Obtaining a Visa

Congratulations on your acceptance to Washington University in St. Louis!

Student Visa and Status Information

Learn about applying for a visa or visa “renewal” on the U.S. Department of State website.
The Department of State website includes information on:

  • Student visa categories
  • Visa application process and advice

The U.S. Embassy website has links to all U.S. consulates. Students can click on the appropriate consulate link to determine what documentation and/or other requirements are needed when applying for an entry visa.


SEVIS Fee


The I-901 SEVIS fee is charged by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to defray the costs of the administration and maintenance of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) that is used to monitor and track F-1 students, J-1 Exchange Visitors and their dependents. The SEVIS fee applies to students:

  • Who are entering the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1 student
  • Are changing status within the U.S. to F-1 or J-1

Please note that if you are already in F-1 or J-1 status in the U.S. and are transferring your status within SEVIS to Washington University in St. Louis, then this fee has already been paid.

This payment cannot be made until you receive your I-20/DS-2019. Once you receive your I-20 or DS-2019, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee by completing an I-901 Fee Remittance form, in English, online. Print the payment confirmation after payment is complete, as you are required to have proof you paid the fee in order to obtain an entry visa.

When you go for your interview at a U.S. consulate abroad, confirmation of SEVIS fee payment must be shown to the consular officer. You can request a visa appointment prior to paying the SEVIS I-901 fee, but must have paid the fee and have a printed payment confirmation prior to your visa interview. If you are a Canadian citizen, you do not require a visa, and you will need to show the SEVIS fee payment confirmation to the officer at the port of entry. Please be advised that you should retain your payment confirmation with your immigration documents, as you may need evidence of this payment in the future.

F-1 and J-1 students who have paid their required I‑901 SEVIS fee can access FMJfee.com on their mobile devices. Though you still must have a printed receipt for the payment, you will be able to access FMJfee.com and check the status of the payment. The mobile‑friendly site will provide news and updates regarding the SEVIS fee, as well as answers to SEVIS fee frequently asked questions.


Entry Visa Application Advice


The procedures you must follow to apply for your visa and the length of time required to process the application vary from consulate to consulate. You should contact the nearest U.S. consulate as soon as possible to request information about visa application procedures and requirements. An interview with a consular officer – now mandatory for all visa applicants – will help determine the outcome of your application. Please consider the following information regarding these crucial interviews:

  • Interviews are usually very short, so you should be prepared and make efficient use of your time with the consular officer.
  • Proper preparation means producing as much documented proof as possible that you meet the criteria that consular officers typically consider important.
  • Interested parties may provide written information to support your application but may not always be allowed to accompany you to the interview; consult the consulate for more information.
  • It is extremely difficult to overcome an initial rejection of a visa application. Although consular officers will reconsider cases if visa applications are denied, applicants must be able to show convincing evidence that their personal, professional or financial circumstances have changed considerably since the previous application. Prepare your first application carefully by presenting your case as clearly as possible.


Making a Successful Visa Application


The information that follows has been compiled from websites prepared by the U.S. Department of State to provide guidance for student visa applicants.

Although there are many suggestions given here, remember that each consulate and consular officer is different and may follow different procedures in processing visa applications, require specific documentation to supplement applications, and give more attention to certain criteria than others when reviewing application materials. Remember also that each applicant’s case is different and will be considered separately from any other applicant’s case; you may do everything suggested here and be denied a visa while a friend who appears less prepared is granted one.

Consular officers reviewing student visa applications appear to have four main concerns. These criteria are listed below and are followed by suggestions of ways to establish that you meet the criteria. This is NOT, however, a comprehensive checklist of things you can do to be assured of getting a visa. Although following all the advice listed on this page still does not guarantee that you will be granted a visa, it should help you prepare for the application and increase the chances that it will be successful.

In the event that your visa application is denied, please contact an international student advisor at the OISS.


Purpose


Your sole purpose of coming to the U.S. is to be a full-time student.

  • You should carefully consider your purpose for coming to the U.S. before you apply for a student visa. Your application is likely to be denied if it appears that you have only partial or primary—rather than sole—interest in being a full-time student during your stay in the U.S..
  • Document your purpose for applying with a completed Form OF-156.


Intent


You have both the ability and intention to be a full-time student.

  • Your ability can be proven with sufficient academic preparation and English-language knowledge. You can document your ability with items such as your diploma, transcripts of courses and test (TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, etc.) scores. Note that if you are required to be interviewed by a consular officer, be aware that verbal responses and written statements you give to the officer during the interview will be viewed as further evidence of your English-language ability. Therefore, you should acknowledge any assistance you have had in preparing statements written in English.
  • Your intention can be evidenced by specific plans for your course of study and clear academic and career goals. Your status document (the I-20 or DS-2019) and acceptance letter issued to you by Washington University will help to support your intention, but your verbal and written statements will also have an impact on the consular officer reviewing your application.


Funding


You possess adequate funds to cover all tuition, health insurance, living and anticipated incidental expenses during your stay in the U.S. without engaging in unauthorized employment.

  • The use of personal or family funds for your financial support in the U.S. can be documented by an official statement from a bank or investment firm stipulating the availability of funds for withdrawal both from the financial institution and the country in which it is located.
  • Proof of a scholarship, assistantship or fellowship award can be documented with a letter from the sponsor stating its ability and intention to provide funds.


Intent to Return to Home Country


You have economic, family, social or other ties to your country that are strong enough to compel your departure from the U.S. upon the completion of your studies. You may be able to meet these criteria with documented proof of:

  • Assets in your country—such as an apartment, a house, land or investments—accompanied by appropriate proof of ownership (lease, deed, financial statement, receipt, etc.)
  • Dependents remaining in your country, such as a spouse, children or elderly parents. Your claim that dependents will rely on you for financial support upon your return to your country might be supported by letters from interested parties (e.g., family members, friends, members of the clergy, social workers, etc.).
  • Employment which you may resume or begin upon your return to your country. The nature of this agreement should be detailed in a contract or letter from your employer.
  • Employment opportunities or prospects which are likely to be available in your country upon your return. The future availability of jobs in your field should be evidenced by articles or advertisements in newspapers, academic or professional publications, etc.
  • Career goals (specified in your verbal/written statements) and talent and potential (supported by letters from former instructors or academic advisors) in your field of study.
  • High social status in your country or connections to influential business people or government officials in your country. Evidence might come in the form of a letter written by the influential person to whom you or your family is connected.

Note: Visa denials often result from applicants’ failure to prove to the consular officer that they have “strong ties” to their countries of residence. It is important that you prepare as much evidence as possible to show that you are compelled to return to your country upon the completion of your proposed course of study in the U.S.