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Student Visa Application Process

You may need to make an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad to get your visa. Visas cannot be obtained within the U.S. For general information, please consult the U.S. Department of State overview of student visa applications.

OBTAINING A VISA

Drew University will issue an I-20 form (F-1) or the DS-2019 (J-1) for student visa applications for newly admitted students who have met all documentation requirements for their degree program (generally, verification of financial support and submission of any enrollment deposit).

Your Passport

You must have a passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States.

When to Apply for a Visa

If you are currently abroad and do not yet have a valid U.S. student visa, you generally apply for one at the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it is generally more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence.

You should apply for your visa well in advance of the date you would like to depart for Drew University.  Most U.S. consulates allow students and scholars to apply up to 120 days prior to your program start date.

Remember that you are required to show proof of having paid the Federal SEVIS I-901 fee when you appear for your visa interview. Holiday and vacation periods are very busy times at the U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, and it is important for you to have your visa in time to arrive and begin orientation and registration activities no later than the start date on your I-20.

Appointments are now mandatory for all student visas, and some U.S. embassies and consulates require that appointments be made at least 4 to 8 weeks in advance. All U.S. embassies and consulates have a Web site where you can read the latest information on visa procedures. Locate the embassy or consulate near you.  In some cases you may be asked to complete an online visa application (form DS-160) prior to visiting the embassy.

For information on waiting times for student visa appointments, review this guide, provided by the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.

Remember

If you plan to attend Drew, you must present the visa officer with an I-20 issued by Drew University. You cannot apply for a U.S. visa using another school’s I-20 and then try to attend Drew, as that is considered to be a fraudulent entry by the U.S. Immigration authorities.

Special Note for Citizens of Canada

Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain a U.S. visa to enter the United States. However, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will inspect your papers, either at a pre-inspection site in Canada or upon entry to the United States. You must have with you:

  • Your Canadian passport
  • Your admission letter to Drew
  • Proof of Federal SEVIS I-901 fee payment
  • Your Drew Certificate of Eligibility (I-20)
  • Proof of financial support that corresponds to the information on your I-20

It is essential that you enter the United States in the appropriate status – be sure to have complete documentation with you.

VISA INTERVIEW

What to Bring With You to the Visa Interview

Be sure to bring the following with you to the visa appointment:

  • Passport
  • Required photo(s)
  • Visa fee or proof of visa fee payment
  • Federal SEVIS I-901 fee payment receipt
  • U.S. non-immigrant visa application forms  (unless you will complete them at the consulate or embassy)
  • Drew University admission letter
  • Drew University Form I-20 or DS-2019 (J-1 visa applicants)
  • Drew University scholarship letter (if received)
  • Test scores and academic records
  • Proof of English proficiency
  • Proof of financial support
  • Evidence of ties to your home country
  • Any other documents required by the embassy or consulate
Visa Interviewing Tips
1. TIES TO YOUR HOME COUNTRY

Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas, are viewed as intending immigrants 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 home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. “Ties” to your home country are the things that bind you to your home town, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you are a prospective undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask 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. If you have applied for the U.S. Green Card Lottery, you may be asked if you are intending to immigrate. A simple answer would be that you applied for the lottery since it was available but not with a specific intent to immigrate. If you overstayed your authorized stay in the United States previously, be prepared to explain what happened clearly and concisely, with documentation, if available.

2. ENGLISH

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, but do NOT prepare speeches! If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.

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. If you are a minor applying for a high school program and need your parents there is case there are questions, for example about funding, they should wait in the waiting room.

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 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 BRIEF

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 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. ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION

It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you are 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.

8. EMPLOYMENT

Your main purpose in 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 U.S. 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 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. Volunteer work 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 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.

This information is provided by NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

F-1 or J-1 Visa: Choosing the Best Visa Status

F-1 STATUS

The F-1 is the most common visa for students studying in the United States. Full-time degree seeking students at Drew are eligible for the F-1 visa. Read more about maintaining F-1 status and learn more at the Department of Homeland Security’s Study in the States website.

J-1 STATUS

At Drew, the J-1 visa is typically used by students and scholars who are visiting the university as part of an educational exchange program. To be eligible for the J-1 student visa, a substantial amount of your financial support must come from sources other than personal or family funding. This funding may be a Drew merit scholarship, funds from your government or corporate sponsorship. Students who are studying at Drew as non-degree seeking exchange students will be also be on the J-1 visa.

J-1 scholars are generally sponsored by home institutions while on sabbatical or other sponsoring organizations in the home country. Learn more about maintaining your J-1 status, including program requirements and mandatory health insurance.

BASIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE F-1 AND J-1 VISA

F-1 STATUS J-1 STATUS
Source of Funding Students may have personal or other funding sources to be eligible for the F-1 visa. A substantial amount of financial support must come from sources other than personal or family funding.
Off-Campus Employment Students may be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completing one academic year of studies. Student may be eligible for academic training for up to 18 months (36 months for post-doc appointments).
On- Campus Employment Eligible without special work authorization. Program sponsor (Drew University for most students) must authorize.
Dependents Dependents not eligible for employment. Eligible to study part-time in the U.S. or full-time if student is K-12. J-2 dependents can apply to USCIS for work authorization for one year periods through the duration of the J-1’s program. Eligible to study part-time or full-time in the U.S.

J-1 EXCHANGE VISITOR OVERVIEW

University Student

In order to be eligible for the J-1 visa, degree-seeking students must be receiving a significant amount of funding from sources other than family or personal funds. This could be merit scholarships and stipends from Drew, the student’s home government, non-profit organizations, or the U.S. government (e.g. Fulbright). Exchange students who are non-degree seeking and visiting for one or two semesters will study at Drew on the J-1 visa.

Short Term Research Scholar

Individuals who are coming to the Drew campus for less than six months to conduct research may be eligible for the short-term scholar category. Scholars are also allowed to give lectures and teach, but their primary purpose must be research. The B-1 Visitor for Business visa may also be an option if an individual is coming for a short visit to present a lecture or attend a conference, especially if there is no stipend or payment coming from the University.

Research Scholar

The research scholar category is for qualified individuals whose primary purpose at the institution is conducting research. A research scholar may also teach or lecture and the appointment to a position must be temporary. Many research scholars who visit Drew are receiving all of their funding from their home institution or government while on sabbatical or over a summer period.

Professor

The professor category is for a foreign national who enters the United States for the primary purpose of teaching, lecturing, observing or consulting. Visiting professors are not eligible for tenure-track positions.

Scholars and Professors have access to the libraries and other Drew facilities and receive a Drew email address and ID for their period of research and lecturing. The academic department sponsoring the individual is responsible for making housing arrangements if needed and other assistance as required. There are numerous restrictions and requirements for the J-1 visa category, so it is best to consult with ISSS if you are interested in inviting a researcher or professor to the Drew campus.

J-1 Insurance Requirements

J-1 Exchange Visitors and their dependents are required by federal law to have sickness and accident insurance for the duration of the academic program.  Minimum coverage requirements must include medical benefits, repatriation, medical evaluation \. Proof of medical insurance will be required by the International office upon arrival at the University and for travel signatures, extensions or any other J-1 benefits. Exchange Visitors who fail to maintain medical coverage are in violation of their J-1 visa status.

Program participants and their dependents are required to have medical insurance coverage with the following minimum benefits [22 CFR 62.14].

REQUIRED COVERAGE

INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS

(EFFECTIVE 5/15/2015)

Medical Benefits $100,000
Repatriation of remains $25,000
Medical Evacuation $50,000
Deductible per illness/accident $500
Exchange Visitor Program

Information regarding the J-1 Program is available at the Department of State’s website for the Exchange Visitor Program.  A quick overview of the professor category and the research scholar category is also available on the Exchange Visitor website.

To review detailed compliance and regulatory information regarding the Exchange Visitor Program, please refer to the Code of Federal Regulations (22 CFR 62 Code of Federal Regulations).

Program Extension Information

Students, Research Scholars (not including the short-term category), and Professors may be eligible for an extension to complete their program objective. If you would like to request a program extension for an exchange visitor from your academic department, please ask the J-1 visitor to make an appointment with ISSS to discuss. If s/he is eligible, the dean of the school must submit a DS-2019 extension form.

Special Considerations for the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program
TWO-YEAR HOME RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT

Some students may be subject to the two-year home residency requirements if:  1)  Funding is received from the home government or the U.S. government or 2) The home government has requested that students who are trained in a particular field (where there is a shortage of qualified personnel) return home for two years after completion of studies. The “Exchange Visitor Skills List” is available on the State Department’s website.

12 MONTH BAR AFTER PREVIOUS PARTICIPATION IN A J PROGRAM

A person  is not eligible to begin a new exchange program as a Professor or Research Scholar if he or she was physically present in any J status (including J-2 status) for “all or part of” the “twelve month period immediately preceding the program start date.  This rule does not apply to exchange visitors who were in the U.S. for less than six months or for those completing a program transfer.

24 MONTH BAR ON REPEAT PARTICIPATION

After completion of the J-1 exchange visitor program, a scholar or professor is prohibited from returning to the U.S. in the J-1 Research Scholar or Professor category for 24 months. This does not prohibit an exchange visitor from returning on a tourist/business visa or possibly in another non-immigrant category (such as the F-1 visa).