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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
PAYING THE SEVIS FEE
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.
OBTAINING A U.S. STUDENT/SCHOLAR 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 www.cbp.gov/I94. 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: http://usembassy.gov/
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
1) TIES TO HOME COUNTRY
As a non-immigrant visa applicant, you must prove to the visa officer that you do not intend to remain in the US once you have completed your studies. “Ties” to your home country are the things that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence. For example a job, family members remaining in your home country, property ownership, investments, etc. If you are a prospective undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask you 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.
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.
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.
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 degree 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 CONCISE
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 or two 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) SUPPLEMENTAL DOCUMENTATION
It should be clear at a glance to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthily written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you’re 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.
Your main purpose of 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 US 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/J-2 visa, be aware that F-2/J-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 activities 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 members 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.
From NAFSA: Association of International Educators – 1999 Annual conference session Consular Affairs Issues: View From the United States