If an F-1 applicant is currently abroad, and do not yet have a valid U.S. student visa, applicant generally applies for one at the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over his/her 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.
The F-1 applicant should apply for his/her student visa well in advance of the date s/he would like to depart for IAU. Remember that s/he is required to show proof of having paid the Federal SEVIS Fee when s/he appears for your visa interview. Holiday and vacation periods are very busy times at the US embassies and consulates world wide, and it is important for him/her to have his/her 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 four to eight weeks in advance. The actual visa interview may be as early as 120 days prior to his/her planned arrival date in the United States.
All U.S. embassies and consulates have a website where you can read the latest information on visa procedures.
Click here to locate the embassy or consulate near you.
Click here for information on waiting times for student visa appointments.
Click here for more information on how to obtain a visa.
Click here for more information on Study in the States.
IAU does not provide legal services. If you are in need of immigration legal services, please feel free to contact an experienced immigration attorney.
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You are well advised to consider the following matters prior to your visa appointment, as you may be asked about each item.
Academics: Be definite and clear about your educational plans. You should be able to explain precisely what you wish to study and why you chose International American University for your education. Be especially prepared to explain reasons for studying in the United States rather than your country.
English: Anticipate that the visa interview will be conducted in English. Do not bring parents or family members with you to the visa interview. The consular official will want to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf.
Ties to Your Home Country: Demonstrate convincing reasons for consular officials to believe that you intend to return home after studies in the United States. Emphasize ties to your home country such as employment, family obligations, bank accounts, family members at home, property or investments that you own or will inherit, and clear explanations of how you plan to use your education to help your country or pursue a career when you return home.
Financial Documentation: Be prepared to prove financial ability to pay for your education and living expenses. While some students will be able to work part time during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their education. You must show the consular officer that you have the annual amount in United States dollars listed on your I-20 or DS-2019 form. Your financial evidence should be in the form of bank statements, affidavits of support, scholarship award letters, etc.
Be Concise: Because of the volume of visa applications, all consular officials are under considerable pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impression 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 short and to the point.
Not All Countries Are The Same: 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 these countries are more likely to be intending immigrants. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities in the United States.
Dependents Remaining at Home: If you have a spouse and/or children remaining behind in your home 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 official gains the impression that your family members will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support them, your student visa will almost surely be denied.
U.S. immigration regulations state that new students entering on an F-1 student visa will only be eligible to enter the U.S. thirty calendar days or less prior to the beginning of the program date or start date, as given on the SEVIS I-20.
Most new international students generally arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), about a 60 minutes drive from IAU. For most students, it will be their Port of Entry (POE), the first entry point into the U.S. as a legal non-immigrant. Please find below a guide on procedures on the aircraft, customs at the POE, and baggage claim.
On the aircraft, prior to landing, the flight attendant will distribute customs declaration forms and U.S. Customs and Border Protection forms. One important form is the I-94 arrival/departure document.
Important reminders when filling out I-94 document:
- Print clearly, with one letter in each space
- Date of Birth is in order of MONTH, DAY, YEAR
- Any mistakes will result in a correction procedure that is quite time consuming. Minor mistakes can cause major delays with certain applications that may be filed upon arriving on campus so please be attentive and careful when filling out the I-94 document.
Upon arrival, students will present their:
- Passport and Visa
- I-94 document
All newly admitted F-1 students must check-in in-person with IAU's Designated School Official (DSO) within 10 days of arrival to the U.S. All F-1 students are required to attend the new student orientation (NSO). Failure to check-in in-person with IAU's DSO within 10 days of arrival to the U.S. will result in the termination of your SEVIS record.
Be sure to bring the following with you to the visa appointment:
- Required photo(s)
- Visa fee or proof of visa fee payment
- Federal SEVIS Fee payment receipt
- U.S. non-immigrant visa application forms (unless you will completing it at the consulate or embassy)
- IAU admission letter
- IAU SEVIS I-20
- 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
Remember that if you plan to attend IAU, you must present the visa officer with a I-20 issued by IAU. You cannot apply for a U.S. visa using another school's I-20, and then try to attend IAU, as that is considered to be a fraudulent entry by the U.S. Immigration authorities.