Applying for a U.S. Visa Stamp
International students and scholars must have a valid stamp in their passport to be eligible for entry or re-entry to the United States. There are some exceptions for travel to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island for less than 30 days. However you do not need to have a valid visa stamp to remain within the U.S. Visa stamps are obtained at US Consulates abroad. It is not possible to get a U.S. visa stamp (not even a renewal) within the U.S. (Note that citizens of Canada do not need a visa stamp in their passports in order to enter the U.S.)
We would like to assist all international students and scholars in meeting their educational goals and we hope that all international students and scholars are successful in their visa applications at the US Consulates abroad. However, students and scholars may encounter some difficulties which could cause delays or denials of visa applications. These difficulties may include:
- Paying the SEVIS fee
- Demonstrating "Non-Immigrant Intent"
- Security Clearances
- Interviews Required for Visa Applications
- SEVIS and the Consolidated Consular Database (CCD)
- Documents Required for the Visa Application
See below to find out if you will be subject to the new SEVIS fee and how to pay it if you are.
Potential F, M or J nonimmigrants, who must pay the I-901 SEVIS fee, will experience problems verifying their payment was successfully updated. If the confirmation page does not appear within 2 minutes, please do not resubmit the payment. Please send an email to email@example.com to get confirmation via emailPlease advise your prospective students or exchange visitors to only make 1 payment to avoid overpaying. In addition, please advise that SEVP is diligently working to resolve the problem. The FMJFee team is available for any. Please contact the FMJFee team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions and/or concerns.
What is the SEVIS fee?
SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a central computerized system that maintains and manages data about foreign students (F-1, J-1 and M-1), exchange visitors (J-1), and their dependents (F-2, J-2 and M-2) during their stay in the United States. The SEVIS program was implemented in August 2003 for all international students and scholars.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) charges a fee of $200 for all new F-1 and M-1 applicants and a $180 fee for all J students, research scholars, professors and short-term scholars. The fee is required by DHS and is used to cover the costs of the operation of the SEVIS program.
Further information on the SEVIS fee is available at the following web sites:
- U.S.I.C.E. SEVIS Fee Frequently Asked Questions
- U.S.I.C.E. SEVIS Fee General Information
- U.S.I.C.E. SEVIS Home Page
All applicants for an F or J visa are required to demonstrate their intent to return to their home country following the completion of their academic programs. There are several ways you can be prepared to support your intent to return home in your visa interview:
- have a few sentences in mind that express how you intend to use your degree or research at home after your finish your program
- bring copies of deeds to any property (land, house, apartment) that you or your family owns in your home country
- bring bank statements of any accounts that you or your family maintain in your home country
- if you have an employer who intends to employ you when you return home, bring a letter from that employer
Field of Study: If a visa applicant's area of study is on the U.S. federal government’s “technology alert list,” the U.S. consulate may complete a security clearance prior to granting the visa. This process may delay your visa application by anywhere from one to three months. There is no way to know for certain ahead of time whether you will be subject to this type of clearance. If you find that your field of study is on the list, it would be advisable to get a letter from a professor on your committee which describes briefly and in layman's terms the specific area of your research. This letter will not deter a security clearance, but it may expedite the clearance.
Country of Citizenship, Nationality or Birth: A security clearance may also be required by the U.S. consulate if a visa applicant is born in or is a citizen or national of certain countries. The list of countries is not published, but seems to include the following:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the territories of Gaza and West Bank.
If you have applied for a visa and you have been waiting for more than one month for the results of a security advisory opinion, please contact the OISS to inform us of the delay.
As of May 2003, the regulations governing visa applications have been revised to require that U.S. consulates interview nearly all internationals applying for non-immigrant visa stamps. There will be only rare situations in which an applicant will be able to get a visa without the interview. You can read the government cable that applies to these exceptions. The requirement for the interview will mean that you may experience longer delays in getting an appointment at the U.S. consulate than you have in the past.
If you have an I-20 or a DS-2019 from Cornell University, then we have entered your information into the SEVIS database system. However, even though we have entered your information into that database, the consulates still may not be able to see your record. This is because the consulates actually look at your SEVIS record through their own database, referred to as the Consolidated Consular Database or the CCD. Records from SEVIS are supposed to be exported and uploaded to the CCD every 24 hours. Unfortunately, the system is not working perfectly, and the records of the CCD are not always complete. If a consular officer informs you that your records are not available in SEVIS, please contact the OISS immediately. We will then contact the National SEVIS helpdesk and attempt to resolve the problem. Unfortunately, we are not able to make any advance arrangements to ensure that your record will be seen by the consulate.
We are here to help you in whatever ways we are able. If you do plan to travel out of the U.S. and are going to need to apply for a visa, come in to the OISS before you go to discuss the documents you need to have with you:
- valid passport
- valid I-20 for F-1, DS-2019 for J-1, or other documents such as H1B approval notice (please see H1B travel page if you are applying for an H1B visa stamp)
- If you are a newly admitted student to Cornell, bring your admissions letter from Cornell to your visa interview
- If you are an F-1 student on OPT after graduating, also bring your OPT card and job offer letter
- SEVIS fee for NEW F-1 or J-1 status (read here for SEVIS fee info)
- recent financial support documents
- proof of enrollment (certificate of enrollment or transcript). Newly admitted students do NOT need this. You can obtain a certificate of enrollment from the registrar’s office.
- for F or J status, be sure to include documents in support of your "non-immigrant intent" as described above.
- employment offer letter if you are an academic staff member at Cornell
- Also please contact the specific U.S. Consulate you will visit to determine if they require additional documentation including Form DS 156, which is available at the consulate or on the consulate web site.
Contact the U.S. Consulate where you will apply:
Those applying for new visas may wish to contact the U.S. Consulate in their country to determine if any additional documents may be required for visa applications and to confirm the hours of operation and length of time needed to secure the visa. It is important to note that the U.S. consulate may require a security clearance which could result in delays in obtaining your visa. We recommend that you apply for your visa as soon as possible after arriving in your home country so that you may reduce the chances that your return to the U.S. will be delayed.