Applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa
Request an I-20
Congratulations on your acceptance to Widener University! In order to ensure that you will be able to arrive in the U.S. in time to attend the required orientation program, you must complete the required immigration processes in a timely manner.
Step 1 is to request an I-20 from Widener.
- Complete the Request for Immigration Document and use this form to determine what immigration documents you must provide (if any).
- Proof of finances is part of the required application. The Estimated Cost of Attendance for 2014-2015 will provide you with the amount of money you need to show in order to get your I-20. The Financial Documentation information sheet will inform you as to the type of financial documentation that is accepted.
- E-mail the Request for Immigration Document form (linked above), your financial documents, a copy of the biographical page of your passport, and any necessary immigration documents as .pdfs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are already in the U.S. as an F-1 Student, you must request your current institution to transfer your SEVIS immigration record to us. Once we receive your immigration record and all required forms, we can issue your I-20. The required forms are those listed above (Request for Immigration Document, financial documents, and copy of biographical page of passport) as well as your current immigration documents: visa, I-94 card/printout, ALL previous I-20s and any other immigration documents you may have.
Change of Status
If you are already in the U.S. on an immigration status other than F-1, you may need to change your status in order to study at Widener. If you are unsure whether you can study on your current visa, please contact us. You should not begin your studies until you have confirmed that your immigration status allows you to do so.
If you know that you want to change your status, please review the documentation in our Change of Status handout, and then contact us to begin the process. This process can take up to 6 months, or more, so begin the process early.
If you wish to bring your spouse and/or children (under age 21) with you, you will need to request an F-2 I-20 document for each dependent. Please note the additional cost for dependents on the Estimated Cost of Attendance document linked above. Your dependent(s) will also need to obtain a visa to enter the U.S.
If you are transferring in, the immigration records of your current dependent(s) will also transfer. If you are changing status, you can include your dependent(s) on that application.
Mailing of your I-20
You must provide all the required documents in order for your I-20 to be issued. In order for your I-20 to be mailed, you must prepay for shipping through eShipGlobal
In order for you to use the eShipGlobal service, you will be required to create your own user account. Please have the following information ready when creating your account: your mailing address, e-mail address, phone number and credit card information. Please pay close attention when filling this information out; incorrect or incomplete address information will result in delayed delivery of your documents. The shipment can be sent to a location in the U.S. or to your foreign address.
- Register and activate your account using the link above. Registration and activation of your account is free.
- Click the "Receive" option on the home page.
- Type "Pennsylvania" in the search box, or select it from the drop down list.
- Select "Widener University – Main Campus" and then "Continue."
- Select the specific university department and then "Continue."
- Complete the shipping form, enter 7-digit student ID number, found at the top of your admit letter and select "Ship/Quote."
- On the confirmation page, check your shipment details.
- On the same page, complete the credit card information form.
- Select "Confirm" to advance to the shipment summary page.
- Widener University will automatically be notified by University Express Mail Services (eShipGlobal) that you have requested your documents via express mail. You can track the shipment using the tracking number provided.
- Receive your documents in 3-5 business days from the date of mailing.
If you experience any problems in registering and processing the shipment, please use the "Help" link in the website for step by step instructions or contact eShipGlobal directly.
Once you have received your I-20, you may then go on to Step 2: paying the SEVIS fee and applying for a visa.
SEVIS Fee and Visa
Now that you have your I-20 (Step 1), you must pay the SEVIS fee and apply for a visa (Step 2).
- If you are a transfer student, you do not need to repay the SEVIS fee or obtain a new visa, unless your current visa is expired and you are leaving the U.S.
- Canadians do not need to obtain a visa but do need to pay the SEVIS fee.
- Dependents do need to obtain a visa but do not need to pay the SEVIS fee.
The SEVIS fee is $200 USD. This fee is separate from and in addition to the visa application fee.
- Complete the Form I-901 and pay via credit card or Western Union. 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.
For further information, please visit the SEVIS Fee Frequently Asked Questions page.
Once you have paid the SEVIS fee, you need to schedule your visa appointment with the U.S. Embassy/Consulate closest to your home. Be mindful of visa wait times. You need to schedule your appointment well in advance of your planned arrival date at Widener.
- Complete the DS-160 Visa Application
- Pay the Visa Application Fee (MRV - approximately $160)
- Follow the instructions given by the U.S. consulate in the city where you will apply for the visa.
On your appointment date, be sure to bring:
- DS-160 receipt
- MRV receipt
- SEVIS fee receipt
- Widener I-20
- Financial documentation/proof of finances
- Widener Letter of Admission
- Academic records such as transcripts, TOEFL scores or other documents
- Any other document required by the embassy
During your appointment, the consular officer will review your documents and ask you about your academic plans. The officer will verify that you have the academic ability, English language skills, and financial resources to study at Widener University. They will also determine whether they think you have sufficient ties to your home country and intend to return home after your studies.
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 student, 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 Treated Equally
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/or 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.