Pre-Departure

Visa and Interview at US Embassy

Please review the following F-1 Visa Interview Advice.

In most countries, first-time student visa applicants are required to appear in-person for an interview. However, each U.S. Consulate/Embassy sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas. Please be sure to consult the local U.S. Consulate/Embassy for specific application instructions.

Once you have been admitted to California State University, Stanislaus an I-20 will be mailed to you. Upon receiving it, you will need to apply for a visa. In general, all applicants for a student visa must provide the documents below:

  • F-1 students must present all 3 pages of the I-20 form to the Consular Officer for review.
  • J-1 students must present both pages of the DS-2019 form to the Consular Officer for review.
  • Completed non-immigrant visa application form (DS-156) with photo for each person applying.
    • A separate form is needed for children, even if they are included on a parent's passport.
    • This form along with the DS-157 is available online on the U.S. Embassy/Consulate website.
  • Passport valid for at least six months after proposed date of entry into the United States
  • Receipt for visa processing fee payment: this fee is paid when students go to the U.S. Consulate/Embassy to apply for the student visa.
    • Fee payment receipt will be issued and students must keep this receipt for each applicant, including each child listed on a parent's passport who is also applying for a U.S. visa.
    • The receipt(s) must be presented to the consular officer during the interview.
  • SEVIS I-901 Fee Payment Receipt
  • Proof of funding; bank statement

Review the SEVIS Fee webpage for more details on the SEVIS Fee and fee payment procedures:

Applicants with dependents must also provide:

  • Proof of the student's relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates).
  • It is preferred families apply for F-1/J-1 and F-2/J-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder's passport and visa, along with all other required documents.

In addition to those documents, it is advised that all applicants should be prepared to provide:

  • Transcripts and diplomas from any previous institutions attended
  • Scores from standardized tests such as the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc. are required by the University
  • Any additional documents that might help establish strong social and economical ties to their home country. Please see the next section for tips on demonstrating ties to home country.

Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments may be difficult to find during that time. It is important to plan ahead to avoid repeat visits to the embassy and to receive the visa in a timely manner to attend the International Student Orientation. Please visit the U.S. Department of State website to view visa processing times at U.S. consulates or embassies.

Tips on Applying for a Student Visa

Occasionally students have been denied visas due to the consular officer not being sufficiently convinced of the student's intentions to return to their native country after completing their studies.

The common reason for a visa denial is on the basis of Section 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that states: "Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status..."

This essentially means that the student must prove beyond doubt "permanent residence" or "strong ties" to his home country. Fortunately, a visa denial is not permanent and can be reversed, if the student can show new, irrefutable evidence.

Here are some tips to demonstrate students' strong ties to their home country:

  • Convince the consular officer that the sole (not just "primary") purpose of the visit to the U.S. is to pursue a program of study
  • Outline post-graduation plans upon returning to home country
  • Document family ties, business interests, and assets in home country
  • Discuss job prospects in home country upon completion of education in the U.S.

In addition to providing the right documents and having the right reasons, making a positive impression on the consular officer is critical in the application process. Here are some interviewing techniques suggested by NAFSA: Association of International Educators:

  1. Speak in English - Practice interviewing in English with a native English speaker. Being fluent and confident will help present the case. However, avoid preparing a speech.
  2. Speak for yourself - Make the case independently. Having parents or others speak on a student's behalf does not make a good impression on the consular officer
  3. Be brief - Keep answers and explanations short and to the point, as consular officers can only spend a few minutes with each applicant
  4. Be positive - Do not argue with the consular officer or come across as rude and sarcastic; even if the visa application is denied.

In the event students are denied a student visa, it is important to not get upset or argue with the consular officer. Most often, these students will be given a letter that explains why the request has been denied.

Students should politely ask the officer how they can improve their chances the next time and what additional documentation they should provide to reverse the denial. They should thank the officer and take down their name for future reference. Students should conduct a thorough re-evaluation of their case and contact the International Education Office for assistance.

NOTE: When students successfully receive their student visa, the consular officer will seal their immigration documents in an envelope and attach it to their passport. Students should not open this envelope! The officer at the U.S. port of entry will open it.

  • You should expect the interview to be conducted in English and not in your native language. It is recommended you practice English with a native speaker before the interview.
  • Consular Officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on those impressions they form during the first minute or two of the interview. 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.
  • Do not bring family members with you to the interview. The officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf.
  • 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.
  • You should make it clear that you do not intend to work in the U.S. after completing your studies. While many students do work off-campus during their studies, this work is not your purpose for traveling to the U.S.
  • If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstance, be employed in the U.S. If asked, be prepared to tell what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the U.S. Volunteer work is permitted activities.
    • An F-2 spouse or children may only engage in study that is avocational or recreational in nature.
    • An F-2 desiring to engage in full time study in a degree program should apply for F1 visa.
  • If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to explain how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially difficult area if you are the primary source of income for your family.
    • If the consular officer gains the impression that your family will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support themselves, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied.