Skip to main content

APPLYING FOR AN F-1/J-1 VISA

 

UC San Diego international students who are entering the U.S. and do not have valid F or J visas, or have changed status while in the U.S. must apply for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad before being able to come to the U.S. Review all information below to understand the visa application process.

 

Plan for a Long Visa Processing Time

All visa applications also require a face-to-face interview with a US consular officer. The visa application process can take up to 6-8 weeks, so plan accordingly. 

The earliest that an F-1 visa can be granted is 120 days before the reporting date listed on your SEVIS Form. You may apply for an F-1 visa earlier than 120 days before the start date to allow for visa processing and security clearance delays, however, the consulate cannot actually issue the visa until 120 days before the program start date.


SCHEDULING YOUR VISA INTERVIEW

After receiving your I-20/DS-2019 document, complete the DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application form. You will need your SEVIS ID (number starting with “N” located at the top of your I-20/DS-2019) to complete this. In addition, J-1 students will need to provide UCSD’s J-1 Program Number. This number is: P-1-02849.

When asked for UC San Diego’s contact information for the DS-160, you may put down the following:

  • Contact name: Name of the advisor listed on your I-20/DS-2019 document
  • Contact phone: 858-534-3730
  • Contact email: istudents@ucsd.edu

Gather Your Visa Interview Documents

Prior to your visa appointment, consult the website for the U.S. embassy or consulate that you will visit. Go to the Nonimmigrant Visa section and follow the instructions. Many people are denied visas when they are unprepared.


General Document Requirements for all F and J Visa Interviews:

  • Passport which is valid up to six months after date of entry into the U.S.
  • Form I-20 (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students) with a valid travel signature or copy of your I-797 approval notice
  • Evidence of financial supportBank statement or financial support letter from sponsor or UC San Diego academic department
  • Home country address and documentation of home ties (if available)
  • Any additional documents required by the specific U.S. embassy or consulate where you are applying for your visa

Recommended Documents for Continuing Students:

  • Official UC San Diego Transcript that you can order on TritonLink
  • Graduate students: letter from your academic department verifying program start date, good standing, expected program completion, and brief description of the nature of your research

Additional Required Documents for Students on Approved Post-Completion F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) or J-1 Academic Training (AT):

  • F-1 OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
  • J-1 Academic Training Authorization Letter
  • Job offer letter or proof of employment (if employed)

Prepare for Your Visa Interview

Based on information received from various consular officers, the following are recommendations to prepare for your visa interview:

  • Listen carefully to what the consular officer asks you and then answer the question directly.
  • Be prepared to show strong ties to your home country with official documentation. Ties to your country are ties that compel you to leave the U.S. after you finish your program of study.
  • If your family owns a property, take the deeds of papers showing your ownership.
  • If you and your family have had numerous past visits to the U.S., take along passports, even old ones - to show that you have many visas and many visits, but after every visit to U.S. you still returned to your home country.
  • If you have membership in a professional organization in your home country, bring proof of this membership.
  • If you have the prospect of a job offer, get a letter from the company saying that you will be considered for the job upon your return, or that people with the kind of education you are seeking are needed.
  • Answer every question truthfully.

Some factors that might work against you in the mind of the consular officer are:

  • Someone in the U.S. is promising to support you
  • Lack of family ties
  • Poor job prospect upon return
  • Poor English language ability
  • Poor academic record (suggesting that you are not a serious student)

Read more interview tips:

Visa Delay

Visa Delay Due to Administrative Processing

Nationals of certain countries, and all internationals whose area of study has been deemed sensitive by the US Department of Homeland Security, will have their names submitted for a special security clearance procedure that may take 4-6 weeks or longer before a visa is issued. Disciplines such as nuclear technology, chemical and biotechnology engineering, and advanced computer or microelectronic technology, as well as a broad range of engineering and physical sciences are on the "Technology Alert List." Students in these fields should expect delays in obtaining visas at consulates abroad.


Steps You Can Take

  • Inform your department (graduate students) or college (undergraduate students) of potential delays in coming to campus.
  • If the consular official asks for additional course of study information, contact your academic department for a support letter. We have provided guidance for departments here on what information to include.
  • Request an additional support letter from ISPO via the iPortal
  • Keep ISPO informed on the status of your visa issuance so that we can make any adjustments necessary to your Form I-20 or DS-2019.

Travel Tip

ISPO recommends that students understand the "fare rules" when purchasing airline tickets. Departure and arrival plans may change depending on travel document and visa issuance timelines.  It is recommended that you purchase a plane ticket that can be changed or refunded if your travel plans change.

Visa Denial

Visa Denial

If you are denied a visa, you will be informed of the reason for the denial and be given the opportunity to reappear if you can provide additional evidence to support your case.

Before reapplying, be sure you understand the grounds for your denial so that you can appeal effectively. 


Steps You Can Take

  • Inform your department (graduate students) or college (undergraduate students) of potential delays in coming to campus.
  • Request a support letter from ISPO via the iPortal. Be prepared to submit a copy of your visa denial letter or email that you received from the U.S. embassy or consulate that details what additional evidence is needed to process a visa.
  • Keep ISPO informed on the status of your visa issuance so that we can make any adjustments necessary to your Form I-20 or DS-2019.

Travel Tip

ISPO recommends that students understand the "fare rules" when purchasing airline tickets. Departure and arrival plans may change depending on travel document and visa issuance timelines.  It is recommended that you purchase a plane ticket that can be changed or refunded if your travel plans change.

A Note for Citizens of Canada and Bermuda

Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not require visas to enter the U.S., although they must present a valid Form I-20  (F-1 students) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 students) to enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 student status.  ISPO recommends students also have their I-901 fee receipt and proof of funding at the time of admission to the U.S.

For more information see the Information for Citizens of Canada and Bermuda page on the U.S. Department of State website.

Additional resources for Canadian visitors to the United States can be found on the U.S. Embassy and Consulate websites in Canada.

Learn about Applying for a U.S. Visa in a Country Other Than Your Own

International students are strongly encouraged to apply for a visa in their home country because they may have difficulty getting a visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate in a country other than their own.

In general, the following individuals are eligible to apply for a visa renewal as Third Country Nationals (TCN):

  • Applicants seeking to renew their C, D, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P and R visas, provided the initial visa was issued in the applicant's home country or at one of the border posts in the past few years.
  • Applicants for visas that reflect a change of status (e.g., F-1 to H-1B or F-1 to J-1), provided the applicant originally entered the U.S. in other than B status and possesses an original change of status notice (I-797) from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • Applicants possessing B visas issued in their home country with annotations showing intent to change visa status, such as "Prospective Student."

The following individuals are strongly discouraged from applying for a visa renewal as Third Country Nationals because there may be a high risk of denial:

  • Applicants who entered the U.S. with a B visa issued in their home country that changed status to another visa category, e.g., F, J, H-1B, but the visa did not have an annotation indicating intent to change status.
  • Applicants who have been out of status in the U.S. having violated the terms of their visas or having overstayed the validity indicated on their I-94s. A, B, E, G and Q visa applications, including renewals are not accepted from Third Country Nationals that are not residents in the appropriate consular district.
  • Citizens of Iran, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, North Korea, Cuba and Syria.

Visa renewals in Canada

International students who are not citizens of Canada, but who wish to apply for visas in Canada, should meet with an ISPO Advisor to discuss their plans. Students subject to special security clearances are not eligible for reentry into the U.S. until this process is complete. Please consider the delays that security checks may cause and plan accordingly.

The U.S. consular posts in Canada announced new appointment procedures, which took effect as of September 1, 2010, for applicants applying for nonimmigrant visas.

An applicant will need the following prior to scheduling a visa appointment:

  • The passport number of each applicant
  • Proof that the visa application fee (MRV) has been paid for each applicant
  • A completed Nonimmigrant Visa (NIV) Electronic Application, DS-160 including confirmation (barcode) number for each applicant
  • Additional information may be required based on the type of visa for which the applicant is applying. For example, if you are applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa, you may be asked for your SEVIS ID number from your I-20 or DS-2019

Another significant change at most of the U.S. consular posts in Canada is that passports with visas will be returned to the applicant via courier. The courier service is provided through DHL, at no additional cost to the applicant.

For more information, visit U.S. Visa Service: Canada.


Visa renewals in Mexico

International students who are not citizens of Mexico, but who wish to apply for visas in Mexico, should meet with an ISPO Advisor to discuss their plans. Students subject to special security clearances are not eligible for reentry into the U.S. until this process is complete. Please consider the delays that security checks may cause and plan accordingly.

All U.S. consulates in Mexico do not accept TCN applications for changes of status, only for renewals for expired visas in the same status you entered the U.S. in.

For example, if your F-1 visa stamp has expired and you would like to apply for a new F-1 visa stamp, you may be eligible to apply in Mexico. However, if you entered the U.S. in J-1 status then changed to F-1 status, you may not apply for an F-1 visa in Mexico.

For more information, visit Mexican Embassy: Non-Immigrant Visas.

Learn about Applying for a Visa to Other Countries

To travel outside the U.S. to a country other than your home country, remember that a new set of laws will be in effect, and you may need a visa to enter that country. To learn more about visa requirements, contact that country's closest embassy or consulate in the U.S. or visit their website.

You can search for information about foreign countries' embassies and consulates in the U.S. on the U.S. Department of State website:

ISPO cannot advise on other countries' entry-visa requirements.

Fall 2021: Visa and Travel Support

Visa Appointment & Travel Support Letter

ISPO recognizes that many students requiring visas (a new visa or a renewal) are experiencing long delays in obtaining their visa appointments to arrive to campus this fall. It may be possible for F-1 students or J-1 exchange visitors to request an emergency or expedited visa appointment if there are no regular visa appointments available before their program start date.

To help facilitate these requests, ISPO has provided a letter of support for students to download and provide to your local U.S. embassy/consulate. In addition, this letter may be useful for those students facing travel delays and who may need to enter the U.S. after the official start of fall quarter.*

*Note that students must consult with their college (undergraduates) or department (graduate students) for permission to begin their in-person or hybrid classes after the official start of fall quarter 2021.

Also note that entry after the start date listed on your I-20/DS-2019 us at the discretion of the Customs and Border Protection officer at the Port of Entry.


Understand your Earliest and Latest Date of Entry to the U.S.

Students may use their Form I-20/DS-2019 issued with a Fall 2021 program start date to enter the U.S. up to 30 days before but no later than 2 weeks after the program start date listed on their Form I-20/DS-2019 (October 8, 2021 -- the add/drop enrollment deadline). Delayed arrival to UC San Diego is at the discretion of the student's academic department.

 Fall 2021 Starts: If your date of entry to the U.S. is after October 8th, your must submit a NEW ADMIT: I-20 or DS-2019 Amendment/Reprint request within the iPortal to receive an updated I-20/DS-2019 with a future program start date reflecting the next available term, Winter 2022. You can then use the Form I-20/DS-2019 issued with a Winter 2022 program start date to enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start of classes for Winter 2022.