Obtaining a U.S. Visa

Obtaining Your F-1 or J-1 Visa

The F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport is a document that allows you to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request permission to enter the United States. You should apply for the visa at a U.S. consulate in your home country, unless circumstances or travel plans make this impossible. It may be possible to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in a country other than your home country. This is called a “third country national (TCN)” application. Not all U.S. consulates accept TCN applications, and some allow TCN applications for limited situations.  Check with individual consulates, including those in Canada and Mexico, for TCN application policies.

Allow ample time for the visa application process. U.S. consulates require in-person interviews for most visa applicants. You are encouraged to schedule the visa interview appointment as early as possible. You can find detailed information on the visa application process on the U.S. Department of State's website. Wait times for a visa interview appointment vary and can be several weeks or more, especially during peak travel periods, so it is important to monitor visa wait times. Students applying for initial-entry F-1 visas may be issued the visa up to 120 days before the I-20 start date. J-1 exchange visitors may be issued a visa at any time before the beginning of their program.

IPO staff will be available every Tuesday from 9:00-10:00 AM EST to answer questions about the F-1/J/1 visa process and to assist you with your next steps to prepare for your arrival.  These are drop-in sessions and will be held on Zoom.  


Step 1: Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee

The I-901 SEVIS fee is required for all F-1 and J-1 students. The fee is $350 for F-1 students and $220 for J-1 students..  Be sure to print your receipt.  The receipt will be needed for your visa interview.


Step 2: Complete the DS-160 visa application and pay the visa application fee

Note: Since May 2019, DOS has been requesting social-media information from nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applicants. The visa application forms now require applicants to provide their social-media history (social-media platforms and username(s)) for the past five years. If applicants cannot
remember all of the required details, they may answer “unknown” and be prepared for additional questioning during the visa application interview. DOS stated that this information will strengthen its process of vetting applicants and confirming their identity. The DOS press release is available on the State Department website.


Step 3: Schedule your visa appointment at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate


Step 4: Go to your visa appointment

Always refer to the Embassy website for post-specific instructions.  In general, be prepared to take the following documents to your visa appointment:

  • I-20 for F-1 students or DS-2019 for J-1 students.
  • Proof of the SEVIS Fee payment.
  • Valid passport.
  • Photos following U.S. State Department guidelines.
  • YSU acceptance letter.
  • Evidence of financial ability to meet expenses.
  • Evidence of English proficiency.
  • Evidence of continuing ties to your home country (such as family, career, or property). Visa applicants are presumed to be “intending immigrants.” Your visa will be denied unless you satisfy the consular officer that you will return home upon completion of your studies.


Consular officers conduct quick interviews! Their initial impression of you is critical to your success. Keep your answers concise. Be honest in everything you write on your visa application and say during the interview.

Be able to explain the reasons you want to study in the U.S. and why you have chosen your specific academic program at YSU.  Remember that your main reason for coming to the United States is to study.  How will this academic program help with your future career goals?

Review these 10 tips to remember when applying for a nonimmigrant visa.


Step 5: Keep YSU updated regarding your visa issuance

Email the International Programs Office updated regarding your visa issuance.  Note that you must arrive to campus in time for orientation.  If you do not receive your visa in time to enter the U.S. and arrive at YSU in time for the start of orientation, you will have to defer your admission to a future term.


Additional Information

  • Canadian citizens do not need to obtain a visa before entering the U.S. A Canadian citizen simply shows his or her I-20 or DS-2019 at the U.S. border, along with proof of Canadian citizenship. Upon entrance into the U.S., a Canadian student should make sure to have his or her I-20 or DS-2019 properly processed and to receive an I-94 card. Without the I-94 card, students may not be able to fully check-in at YSU.
  • The J-1 visa sometimes carries a two-year home residency requirement. The visa holder with the home residency requirement must return to his or her home country for two years after completing the student or scholar program.
  • If you are denied the visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring the next time you apply, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing. Maintain a positive attitude! Do not engage the consular officer in an argument.
  • Plan to enter the U.S. on the F-1 or J-1 visa. Changing from B-2 (visitor) to F-1 or J-1 status in the U.S. takes several months and you may not study while waiting for the change in status. There is also no guarantee that the change of status request will be approved. Those entering the U.S. on a visa waiver program cannot change status in the U.S.