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Student Visa Application Process

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Center for International Programs
West Chester University
320 Mitchell Hall
675 S. Church Street
West Chester, PA 19383

Phone: 610-436-3515
Fax: 610-436-3426

Office Hours:
Monday - Friday, 8:00am - 4:30pm

International Student Advising:
Make an appointment.
Limited availability for walk-ins.

Study Abroad Advising:
Make an appointment.
Limited availability for walk-ins.

Student Visa Application Process

Canadian students are exempt from obtaining an F-1/J-1 visa as they do not need an F-1/J-1 visa stamp in passport to enter the U.S. in international student status.

The process of becoming an F-1 or J-1 student occurs in the following steps:

  1. Receive the F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 from the Center for International Programs.
  2. Every international student or exchange visitor who wishes to begin an “initial” program of study or research is required to pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-901 fee to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The SEVIS fee must be paid with information from the WCU I-20/DS-2019. Print the fee payment receipt to present at visa interview at a U.S. embassy/consulate and at the U.S. Port of Entry.
  3. Complete the DS-160 online visa application
    • Use only the “BACK” and “NEXT” buttons that are part of the application. Do not use the web browser’s back and next arrows
    • Be as completely accurate as possible with any questions asked. Do not submit the application until it is complete
    • At the end of the online application, print the confirmation page with barcode that is required for all phases of the interview
    • The U.S. Department of State provides additional guidance on completing the DS-160
  4. In order to obtain the most current and accurate information on visa application and interview process, international students should review the website and schedule and complete the visa interview at the U.S. embassy/consulate website
  5. Arrive at a U.S. airport and clear customs at a U.S. Port of Entry with the following documents:
    • Original I-20/DS-2019
    • F-1/J-1 student visa stamp in passport
    • Valid passport
    • Financial documents consistent with I-20/DS-2019

Required Documents

Prior to the visa interview, all F-1/J-1 students must make sure their passport accurately reflects their formal name. The name in passport must be broken out into separate lines for given (first) name and family name (last/surname) unless there is only one name and no family name. If the passport page does not accurately reflect the formal name, it is critical for students to get this corrected BEFORE the visa interview.

In general, all applicants for a student visa must provide the following documents:

  • F-1 students must present all three pages of the I-20 form
  • J-1 students must present both pages of the DS-2019 form
  • Confirmation receipt showing completed non-immigrant visa application form DS-160 with the assigned ID number
  • Passport valid for at least six months after the proposed date of entry into the U.S.
  • 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 visa. The receipt(s) must be presented to the consular officer during the interview.
  • SEVIS I-901 Fee payment receipt
  • Proof of funding for amounts listed on I-20/DS-2019

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 that 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, visa and copy of I-20/DS-2019 along with all other required documents

In addition to those documents, CIP advises 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. that are required by CIP
  • Any additional documents that might help establish strong social and economic ties to their 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. CIP advises to schedule the visa interview as soon as possible.

It is important to plan ahead to avoid repeat visits to the embassy/consulate and to receive the visa in a timely manner to attend the mandatory International Student Orientation. Visit the U.S. Department of State website to view visa processing times at U.S. consulates or embassies .

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.

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