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Fall 2021 / Spring 2022: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many US consulates worldwide are either closed or offering only limited service. Visa delays are common - please plan ahead. Individual situations will vary depending on country location, visa type, and other factors. Send an email to internationalcenter@tufts.edu if you have any questions.

What is a US Entry Visa?

A visa is a sticker placed in your passport by a US consulate outside the US. The visa sticker allows you to request entry into the US. Nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas, are issued to person who are intending on coming to the US for a particular purpose, such as study, research, teaching, or other reasons.

  • Once you enter the US, the entry visa does not affect how long you are allowed to stay. It only affects your ability to re-enter the US following a trip abroad.
  • The length of your visa is not based on the length of your academic program (students) or job but on "visa reciprocity" agreements between the US and different countries about standard visa lengths for different types of activities. In general, visa reciprocity means that a person coming to the US to study would get a visa that is of the same length as a US citizen going to another country to do the same type of activity. For the visa reciprocity schedule for your country, go to the US State Department's visa reciprocity page and search for your country and visa type (e.g., "F" for F-1 visa)
  • Canadian citizens do not need visas, but must have other documents related to their purpose of coming to the US (e.g., F-1 students from Canada must still have a Form I-20 and related supporting documents to come to the US in order to study)

Steps to Obtaining a Visa

Once you have your visa certificate(s) from Tufts, you can take steps to apply for the appropriate visa at a US consulate overseas. As a rule, you should plan on applying for a visa in your country of citizenship or country of legal permanent residence. The time it takes to get a visa appointment, and exact visa application procedures, will vary from consulate to consulate, so consult the web site of your consulate for more information.  Planning ahead is also extremely important, as visa processes can take a few days to several months, depending on individual circumstances.

  1. Check your visa certificate from Tufts (e.g., Form I-20, Form DS-2019, I-797 Approval Notice, or other document) to make sure the information on it is correct. Contact the International Center if you have any questions or notice any errors on your form. Sign it at the bottom of page 1 (J-1s must use blue ink to sign Form DS-2019).
  2. Pay your I-901 SEVIS Fee at least three days before your visa appointment (F-1 and J-1 visa applicants only).
    • $350 for F-1 students (F-2 dependents do not pay the fee)
    • $220 for J-1 students and scholars (J-2 dependents do not pay the fee)
  3. Read the information about nonimmigrant status and visa eligibility (see bottom of page)
  4. Make your visa appointment at a US consulate in your country of citizenship or legal permanent residence
  5. Prepare your visa application materials, including:
    • Your passport, which should be valid at least six months into the future
    • Your visa certificate (I-20 or DS-2019)
    • US passport photos
    • Your I-901 SEVIS fee payment receipt (F and J visa applicants only)
    • Financial documents, such as your scholarship letter(s), bank statements, or job offer letter from Tufts
    • Your Tufts admission letter (students) or invitation / appointment letter (for scholars and employees)
    • CV or resume (for scholars and employees)
    • Passports and proof of family relationship for any dependent family members coming with you to the US
    • Other supporting materials as instructed by the International Center or the US consulate
  6. Follow instructions provided by the US consulate regarding the visa approval process, timelines, and pick-up instructions
  7. Plan your arrival to the US
    • Note: F-1 students and J-1 students and scholars coming to start new programs can enter the US only 30 days before the start date printed on their Form I-20 or Form DS-2019

Persons Already in the US in Another Status (Non F-1 or J-1 Status)

If you are already in the US in another status, contact the International Center with details about your specific situation. Depending on your current immigration status and intended activity at Tufts, it may be possible or necessary for you to change your status from within the US. In other cases, the International Center may recommend that you depart the US and return with a new visa following the instructions above. You can also go to our change of status web page for more information.

If You Already have a Valid Visa (F-1 Students)

If you were an F-1 student at another school and obtained a valid F-1 visa through that school, you can still use that visa to enter the US to attend Tufts. You must, however, have a valid I-20 from Tufts. The I-20 will always be from your current school, but the F-1 visa may be used as long as it is valid and unexpired, and even if the SEVIS ID number has since changed. You have the option of applying for a new visa at your nearest consulate, but it is not usually required as a condition of entering the US.

Visa Delays and Denials

Certain persons applying for visas may face delays or denials due to a variety of reasons, such as missing documents. In other cases, a visa application may be delayed due to administrative processing, which is a security check. Read more information about visa delays in our Travel Center and contact the International Center if you have any questions.

Students from China who are facing visa delays or denials due to Presidential Proclamation 10043 should contact the International Center directly at internationalcenter@tufts.edu with details about their specific situations.

Other Visa-Related FAQs

Under the US immigration system, many visas - including the F-1 and J-1 visas - are "nonimmigrant" visas, which mean that they are issued to persons only if they are intending to come to the US for a limited period of time to pursue a specific purpose before returning home. Consequently, you are eligible for a nonimmigrant visa as long as you can demonstrate that you have ties to your home country that you do not intend to abandon. A consular officer may reject your visa application if he/she believes that you do not plan to maintain your home country ties and intend to reside in the US permanently.

There is no one definition of what counts as home country ties, although standard forms of evidence include home country family obligations, employment, property, or other similar considerations. While students may not be able to show all of these types of evidence, the general presumption when applying for a nonimmigrant visa is that you are eligible only if you intend to maintain home country ties.

If you are a citizen of Canada you are not required to apply for a visa before entering the US to study, teach or engage in research. However, you must have a valid visa certificate (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) to enter the US as a student, as well as other documents such as a valid passport, the I-901 SEVIS fee payment, financial documents, and evidence of admission or enrollment to a full-time program.

If you do not specifically request and obtain the appropriate student status when entering the US, you will be considered a visitor (tourist) and therefore ineligible to study and/or work.

I'm going to be a student (or scholar / employee) at Tufts. I only have a tourist visa right now. Can I just come to the US and take care of visa matters later?

If you enter the US as a tourist, you are not allowed to study or work. We do not recommend coming to the US in tourist status unless you are prepared to leave the US again and re-enter using a visa that allows study and/or work.

How do I get a student visa if I'm only going to study part-time?

For the most part, student visas require you to study in a full-time program. You would not be eligible for a F-1 or J-1 student visa, for instance, if you are not going to be pursuing a full-time course of study.

I am already in the US. Can I get a new visa from here?

You cannot obtain a new visa in the US - visas are issued only by US consulates outside the US. However, if you are in the US in valid status, you do not need a valid visa to stay. You only need a valid visa to enter the US.

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