversity (green card) Lottery, you may be asked if you intend to immigrate. If you applied for the Diversity Visa Lottery but do not intend to immigrate, be prepared to clarify that, for instance, by explaining that you applied for the lottery since it was available but not with a specific intent to immigrate.

If you have close relatives who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, it may be harder for you to demonstrate that you are not an intending immigrant.

For further details about this topic, you can visit the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual at 9 FAM 402.5-5(E), which explains the basics of what consular officers will be looking for in the interview process.


The interview will generally 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! Expect to have an interactive conversation with the consular officer about your plans for studying in the United States and beyond, your goals, and your ties to your home country. If you are coming to the United States to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.

For further details about this topic, the Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual at 9 FAM 402.5-5(F).


The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family, and a more positive impression is created if you are prepared to speak on your own. Although generally parents or family members will not accompany an applicant into to the visa interview, if you are a minor and need your parents to be there in case there are questions (for example about funding/finances), they should check with the consulate about the consulate’s waiting area and any special rules or procedures for non-applicant family members to accompany a visa applicant.


If you are not able to explain the reasons why 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 work or stay in the United States. You should also be able to explain how studying in the United States relates to your career goals and employment prospects when you return home. If you will be a graduate student in the United States and have a research focus, be prepared to talk about your research plans. Consular officials may want a letter from your supervising professor or faculty member that explains your intended research goals.


Because of the large number of applications they receive, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute of the interview. What you say first and the first impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer’s questions short and to the point, responding precisely to the consular officer’s questions and statements. Do not have an argument with the officer. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring to overcome the denial and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.

For more information about responding to a visa denial, visit the U.S. Department of State’s web page explaining visa denials.


It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they mean. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you are lucky. Supporting documentation will depend on your particular situation, so it is best to review the consulate’s website. However, there are a few supporting documents which are common among all students such as financial documentation, admission letter(s), and scholarship letters. Students should be prepared to take all documentation proving their financial ability to stay in the United States such as scholarships, assistantships or other letters issued by the school, sponsor or other organization. If you will be a graduate student in the United States, consular officials may want a letter from your supervising professor or faculty member that explains your intended research goals. The financial information indicated on your Form I-20 or DS-2019 should match the evidence provided to the consular officer.


Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the United States long-term often have more difficulty getting visas. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the United States. You should review your country’s specific requirements on the U.S. consulate’s website.

Several U.S. consulates around the globe have created YouTube videos which explain the visa process at their specific posts. Always check your specific U.S. embassy or consulate to see if a new YouTube video is available. A select list of consular YouTube videos is located at the end of this resource.

Also be sure to check the U.S. State Department’s Visa Appointment and Processing Wait Times web page, to find average visa appointment and processing wait times at the consulate where you will be applying for your visa.


Your main purpose in coming to the United States should be to study, rather than for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students work on- or off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental (secondary/optional) to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly explain your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse or children are 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. Volunteering in the community and attending school part-time are permitted activities for F-2 dependents.


If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to explain how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be especially difficult to explain if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that you intend to support your family with money you may earn during your studies in the United States, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family decides to join you at a later time, it may be helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa, but that is not always required if your family is living in another district.


Tell the truth

A ten-digit fingerprint scan is taken of applicants immediately preceding the visa interview, and applicants must attest to the following under penalty of perjury (See 9 FAM 403.3-6Biometric Signature and Affirmation of DS-160 NIV application):

“By submitting my fingerprint, I am certifying under penalty of perjury that I have read and understood the questions in my visa application and that all statements that appear in my visa application have been made by me and are true and complete to the best of my knowledge and belief. Furthermore, I certify under penalty of perjury that I will tell the truth during my interview and that all statements made by me during my interview will be complete to the best of my ability.”

Social media question on the visa application

Note the “social media” question on Form DS-160, the standard online application used by individuals to apply for a nonimmigrant visa. The item requires applicants to indicate the social media platforms that they have used during the five years preceding their visa application, and to provide any identifiers or handles they used on those platforms. DOS also added a similar item to the Form DS-260 immigrant visa application. See NAFSA’s page on the DS-160 social media question for additional information.

Administrative processing delays

Some students may experience delays in obtaining a visa because of “administrative processing.” This commonly occurs if your name is similar to another individual and the consulate needs to check with other government agencies about your status or background. It may also happen when your area of study is thought to be in a field of sensitive or critical technology, or your faculty adviser is working with sensitive research materials. Some consular officers may even require additional letters from program directors or academic advisers explaining the specific type of research the student will be involved in and what kind of access to sensitive technology the student will have. If you are unsure whether this applies to your situation, check with your specific U.S. embassy or consulate. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of State’s Administrative Processing Information web page.

Past visits to the United States

You may be asked to explain past visits and stays in the United States and/or any prior visa statuses held by you or your family members. Also, students who formerly held an employment-based immigration status or had Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT might also need to explain the reasons for additional study in the United States instead of working at home.

If you stayed beyond your authorized stay in the United States or violated an immigration status in the past, be prepared to explain what happened and if available, provide supporting documentation regarding the circumstances. You should consider consulting an experienced immigration lawyer for guidance on whether the Overstay or Unlawful Presence provisions impact your eligibility to return to the United States. See NAFSA’s page on Unlawful Presence.

Third country nationals

If you are not a citizen or permanent resident of the country in which you currently live or the country where you plan to apply for a visa (i.e., you are a “third country national), you may also wish to explain your intent to return to that country upon completion of your studies in the United States.

Arrests and convictions

Documentation should accompany any arrests or convictions within the U.S. or abroad, including any arrests or convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Always check with an experienced immigration attorney if you have any current or past legal issues.

A select list of videos available through U.S. Embassy websites.

Alphabetical by City

Amman, Jordan (3:52)
A step-by-step tutorial on how to navigate the online system for applying for a U.S. visa in Jordan.

Ankara, Turkey (2:35)
Attending an Immigrant Visa interview at the U.S. Embassy? This video highlights the steps and procedure.

Dubai, UAE (4:04)
This video explains what you should anticipate on the day of your interview for a Non-Immigrant Visa Interview at the U.S. Consulate General in Dubai, U.A.E.

Frankfurt, Germany (6:27)
How to apply for a United States student visa in Germany.

Hyderabad, India (5:06)
Prepare for your student visa interview. Our officers are here to answer some of your most asked questions about the F-1 Visa.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (7:01)
A step-by-step video guide on how to apply for a nonimmigrant visa (business, travel, study, etc.) online and the interview process at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

New Delhi, India (4:29)
Learn about the U.S. Embassy’s Student Visit Day and the visa interview process in India in this video.

London, U.K. (3:09)
What to expect when you attend the Embassy for a non-immigrant visa interview.

Seoul, South Korea (2:09)
Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Skill – this video gives an example of how to give more in-depth interview answers.

The information above is designed to provide general information on matters of interest only and should not be construed as legal advice. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. While every attempt has been made to ensure that the information contained in this resource has been obtained from reliable sources, NAFSA and the publishers disclaim any and all liability resulting from reliance upon this information, or from any errors contained herein. This publication does not substitute for the direct reading of applicable laws and government guidance, nor does it constitute legal advice, which can only be obtained from licensed attorneys. Laws and regulations are also interpreted by the government agencies that administer them; therefore, it is impossible to provide detailed, specific information and guidelines to meet every contingency. Updated July 2019 by members of the NAFSA International Student and Scholar Regulatory Practice (ISS RP) Travel Subcommittee.

Click here for videos with helpful information regarding preparing for the visa interview, what to do/not to do at the interview, most common reasons for visa refusals, etc

 Information about Visas and SEVIS Fee