Applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa
Although you have been admitted to Widener University, the U.S. Embassy/Consulate makes the final decision in granting you a student visa if you are coming from overseas (not required for Canadians).
Where should you go?
The U.S.Embassy/Consulate closest to your home will process your visa application.
When should you go?
All non-immigrant visa applications require a personal interview with an Embassy/Consulate. Please check with the one located closest to your home for its application procedures.
To check on the estimated wait time before you will be able to apply for your visa, please visit the U.S. Department of State's "Visa Wait Times" webpage.
Please also keep the following thoughts in mind:
- Remember that the Embassy/Consulate will close for both U.S. and local holidays.
- Try to arrange an interview long before the day you plan to travel to the U.S.
- Most U.S. universities begin their academic year in August, which is a very busy month at the Embassy/Consulate. Plan ahead so you can arrive in time for orientation and class.
This SEVIS fee is required of all foreign nationals who come to the United States for the purpose of pursuing a full course of study in institutions such as colleges, universities, and language training programs.
It is payable one time for each single educational program in which an F-1 or F-3 student participates, extending from the time the student is granted F-1 or F-3 status to the time the student falls out of status, changes status, or departs the U.S. for an extended period of time. This fee went into effect on September 1, 2004.
The SEVIS fee is $200 USD. This fee is separate from and in addition to the visa application fee. The SEVIS fee must be paid by the Internet or by mail. It cannot be paid at a U.S. embassy or consulate and it cannot be paid at port of entry.
You will need to pay the SEVIS fee if you were issued a Form I-20 on or after September 1, 2004 and one of the following conditions applies:
- You are seeking an F-1 or F-3 visa from a United States embassy or consulate for first-time attendance in a language training program. In this case, the SEVIS fee must be paid before visa issuance.
- You hold a valid F-1 or F-3 visa, have been absent from the United States for a period of more than 5 months (not working on your studies during this time with the prior approval of your school), and will re-enter the U.S. for a new program of study. In this case, the SEVIS fee must be paid before re-entry to the U.S.
- As a resident of a contiguous territory or adjacent island, you are exempt from the visa requirement (for example, you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda), and will apply for admission at port-of-entry to begin initial attendance at a U.S. school. In this case, the SEVIS fee must be paid before entry to the U.S.
(Note: F-2 visa holders, the spouse and dependents of the F-1 visa holder, are not required to pay the SEVIS fee. See the section entitled "A Note About Processing Time" for further important fee payment considerations.)
To Pay Online (Recommended)
- Complete the Form I-901 online and supply the necessary Visa, MasterCard, or American Express information. Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 form.
- Print a copy of the online receipt.
- Be sure to make copies of your receipt and keep it with your other important immigration documents.
To Pay By Mail
- Obtain a Form I-901 "Fee Remittance for Certain F, J, and M Nonimmigrants." You can download the form from www.FMJfee.com or you can request the form by phone at 1-800-870-3676 (inside the U.S.)
- Complete the Form I-901. Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 form.
- Prepare a check, international money order, or foreign draft (drawn on U.S. banks only) in the amount of $200 USD, made payable to "The Department of Homeland Security."
- Mail the completed I-901 and payment to the address listed on Form I-901.
- A Form I-797 receipt notice should be mailed within three days of processing the fee. Be sure to make copies of your receipt and keep it with you other important immigration documents.
- A third party such as a friend, family member, or other interested party can pay the fee on your behalf through the same means described above.
For further information, please visit the SEVIS Fee Frequently Asked Questions page.
Common Forms/Documents/Items Required for Visa Application
It is crucial that you take all the proper documents with you during your visa appointment. If you fail to do so, you may be required to return for a second time, which may delay your visa for several weeks.
- Visa application form obtained from the U.S. Embassy/Consulate
- Visa application fee - amount will vary according to the country
- SEVIS Fee receipt (Information about the SEVIS Fee can be found here).
- Immigration form I-20 provided by Widener University or your sponsoring agency
- Letter of admission from Widener University
- Copy of TOEFL score as required by Widener University for non native English speakers
- Proof of finances and/or proof of assistantship award if you have received one
- Photographs for visa
- Valid passport
- Previous school transcripts, diplomas, or record (not always required, but you should be prepared to present them if requested.)
What happens at the U.S.Embassy/Consulate?
You may be required to speak with a consular official that reviews many visa applications every day. The consular officer will quickly review your documents and ask about your plans of study. The officer will verify that you have the academic ability, English language skills, and the financial resources to study at Widener University.
Each applicant's situation is different. While there is no foolproof explanation or documentation that can guarantee that you will get your visa, keeping the following tips in mind will increase your chances:
Ties to the Home Country
Under United States law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they do not plan to emigrate to the U.S. Therefore, you must 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 what bind you to your hometown, 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.
Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. Be sure to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. 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.
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 in case there are questions about funding for example, they should wait in the waiting room.
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 emigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the United States relates to your future professional career when you return home.
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.
It should be clear at a glance to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember, at the most, you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time.
Not All Countries Are Equal
Applicants from countries suffering economic hardship 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 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.
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 a problematic 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 them, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If you family decides to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.
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.
*Credit goes to NAFSA Consular Issues Working Group and Martha Wailes of Indiana University for their contributions to this document.
Documentation for F-2 Dependents
To join you in the U.S., your dependents (spouse or children under 21 years of age) will need to apply for F-2 visas at the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest their home. To apply for the visa, they will need to have a form I-20 from Widener University that lists them as your dependents.
You must request the dependent I-20 two weeks in advance of the date you need to send it. You must provide the name (exactly as written on his or her passport), date of birth and country of citizenship of each of your dependents, and their relationship to you (spouse, son or daughter). In addition, before ISS can issue an I-20 for use by your dependents, we need verification that you have the funds necessary to support their living expenses in the U.S.
ISS will issue an I-20 with your dependents' names listed on the form. We will also give you a verification of enrollment letter to accompany the form. You will need to mail the form to your dependents. They can then use this form to apply for an F-2 visa at the embassy.