USA Student Visa FAQ
FAQ for F / M Visa Applicants
Q: I have a valid H4 visa, and I have received admission to a college. Can I use the drop box facility?
A: No. You must go for a personal interview.
Q: Can a person on a visitor visa, if they get admission to a school and get an I-20, be able to change his status to a student?
A: No. Many years ago, U.S. law permitted persons entering on tourist B-2 visas to change the status to F-1 visas. That is no longer the case. A non-immigrant wishing to study in the U.S. must apply from their country of origin or residence if they wish to study in the U.S. on an F-1 visa.
Q: How early should I apply for my Student (F1 or M1) visa?
A: You are encouraged to apply early for your student non-immigrant visa. A student visa may be issued no more than 120 days prior to the start date mentioned on your I-20.
Q: I have received my Student visa; when should I travel?
A: Students (F1 or M1) and Exchange Visitors (J1) may travel within 30 days of the commencement of the course of study stated on their I-20/DS-2019, respectively – regardless of how early your visa was issued.
Q: I am a foreign student currently studying in the U.S. I want to travel outside the U.S.; do I need any special documents to re-enter the United States?
A: Returning students may re-enter the U.S. on their valid F-1 visa as long as they have a valid I-20 with a SEVIS number even if the SEVIS number does not match the number on their visa. The immigration officers at the port of entry will check their system to make sure that the I-20 is valid. The only reason a student should need a new visa is if their old visa has expired.
Q: What is the SEVIS system, and how does it affect me?
A: The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) program requires schools and exchange programs to verify the enrolment status of all continuing and new foreign students and exchange visitors. However, the visa cannot be issued until your SEVIS fee has been paid.
Applicants applying with I-20 forms processed are required to provide the SEVIS I-901 fee receipt as proof of payment. You can log on to www.ice.gov/sevis for further details.
The SEVIS I-901 fee is for students (F-1, F-3, M-1, M-3) is $350.
For J1 visa applicants, the fee is $220.
Certain short-term exchange visitor (au-pairs, summer work/travel, and camp counselors) pay a reduced fee of $35.
Q: Is the I-20 form required for scheduling an appointment? I have received an I-20 from one university. However, I am still waiting for I-20 forms to arrive from other universities. I would like to book the appointment as soon as possible keeping appointment delays in mind.
A: Yes, the I-20 form for the correct university is required.
Alternatively, emergency visa appointments are also available for students under certain circumstances.
Q: What if I receive an I-20 to a better school?
A: If you have received an I-20 after scheduling your appointment, you can not change your SEVIS details on the CGI website. Please inform the U.S. Consular Officer about the same at the time of the interview.
If you have obtained your visa and need to change the name of the university on your visa, you have to go through the complete process once again by scheduling a new appointment after paying the application fee and service charges.
Q: I have a valid F2/M2 visa, and I have gotten admission to a college. Can I use the DropBox facility?
A: No. You need to go through the interview process.
Q: I am applying for an F1/M1 visa, and I would like my spouse to travel with me. Can they apply for a dependent visa (F2/M2) at the same time that I do, or must they wait until my visa has been issued?
A: It is recommended that the spouse and dependent children go for their visas interviews along with the principal applicant.
Q: My F1 visa was issued in November 2009. I was supposed to join the university from January 2010. However, due to personal problems, I could not join the university in January 2010. Is it possible for me to join the university in September 2010? Or can I alternatively enter the U.S. in May 2010 and commence studies from September 2010?
A: You will need to apply for a new student visa if the SEVIS ID number on your new I-20 Form is different from your previous I-20 form. Otherwise, as long as your visa has not expired, you can travel to the U.S. on the same visa for studies starting in September 2010. You can normally enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before commencement of classes.
When you enter the U.S., you must carry a valid I-20 that gives details of the university you are going to study and when your course begins.
Q: I have received my SEVIS I-20 Form and paid my SEVIS I-901 Fee, but I do not have a SEVIS I-901 Fee receipt. Can I appear for my visa interview without the receipt?
A: You can log on the SEVIS website and check the status of your SEVIS fees and can check whether you can obtain a fee receipt.
Q: I was working earlier on an H1B visa. I have now taken admission in a University under F1 status. Do I need to return to my country to stamp the student visa?
A: No. Only if you leave the U.S., will you have to apply for the Student visa in order to enter the U.S.
Q: My dependents would like to visit me for a short term. What kind of visa do they need to apply?
A: They can apply for a tourist visa.
Q: How can I stay longer as a tourist than the permitted 30 days after my J or M visa status expires?
A: You can apply for a change of status as a tourist by filing I-539 form with USCIS around 2 months prior to the official end of the program. Alternatively, you could leave the U.S. before your authorized duration ends and re-enter on your tourist visa.
FAQ for J1 Visa Applicants
Q: How long may I stay in the U.S. on my J-1 visa?
A: When you enter the United States on an exchange visitor visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your program, plus a period of 30 days after for the purpose of travel. The immigration inspector at the port of entry/airport makes the final decision on how long anyone may stay in the U.S. Form DS-2019 indicates the duration of your program. The 30-day grace or travel status period at the end of the exchange visitor’s program is for domestic travel and/or to prepare for and depart from the U.S. and for no other purpose. A spouse or child (J-2 visa holder) can’t be admitted for longer than the exchange visitor (J-1 visa holder).
Q: What is the “Two-Year Rule?”
A: The “Two-Year Rule” is the common term used for a section of immigration law which requires that many exchange visitors return to their home countries and be physically present there for at least two years after the conclusion of their exchange visit before they can be issued certain types of non-immigrant visas, specifically H-1, L-1, K-1, and immigrant visas.
It is important to note that only a preliminary finding of whether the “Two-Year Rule” applies to you is made on your DS-2019 when your J-1 visa is issued. The final decision is made only if/when you choose to apply for an H-1, L-1, K-1, or Immigrant visa.
Only after two years may these persons apply again for certain types of non-immigrant visas. They also not permitted to remain in the United States and apply for an adjustment/change of status to a prohibited non-immigrant status (for example, J-1 to H-1) or to apply for permanent resident status (green card) without first returning home for two years, and without an approved waiver.
Whether you are subject to the Rule is determined by a number of factors, including your source of funding and your country’s “Skills List”. It is not determined by the amount of time you spend in the U.S.
Q: Can the “Two-Year Rule” be waived?
A: Only the Department of State’s Visa Office adjudicates the “Two-Year Rule” waivers. This Visa Office is also the final authority on whether an applicant is actually subject to the Rule, regardless of whether it was annotated in your passport or not.
If you are subject to the “Two-Year Rule” requirement, you may be able to obtain a waiver and thus be eligible to apply for visas normally prohibited for those subject to the “Two-Year Rule”. You can find instructions on how to apply for a waiver here.
Please note that the “Two-Year Rule” applies only to the later issuance of H (work), L-1 (intra-company transfer), K-1 (fiancè / fiancèe), or Immigrant visas. Even if subject to the “Two-Year Rule”, you may still qualify for the issuance of a tourist visa or any other non-immigrant visa except for those noted above.
Q: I am applying for a J1 visa, and I would like my spouse to travel with me; Can they apply for a dependent visa (J2) at the same time that I do, or must they wait until my visa has been issued?
A: It is advisable for the spouse and dependent children to go for their visa interviews at the same time as the principal applicant.