Applying for a Visa to Enter the United States

Citizens of all countries except Canada are required to have the appropriate visa in their passports if they are to enter the U.S. in a specific nonimmigrant classification - be it to study, to work or conduct research, or even to be a tourist. In certain limited circumstances, citizens of some coutnries are exempt from have a visitors visa when coming to the U.s. as a visitor for business or for pleasure for periods of 90 days or less.
Visas can only be obtained at a U.S. consulate outside the United States. If you have a valid visa in your passport for the immigration status you are seeking, you generally will not need to obtain a new one. If the visa is expired or if you changed your immigration status inside the U.S., you will need to apply for a new visa.

Applying for a Visa

Application procedures vary considerably from one country to another. Most consulates interview prospective students. If you have a visa interview, it will be short. During the interview, you must make a good impression. Be positive and respond to the questions with clear, concise answers. If your spouse and children will remain in your country, be prepared to explain how they will support themselves in your absence. For the most up to date information, contact the appropriate consulate, and check their website:
To apply for a visa, you will need to submit the following documents to the U.S. Embassy or consulate:
  • Application for Nonimmigrant Visa (Form DS-156), which can be obtained from any U.S. Consulate, or
  • Form DS-158
  • The consular officer might also ask you to complete and sign Form DS-157.
  • Appropriate application fees (check with the Consulate for the fee amount and how it must be paid).
  • Applicants for F and J visas must also show that the $100 SEVIS fee has already been paid on their behalf.
  • One photograph (1½ inches square [37 x 37mm], showing full face, without head covering, against a light background).Please note that if your religious requires your head to be covered, you should attach an explanation about this religious requirement.
  • Passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the intended period of stay in the United States.
  • Either a duly endorsed Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (Form DS-2019) or an I-797 Approval Notice
  • Documents that demonstrate nonimmigrant intent i.e. that you intend to return home (see explanation below), if this applies to you.

Visa Application Fees and Reciprocity Schedules rel="nofollow"

Application fees are broken down into two parts:
  • The $136 machine readable visa fee that every applicant must pay, and
  • The reciprocity fee that varies by country. To find out what reciprocity fee you may be required to pay, check out the fee schedule posted at: