Obtaining a U.S. Visa: How to Apply for an F-1 Visa a U.S. Embassy/Consulate Abroad
Visa and Status: An Important Distinction
An F-1 visa is granted by a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad (i.e., located outside the United States). It is important to distinguish between an F-1 visa and F-1 status. The visa is the stamped page in your passport placed there by a U.S. Consular Officer for entry purposes only. Issuance of visas is regulated by the U.S. Department of State. F-1 status is granted once you enter the United States and is regulated by the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (CIS). Once you have entered the United States, the visa has no function. If it expires, it will have no effect on your legal F-1 status as long as you remain in the United States with a valid Form I-20 and a valid passport (see Compliance with U.S. Immigration Laws & Regulations). If you plan to travel outside the United States with an expired visa and want to return to resume your F-1 program, you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad. Please be aware that there is no guarantee whatsoever that you will be granted a new visa. If you are denied, you will not be able to re-enter the United States. For information about exceptions to the requirement for a visa see Re-Entry to the United States with an Expired Visa.
Applying for an F-1 Visa
When applying for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate, you will need to present the following documents:
- Form I-20 signed by a Designated School Official at the educational institution you plan to attend.
- Evidence of financial support.
Proof of residence abroad to which you intend to return after completion of studies.
According to federal regulations at [22 CFR 41.11], "an applicant for a non-immigrant
visa shall be presumed to be an immigrant until the consular officer is satisfied that
the applicant is entitled to a non-immigrant status . . . The burden of proof is upon
the applicant to establish entitlement for non-immigrant visa status and the type of
non-immigrant visa for which application is made." A common reason for denial of a visa
application is simply that the consular officer is not convinced that you intend to
return home. The consular officer has the discretion to require whatever evidence he/she
deems necessary. You should, therefore, be prepared to provide evidence to the consular
officer that there is both a need and a reason for you to return to your home country.
This may be done by providing:
- evidence of a job offer in your home country or evidence of a job to which you plan to return
- proof of ownership of property
- proof of various other assets in your home country
- evidence of family ties and responsibilities
- A valid passport.
Other documentation which may be required includes:
- evidence of competence in English
- evidence of education achievements (i.e., transcripts or diplomas)
- police certificates
- an application fee
If you have additional questions or need additional information, please contact a staff member in the Office of International Student, Faculty, & Staff Services at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
EXPLANATION OF TRAVEL ENDORSEMENT ON FORM I-20 or FORM DS-2019
Your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 has been endorsed to facilitate your travel outside of the
United States and your subsequent re-entry. The endorsement is valid for one year from the
date that it has been signed or until the expiration date of the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019,
whichever comes first. The expiration date is given on line #5 of the Form I-20 and line #3
of the Form DS-2019.
Following are exceptions to the validity of this one-year endorsement. Please read carefully.
- On the date that you complete your degree or program the endorsement is no longer valid. For students this may be the date you submit your thesis, complete the semester, or graduate. For scholars this may be the date you terminate your employment or program with your department.
- A new travel endorsement must be obtained for F-1 students on Optional Practical Training (OPT), and J-1 students on Academic Training (AT) after application approval.
- If the visa stamp in your passport has expired you may need to have a new Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 issued prior to your travel in order to facilitate your application for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. With few exceptions, you MUST have a valid entry visa in order to re-enter the United States.
- If you are academically dropped, suspended, expelled, or terminated from the University, your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 and any travel endorsement(s) on the Form is no longer valid. It is imperative that you talk with an OIS Advisor concerning your nonimmigrant status. If one of these situations applies to you and you travel outside of the U.S., you should not use the endorsed Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 to re-enter the U.S. or you will be out of legal status and may be consider to have entered the United States fraudulently, which could result in a 5-year or lifetime bar on future admission to the United States.
- If you are out of the U.S. for more than 5 months, your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 will no longer be valid for re-entry. Please notify OIS of such prolonged absences so we may provide the best advice for future re-entry to the U.S.
GENERAL TRAVEL INFORMATION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- You may need a visa to enter the country to which you are traveling. Please be sure to check with that country's Embassy or Consulate in the U.S.
- Due to heightened levels of security, the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security have indicated that certain visa applicants may receive greater scrutiny, resulting in delays. Please plan accordingly. Some security clearances may take up to 30 days to complete.
- Before traveling you may wish to review the specific instructions and procedures in effect at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be applying for a visa. See the following website for links to al U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide: http://travel.state.gov/links.html .
- Keep a written log of each time you leave the U.S. and re-enter the U.S.
- Keep copies of all documents issued to you (Form I-20, Form DS-2019, Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, passport, visa(s), etc.).
- Travel to Contiguous Territories and/or Adjacent Islands for Less Than 30 Days with an Expired Visa
If you will be traveling to contiguous territories (Canada or Mexico) and/or adjacent islands (Saint Pierre Miquelon, Domincan Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, Barbados, Jamaica, the Winward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, or other British, French, or Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering the Caribbean Sea) for 30 days or less and you are not a citizen of one of those countries, you may be eligible to re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa under a program called "Automatic Revalidation." If you travel for less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands referenced above, you may be allowed to re-enter the U.S. with an expired nonimmigrant F or J visa in your passport.
In order to re-enter the U.S. under the Automatic Revalidation program, you must show the following documentation to the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Officer at the Port of Entry:
- your expired visa
- a valid passport
- a valid Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 endorsed by an authorized OIS staff member
- a valid Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
Following are exceptions to automatic visa revalidation. Please read carefully
- Automatic Revalidation is cancelled if you choose to apply for a visa and are denied.
- Citizens of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are not eligible for Automatic Revalidation when traveling to Canada, Mexico, and/or the adjacent islands referenced above. Citizens from these countries must have a valid visa before they may re-enter the U.S.
- If you remain in Canada, Mexico, and/or the adjacent islands referenced above for more than 30 days, you must obtain a re-entry visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you may enter the U.S. As a "third country national," your application for a re-entry visa may be the lowest priority and may be denied.
- National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS)
If you are subject to the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), you must depart the United States from a Designated Port of Exit and register with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) upon your departure Comprehensive information regarding the NSEERS program is available at the Department of Homeland Security's website.
U.S. Visitor & Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (U.S.-VISIT)
The U.S.-VISIT program is a U.S. government program under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is used to help verify the identity of nonimmigrant foreign nationals that travel to the United States for work, study or business. Under the new system, visitors initially encounter an inkless fingerprint scanner and a camera at U.S. air, sea, and land ports of entry. The biometrics are checked against terrorist watch lists each time they enter the United States. Exit points are also established as part of the U.S. VISIT program. For more information, go to http://www.dhs.gov/us-visit.
CHECK IN WITH US UPON RE-ENTRY
Finally, upon your re-entry to the United States, it is critical that you and/or your dependents check in with OIS and provide the office with updated copies of your I-94 Arrival/Departure Records, passports (if applicable), visas (if applicable), and Forms I-20 or Forms DS-2019 (of applicable). Your failure to keep OIS up-to-date regarding your or your dependents' re-entry may prevent OIS staff from being able to serve you most effectively and efficiently, and may also jeopardize your or your dependents legal status in the United States.
ALL OTHER VISA CLASSIFICATIONS
For specific information about travel requirements for all other visa classifications (e.g., H-1B1, TN, B-1/B-2, Permanent Resident, etc.), please contact a staff member in the Office of International Student, Faculty, & Staff Services.