Office of International Programs (OIP)


Introduction

Any student who is traveling outside the United States whose U.S. visa has expired or for whom the status has changed will need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. visa issuing post abroad before the student can return to the United States. In most cases, the visa application will be filed in your home country. You should start the visa process at the earliest possible time upon your arrival back in your home country.

Read information about F Student visas at Department of State's website at t:http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html

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Background checks

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, there has been an increase in the number of criminal background checks done for all visa applicants. State Department consular posts use a computer program called the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS) to check names and visa eligibility of all visa and passport applicants.

If you have ever been arrested, or if you have a name that is the same as or similar to someone who has been arrested, the record will need to be cleared before a visa can be issued. This process can take as long as six to eight weeks, or longer.

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Technology alert list and sensitive areas of study

Students who are considered to be majoring in 鈥渟ensitive areas of study鈥 as determined by the U.S. government may also be required to undergo security clearances before a visa can be issued. There is a document called the 鈥淭echnology Alert List鈥 that visa officers consult for this purpose. China, India, Israel, Pakistan and Russia have received special mention by the U.S. State Department in the context of this list because these countries are considered to possess nuclear capability that is of concern to U.S. national security.

But even if you are not a citizen of one of the countries listed above, your field of study (especially if you are a doctoral student majoring in the sciences, technology, computer science or engineering) might require your visa application to undergo a security clearance REGARDLESS of the country you are from. The State Department has announced that these clearances generally take two to three weeks to review. Once granted, the clearance will be valid for the duration of a student鈥檚 study, to a maximum of four years, unless the field of study changes.

It is strongly recommended that if your field of study is 鈥渟ensitive,鈥 you should obtain a letter from your faculty advisor that explains the nature of your studies and/or your research. The letter should also include a detailed description of your faculty advisor's research in the United States, as well as his/her address, e-mail and telephone number. The letter should be written using language that is easy to understand, and should not exceed the front of one page. In addition, print a copy of your faculty advisor鈥檚 official university web page, containing information regarding his or her research, and attach the letter to it.


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SEVIS requirements and SEVIS fee

Visa officials are required to verify your record in the SEVIS system before a visa can be approved. This is also true for any dependents. Several years ago, there were data transfer problems of some SEVIS records between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State that resulted in lost information, but most of these problems have been resolved. If the visa official is unable to access your record in SEVIS and you have a SEVIS I-20, please contact OIP by e-mail, phone or fax to alert us to the problem.

Continuing F-1 students are not required to pay the Federal SEVIS fee.

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Visa application requirements

To apply for a new visa, you will need to complete application form DS-156 鈥淣on-Immigrant Visa Application鈥 and DS-158 "Contact Information and Work History for Non-Immigrant Visa Applicant.鈥 If you are male, you must also complete the DS-157, the 鈥淪upplemental Non-Immigrant Visa Application.鈥 Note that consular officers reserve the right to require a DS-157 from any applicant for any visa classification. You may download for DS-156 at: http://evisaforms.state.gov/ .These forms are also available as paper copies at any U.S. visa issuing post abroad.

Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the date on which you plan to return to the United States. You will also need one photograph 1 and 1/2 inches square, showing full face, without head covering, against a light background. You will need to have sufficient currency to pay the required visa fees, or a receipt showing that you have paid the visa fees.

You will also need to show proof of financial support, binding ties to your home country which you have no intentions of abandoning, and that you plan to return to your home country upon the conclusion of your studies. Some U.S. consulates will ask you how you plan to use your U.S. education in your home country. Most consulates will ask you to present copies of your academic transcripts to prove that you have been maintaining student status in the United States and that you have been making satisfactory progress in your program. If you are on optional practical training, you will need to present your EAD card and have a letter from your employer, verifying that you are currently employed, your job title and description of duties, and that you are returning to the United States to resume employment.

U.S. visa posts abroad have implemented biometric requirements for visa issuance. You should expect to have your index fingers scanned and a digital photograph taken as part of the visa process.

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"Transit" visas

Check your travel itinerary. If you are traveling to your home country, but your tickets include an intermediate stop in a third country, find out if a transit visa is required, and if so, if it needs to be obtained in advance. The following web link will take you to a listing of all foreign embassies in the United States and their individual web sites: http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/dpl/32122.htm

From there, you can link to visa information for any country you may visit. This is most common for students with flights stopping in the United Kingdom. For information on the requirements for 鈥淰isitor in Transit鈥 visas in the UK, visit the following web link: http://www.britainusa.com/visas/visas.asp

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Documents you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa

  • I-20
    If you will need to apply for a new visa, check the front of your most recently issued I-20 carefully to be sure the field of study, level of study, and source of funds are still correct. See document processing time
  • Passport
    Check the expiration date of your passport. If traveling abroad, your passport MUST be valid at least six months into the future upon your return to the United States. Passports may be renewed at your country's embassy or consulate in the United States, or in your home country. The Office of International Programs (OIP) has a directory of all foreign consulates and embassies, with addresses and phone numbers, for your reference. Or, if you have access to the world wide web, you can obtain up-to-date information on passport renewal. Point your web browser to: http://www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/dpl/32122.htm
  • Letter From Your Department (Depending upon your field of study)
    If you are a graduate student studying a subject or engaged in research that may fit the definition of a 鈥渟ensitive area of study鈥 (see the earlier section on the Technology Alert List) it is recommended that you obtain a letter from your faculty advisor that explains the nature of your studies and/or your research. The letter should also include a detailed description of your faculty advisor's research in the United States, as well as his/her address, e-mail and telephone number. The letter should be written using language that is easy to understand, and should not exceed the front side of one page. Such a letter may be useful if a visa officer is considering whether or not to require a security clearance before issuing the visa. In addition, print a copy of your faculty advisor鈥檚 official university web page, containing information regarding his or her research, and attach the letter to it.
  • Maintaining Status
    Have you been maintaining the conditions of your non-immigrant status? If you are an F-1 student, this means maintaining full time registration each semester at the school you are authorized to attend, reporting changes of address to OIP within ten (10) days, refraining from unauthorized employment, not letting your I-20 to expire, and following the appropriate procedures for school transfer and extensions. F-1s are also required to have health and accident insurance for both themselves and their F-2 dependents, and the insurance must include a medical evacuation and repatriation benefit.
  • SF State Transcript
    Most consulates ask for transcripts when students come to renew their student visas to show that you have been making satisfactory progress towards your degree. In addition to the transcript, also have with you a printed copy of your current semester鈥檚 course registration.
  • Financial Document
    Documented proof of financial support that appears on your I-20 is required if you will be applying for a new student visa abroad, OR if you are a national of Canada or Mexico who is traveling home to Canada or Mexico.
  • Optional Practical Training
    If you are on Optional Practical Training post-completion of studies and will need to obtain a new F-1 visa before returning to the United States, you must have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with you, your SEVIS I-20 endorsed for practical training with a travel signature on page 3 that is less than six months old, and a letter from your employer, verifying your employment status.

 

You may find out the visa wait times for interview appointments and processing time online: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html

Once you have submitted your visa application to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate, you may check your visa application status on the following website:
https://ceac.state.gov/CEACStatTracker/Status.aspx

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