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Applying for Your US Visa

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 for a particular purpose, such as study, research, teaching, or other reasons. Once you enter the US, the 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.

Steps to Obtaining a Visa

Once you have your visa document(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 document 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.
  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
    • When making your appointment, you may need to complete the Form DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application and pay the DS-160 fee (currently US$160)
  5. Prepare your visa application materials, including:
    • Your passport, which should be valid at least six months into the future
    • Your visa document
    • 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

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.

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.

Other Visa-Related Information

Under the US immigration system, many visas - such as the F-1 student visa, the J-1 visa, and the H-1B visa - are "nonimmigrant" visas, which mean that they are issued to allow a person 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.

Note: the H-1B visa, in contrast to F-1 or J-1 visa applicants, is considered a "dual-intent" visa allowing you to intend to either return to your home country or to pursue permanent residence in the US.

F-1 students and J-1 students and scholars are required to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee when making their initial (first) visa application for a particular period of study. The SEVIS fee is used to support the Student and Exchange Visitor Information (SEVIS) system, which is used by the US Department of Homeland Security to maintain F-1 and J-1 records and to produce corresponding visa documents (Form I-20 and Form DS-2019). The SEVIS fee is usually a one-time fee that lasts the duration of your F-1 studies or J-1 program. A new fee is necessary only if you stop and complete your program and then return to the US at a later time to start a new program. Only the F-1 student or J-1 student / scholar needs to pay the fee. Any accompanying F-2 or J-2 family members are exempt from the fee. As of June 2019, the SEVIS fee is now US$350 for F-1 students and US$220 for J-1 students and scholars.

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 carry your passport, the visa document(s) appropriate to your intended activity, as well as any supporting documents that correspond to your requested status. For example, if you are coming to the US to be an international student, you must have either a Form I-20 (for F-1 status) or Form DS-2019 (for J-1 status), in addition to your I-901 SEVIS fee payment, admission letter, and financial documents. These documents must be presented at a US port of entry or border crossing so that you can request the appropriate immigration status upon arrival.

If you do not specifically request and obtain the appropriate status when entering the US, you will be considered a visitor (tourist) and therefore ineligible to study and/or work. Consequently, it is important to be sure to present the correct documents when entering the US.

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?

Contact the International Center for more information. Since individual situations may vary, it's important to understand what your current visa type is before we can advise if you will need to leave the US and get a new visa.

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