A passport is a government's (or other competent authority’s) permit to leave and re-enter the country of issuance. You must have a valid passport to obtain a visa for the United States, and you must maintain a valid passport throughout your entire stay in the United States.
Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019)
This is proof that you are entering the U.S. as a student or exchange visitor. Please keep this with your passport. You are required to keep all original copies of form I-20/DS-2019 throughout your stay as an F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor, longer if you exit and return to the U.S. in any capacity other than as a tourist.
Applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa
Applicants for non-immigrant visas usually apply in person at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their country of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. Consular office, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence.
Each US Embassy and Consulate has specific instructions for scheduling an appointment. Waiting times for an appointment can be lengthy (up to several weeks or longer) especially during the busy summer months, so please schedule your appointment as soon as possible after receiving your visa documents.
Information about U.S. visa application procedures and requirements may be obtained through the U.S. State Department Visa Services website.
- Certificate of Eligibility
- For the "F" applicant, a Form I-20 from Earlham
- For the "J” applicant a Form DS-2019 from Earlham
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160
- A passport valid for at least six months
- A digital photo that fulfills the digital photo requirements
- Proof of payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee (see below) and any other related visa application fee; these fees must be paid in advance of your visa appointment. Proof of payment may be a receipt that you may print immediately if you pay the fee online, or the printed receipt I-797 that will be sent to you through the mail.
Visa applicants should also be prepared to provide the following:
- Transcripts and diplomas from previously attended institutions
- Scores from standardized tests required by the institution (TOEFL, SAT)
- Evidence of sufficient funds to meet educational expenses
Learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review instructions specific to your Embassy, and much more by visiting the Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply.
Please note: Your F-1 visa is permission to enter the U.S. If you have a multi-entry visa, you may depart and re-enter the U.S. until the expiration date on your visa. You may only renew the visa from outside the U.S. However, if you are in the U.S. and intend to remain in the U.S. it is not necessary for your visa to be valid. It is also not necessary to renew your visa in order to depart the U.S.
Before submitting an application for a U.S. visa, we encourage you to view the website “10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Non-immigrant Visa."
The SEVIS I-901 Fee
Persons wishing to enter the U.S. as a student or exchange visitor must pay a fee prior to their visa application appointment ($200 for F-1, $180 for J-1). The fee is nonrefundable, regardless of whether the visa is issued. This fee is your responsibility; Earlham does not pay this fee on your behalf.
There are several options available for paying the SEVIS I-901 fee including online payment using a credit card, payment by check or money order in U.S. dollars, or payment at a participating Western Union office in local currency. If none of these options is readily available to you, please contact IPO. If you do not pay online, the SEVIS fee must be paid in sufficient time for you to receive receipt by mail prior to your visa appointment. Detailed information on paying the SEVIS I-901 fee can be found at www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/.
I-94 - (Arrival and Departure Record)
The I-94 used to be a small white card that is given to you at the airport when you arrive in the U.S. You will not receive a paper copy, but you can view and print the digital copy online. The I-94 shows that you have been legally admitted to the U.S. If you need to apply for an extension, change of status, practical training or other regulatory changes, you must submit your I-94 to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The BICE uses the admission number to keep track of your U.S. arrivals and departures.
It is a good idea to keep all of your documentation together in a centralized and safe place. This location should be a place where you can access your documents at all times.