APPLYING FOR YOUR U.S. VISA
When to Apply:
If you are currently abroad, and do not yet have a valid U.S. student visa, you generally apply for one at the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your 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.
You should apply for your student visa well in advance of the date you would like to depart for Wilkes-Barre. Remember that you are required to show proof of having paid the Federal SEVIS fee when you appear for your visa interview. Holiday and vacation periods are very busy times at the U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, and it is important for you to have your 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 your 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. Visit http://usembassy.state.gov/ to locate the embassy or consulate near you. For information on waiting times for student visa appointments, visit this link: http://travel.state.gov/visa/tempvisitors wait.php
What to Bring with You to the Visa Interview:
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 be completing it at the consulate or embassy)
- Wilkes University admission letter
- Wilkes University 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 Wilkes, you must present the visa officer with an I-20 issued by Wilkes University. You cannot apply for a U.S. visa using another school’s I-20 and then try to attend Wilkes as that is considered to be a fraudulent entry by the U.S. Immigration authorities.
Strategies for the Visa Appointment:
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 Wilkes 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 officer 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, 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 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 officers 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 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 will almost surely be denied.
Visa Denial or Visa Delay:
The vast majority of Wilkes University students will be successful in obtaining their student visas. Despite this, a small number of students may have their visa applications denied.
The most common reasons for visa denial are:
Failure to prove sufficient ties to your home country, or
Failure to provide sufficient evidence of financial support
The visa officer must verbally inform you of the reason for the visa denial. If your visa is denied, please send an email message to email@example.com and provide the date and location of your visa interview, and details regarding the reason given by the visa officer for the denial.
Much more common than a visa denial is a visa delay. This is why it is so important to apply for your visa EARLY! Here are some of the most common reasons for visa delays:
Closings or reduced hours at U.S. visa issuing posts abroad due to security concerns
Closings or reduced hours at U.S. visa issuing posts abroad due to political instability in the host country
Student’s record does not appear in the SEVIS system at the U.S. embassy or consulate, even though the student or scholar presents a SEVIS I-20. If you are told that you record does not appear in the visa officer’s SEVIS system, immediately contact the International Student Services Office at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the date and location of your visa interview. We will, in turn, contact the appropriate authority to have your SEVIS record resubmitted directly to the location where you have applied for your visa.
Student not presenting proof of Federal SEVIS fee payment
The need for a security advisory opinion prior to visa issuance if the visa applicant is determined to be pursuing a “sensitive area of study” as indicated on the State Department’s Technology Alert List. The fields of study usually include the sciences and engineering.
The need for a security clearance prior to visa issuance if the visa applicant has ever been arrested in the United States, or if the applicant has a name identical to or similar to a person with a previous arrest record.
The need for a security clearance prior to visa issuance if the visa applicant is male, between the ages of 16-46 and a citizen of or born in one of the designated countries requiring security clearances (Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen).
The need for a security clearance for any non-immigrant visa applicant male or female, age 16 or older who is a national of or permanently residing in Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan or Syria. Such individuals will not be issued visas unless the applicant can show evidence that he or she is not a threat to U.S. national security.
The new U.S. Department of State requirement that all applicants for non-immigrant visas be interviewed can cause delay. This new policy has slowed the visa issuance process around the world.
Similar to visa denial, the visa officer must verbally inform you of the reason for the visa delay. If your visa is delayed, please send an email message to email@example.com and provide the date and location of your visa interview, and details regarding the reason given by the visa officer for the delay.
The U.S. State Department has prepared information on student visas on its website that may be useful to you. Visit: http://www.unitedstatesvisas.gov/studying.html
Special Note for Citizens of Canada:
Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain a U.S. visa to enter the United States. However, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will inspect your papers, either at a pre-inspection site in Canada or upon entry to the United States. You must have with you:
- Your Canadian passport
- Your admission letter to Wilkes University
- Proof of Federal SEVIS fee payment
- Your Wilkes University Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20)
- Proof of financial support that corresponds to the information on your I-20
It is essential that you enter the United States in the appropriate status; be sure to have complete documentation with you.