In order to apply for your visa you will need to take your Certificate of Eligibility form (I-20 or DS-2019) to an U.S. embassy or consulate to apply for your visa. Please make sure you sign this form as soon as you receive it. It is recommended that you apply for your visa with the consulate in your country of citizenship, which has jurisdiction over the region in which you live. Although you may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside your country of permanent residence.
You may apply for your visa up to 90 days before the start date of your program. We encourage you to apply for your visa as early as possible. Please note however, that you may not enter the U.S. until 30 days prior to the program start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019.
When you go to the consulate you will need to bring with you the following items: (Visit Department of State Consular Affairs Website for more information)
The procedures for obtaining a visa vary greatly around the world. Therefore, we encourage you to check with your nearest US consulate on their required procedures to plan your application process accordingly. In some countries you must apply for your visa in person, and an appointment may be required. If this happens you may also be required to have an interview with an U.S. consular officer. While in some other countries, you can only apply by mail or you will apply in person and you will only need to submit your passport and supporting documents to a clerk, who will return them to you once your visa application is decided upon.
Special Note for Canadian Citizens:
Canadian Citizens are not required to obtain an U.S. visa to enter the United States. However, an U.S. Immigration officer will inspect your papers, either at a pre-inspection site in Canada or upon entry to the U.S. You must have with you proof of Canadian citizenship, your admission letter to Florida Gulf Coast University, your Certification of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019), the receipt of payment for the I-901 SEVIS fee, and proof of financial support that corresponds to the information on your I-20 or DS-2019. It is essential that you enter the U.S. with all the required documentation to ensure that you will be admitted under the appropriate status.
Helpful Tips for the Visa Interview at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate
Ties to Your Home Country:
Under U.S. law, all applicants for non-immigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants unless they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. “Ties” to your home country are the things that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. You may be asked about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans, and career prospects in your home country. Each person’s situation is different, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate or letter, that can guarantee visa issuance.
Anticipate that the visa interview, should there be one, will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular official will want to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf.
Know the academic program to which you have been admitted and how it fits into your career plans. If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the U.S. consular official that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should be able to explain how studying in the U.S. relates to your future professional career when you return home.
Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute or two of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer’s questions short and to the point.
It should be clear at a glance to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time at best.
Your main purpose for coming to the U.S. is to study, not for the chance of work before or after graduation. While many students may work part-time during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the U.S. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the U.S. Volunteer work and attending school are permitted activities.
Dependents Remaining at Home:
If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family members will need you to remit money from the U.S. in order to support them, your student visa application will almost certainly denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.
Do not engage the consular official in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and obtain, in writing, an explanation of the reason you were denied. You are allowed to reapply for a student visa two more times with your I-20. If you are denied all three times, you can no longer use this I-20 and you can not reapply for at least seven months.
Provided by The Association of International Educators (NAFSA)
Mandatory SEVIS Fee
The Department of Homeland Security has just published regulations implementing a $200 SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System) fee for F-1 international students and $180 for Exchange visitors (visiting scholars). The US government [DHS] is imposing this fee in order to help fund SEVIS, as authorized by the 1996 legislation establishing the SEVIS program. Florida Gulf Coast Universitylike all U.S. colleges and universities authorized to admit F-1 and J-1 students and J-1 Exchange Visitors, has been required to participate in the SEVIS system since January, 2003.
All new international students and exchange visitors will have to pay the fee before obtaining an F-1 or J-1 visa. The fee does not affect people applying for other types of visas (H1-B, etc.) The fee only affects students and exchange visitors whose I-20 or DS-2019 forms for "initial attendance" or "begin a new program" are issued after September 1, 2004.
Continuing students and continuing Exchange Visitors, in general, are not subject to the SEVIS fee. Students and exchange visitors will be able to pay the fee by submitting Form I-901 (Fee Remittance for Certain F, M and J Non-immigrants) either through the internet using a credit card (http://www.fmjfee.com/) or through the mail using a check or money order.
For more information, please contact the International Services at (239) 590-7925.
What is SEVIS?
SEVIS is the Student and Exchange Visitors Information System. SEVIS is an Internet-based database system maintained by the Department of Homeland Security that is designed to provide users with access to accurate and current information on nonimmigrant foreign students, exchange visitors and their dependents. SEVIS-approved schools and exchange visitor programs will use SEVIS to issue visas and track extensions, transfers, authorized employment, reduced course loads and other reportable information. SEVIS simply requires that the federal government maintain this information in a Internet-based computer system rather than in paper files by individual exchange visitor programs, schools, colleges and universities. SEVIS applies only to those nonimmigrant aliens who are in the country on either a F, J or M visa.
Who has access to SEVIS?
SEVIS database system has links to all US embassies and consulates, all ports of entry in this country, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of State, authorized employees of exchange visitor programs and authorized employees of every academic institution that sponsors international students and scholars. At Florida Gulf Coast University, the Designated School Officials (DSO) and Responsible Officers (RO) who have access to SEVIS, are located in the Office of International Services.