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Applying for a Visa

After paying the I-901 SEVIS Fee and getting a receipt, you must apply for a visa at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate before you come to the United States. Applicants for student visas usually apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country of his or her permanent residence.

To receive a visa, you will have to participate in an in-person interview. During your visa interview, you will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the category of visa for which you are applying. The consular officer will determine if you qualify to receive a visa and which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel.

A visa does not guarantee entrance to the United States; it only permits you to arrive and seek permission to enter the country. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the U.S. port of entry has the final authority to admit entry into the country.

The following pages will assist with this process:

Please click here for the list of websites for U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office, it may be more difficulty to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence.

Also visit tips to remember when applying for a nonimmigrant visa.

You may need to submit the following documents/evidence along with other documents with your visa application:

  • Original I-20 or DS-2019
  • SEVIS Fee payment proof – SEVIS Fee Information
  • Evidence of financial ability to meet expenses
  • Evidence of English ability sufficient for course of study
  • Evidence of intent to depart the U.S. after completion of program
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond your entry date to the U.S.
  • Photograph (check with embassy for specific dimensions)

Additional Information

  • Citizens of Bermuda and Canada do not need to obtain a visa before entering the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status. A citizen from either country simply shows his or her I-20 or DS-2019 at the U.S. border, along with proof of citizenship. Upon entrance into the U.S., either 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 WVU.

  • 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 your visa is still valid, you will not need to renew your visa regardless of the length of time outside the U.S.

Frequently Asked Questions - Visa Issues

Q: What if I find out that I cannot obtain a visa appointment or cannot arrive by my program start date?

We recommend deferring your admission and I-20/DS-2019 until you are able to obtain a visa and arrive in the U.S. Please e-mail our team at if you feel your arrival in the U.S. by your start date will be delayed or you cannot arrive for the start of the semester. We will work with you to defer your I-20/DS-2019 and will have further instructions on how you can defer your admission.

Q: Can your office provide a support letter to improve my chances of obtaining a visa or to secure a visa appointment?

Unfortunately, the Department of State (DOS) has indicated that the visa interview is not a document-driven process and letters or appeals from a university would not be considered in issuance of a non-immigrant visa or to obtain an expedited appointment. There is unfortunately not anything that WVU nor ISSS would be able to do to persuade any embassy to issue a visa or expedite a visa interview for an applicant. Those decisions are strictly up to the DOS and your form I-20/DS-2019 serves as our school’s official information for the embassy official. We cannot provide a support letter for a visa appointment.

Q: What do I do if my visa was denied by a U.S. embassy?

Please e-mail us at with you proof of denial and we will follow up with further guidance. In these instances, you may need to plan to defer your I-20/DS-2019 and admission until you are able to secure a visa with another appointment. If selected for administrative processing, please be advised that this is a DOS procedure and may take several months to complete. Please see Administrative Processing for further information. It these instances, we highly recommend deferral of your I-20/DS-2019 and admission for administrative processing.

Q: At my visa appointment, the embassy official requested that my program start date be changed as it is too late to enter by the previous start date…how do I request a change in start date?

As policy, our office does not change the program start date. Our office must conduct a review of an embassy request and require official confirmation from the embassy of a requested change. Please e-mail with an official document from the U.S. embassy stating the reason for why your visa issuance is held up. If an embassy official indicates it is because of the start date, please provide that document to us for further review. Changes to the start date are not guaranteed and we will need time to review any embassy document for the request. Without official documents from the embassy or consular official, we will not consider a change to a program start date.

Q: I was able to obtain a visa appointment, but it is not until after my program start date OR I have a visa, but I cannot arrive in the U.S. until after my current program start date. What should I do?

As policy, we do not change start dates on the current I-20/DS-2019 for late arrival per U.S. regulation. You must arrive by the start date of your program.

In some instances, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Department of State (DOS) may allow late entry, but it is up to their discretion. If you want to keep a visa appointment and/or can arrive to the U.S. within 30 days after the program start date, you will need express permission from your academic department and/or department in which you are employed to assist. You must reach out and coordinate this with the department(s) and if permitted, ask for an official letter on academic department letterhead that contains:

  • Language that gives express permission from the academic department to you for late arrival and state definitively the latest specific date that you can arrive (within 30 days from program start date),
  • A statement that you can still make adequate progress in your academic work and GA work (if applicable) if arriving late, (you may need an additional letter from an employing department if different from your academic department)
  • A statement about your enrollment attesting that you are enrolled full-time (or can enroll full-time), are not taking online course work or only taking one online course within your full-time credit requirements, and your physical presence is required on campus to pursue a degree in your program.

This letter will need to be:

  • on department letterhead
  • dated
  • signed by an official with authority to do so within the academic department/employer.

You will need to carry this letter with you if attempting entry into the U.S. at your own risk after the program start date. Your academic department and/or your department in which you are employed will let you know if late arrival is possible.

If it is not possible, you will need to request a deferral of the I-20/DS-2019 from ISSS by e-mailing and a deferral of your admission from your academic department/international admissions.

You definitively cannot arrive after 30 days from your current program start date despite any academic department permissions per U.S. regulation and must defer if this is the case.

If this route is pursued, please be advised that visa issuance for late arrival will be up to the DOS and that entry into the U.S. is at the discretion of Customs and Border Protection. It is still possible to be denied a visa and/or be turned away at the U.S. border.

We still recommend deferral of the I-20/DS-2019 and admission date as late entry can be a difficult process at the embassy and at the border - leading to further issues.