Step 3: Apply for a Visa

Applying for a U.S. Visa (video)

After receiving your Form I-20 or DS-2019, you may apply for your F-1 or J-1 visa through your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States.

It is better to apply for your visa in your home country, although if this is not possible, you may be able to apply in another country as well. You may not apply for your visa inside the United States.
You must apply for the visa using the I-20/DS-2019 from the school that you plan to attend.
Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are not required to apply for an F-1/J-1 visa through a U.S. consulate – instead you can present your I-20/DS-2019 to immigration officers when arriving at your port of entry, and they will assess whether you are eligible to enter as an F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor.

I received my I-20/DS-2019 – What do I do next?

-Check that the information on your form is accurate. If the field of study listed on your form does not match the name of your academic program, it is OK. The program names we can choose from when issuing your Form I-20/DS-2019 do not always match the UConn academic program names. Contact ISSS if you find errors.    

- Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee. This fee is $200 for F-1 visa applicants and $180 for J-1 visa applicants. This fee can be paid by credit card online at If you cannot pay online, you may also pay by cash through Western Union. See cash instructions here.  Only F-1 or J-1 visa holders pay this fee – it is not paid for accompanying F-2/J-2 dependents. Print your payment receipt, as this will be needed at your visa interview and for entry to the United States.

-Review the visa application instructions on the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will apply for the visa. Use the embassy locator to find your nearest U.S. embassy/consulate’s website. From the webpage, navigate to the “Nonimmigrant Visas” section for step-by-step instructions.

-You will need information from your Form I-20/DS-2019 to complete the visa process. Your SEVIS Number is the number at the top of your Form that begins with the letter “N”, followed by a series of numbers.

-Complete the DS-160 online application form, and then schedule a visa appointment. When completing the DS-160, students who received a Form I-20 should indicate the purpose of your trip as “Academic or Language Student”. Students who received a Form DS-2019 should indicate the purpose of your trip as “Exchange Visitor”. You will also need to list a contact person in the United States. You may list the name of the DSO who issued your Form I-20, and the ISSS address. Under relationship to you, choose “School Official”.  

-Next, you will follow the instructions to schedule an appointment for your visa interview, and pay any visa fees. If you cannot secure an appointment early enough to arrive for your program start date, you can keep checking back to see if any earlier appointments were cancelled. Alternately, you can check the embassy/consulate website to see if there is a process to request an expedited visa appointment. Usually this requires booking a later appointment, and then following steps to request an expedited appointment.   

The Visa Interview

Your visa interview may happen very quickly. When you go to your visa interview, the consular official is trying to determine whether you are seeking to be a bona fide student, that you have sufficient ties to your home country. All students should bring the following documents:

-Form I-20/DS-2019, signed by you and your DSO (the person who issued the form)

-Proof of I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment

-Valid passport. Passport should be valid at least 6 months beyond your planned arrival date to U.S.

-Financial documents – e.g. bank statement, Graduate Assistantship offer letter, scholarship letter

-If you are financially sponsored by someone (like a parent), proof of your relationship to that person

-Academic documents that show scholastic preparation (test scores such as SAT, TOEFL, etc.)

-If bringing F-2/J-2 dependents: Marriage/birth certificate. Your dependents may apply for their visas with you, provided you have requested their I-20/DS-2019 Forms.

-Any other documents outlined on the webpage of the consulate where you will apply


Graduate students in research programs may also want to consider bringing:

-Research/study plans with detailed information about your planned studies or research in the U.S. (if known). US Visa Information Service in China provides a sample research plan that you can adapt.

-A resume/CV in English

-Your academic advisor’s webpage/CV print out (if you have already been assigned an advising professor)

Administrative Processing

Some visa applications may be selected for administrative processing, which means your application is subject to extra security checks, and your visa stamp will not be issued until you clear this processing. Graduate students in STEM fields may be especially vulnerable to administrative processing. Graduate students in STEM fields should therefore apply for their visas as early as possible. Administrative processing takes on average 60 days to clear. The embassy where you applied for your visa may also give you a timeline for how long the processing should take. Students can check the status of their visa processing at this website. If your visa application is selected for administrative processing, and you are unable to arrive at UConn by your program start date, you may be required to defer your program start date (see below).

My visa is delayed – What if I can’t arrive on time?

All students must arrive by the program start date listed on your Form I-20/DS-2019. If you are unable to arrive on time, please follow these instructions:

Undergraduate students: You must contact ISSS, the undergraduate admission office and your orientation program as soon as possible. If your admission is cancelled, ISSS will cancel your Form I-20/DS-2019.  

Exchange students: Contact ISSS and your UConn and home University exchange coordinator.  

UCAELI students: Contact ISSS and UCAELI. It may be possible to defer your start to a later term.

Graduate students: Contact ISSS and your academic program as soon as possible. If your program allows you to defer your admission to a later semester, the program must inform the Graduate School of this decision as soon as possible. If your admission is deferred, we will issue a new Form I-20 with your new program start date. If you choose to cancel your enrollment, you must notify ISSS, your program, and the Graduate School. Students who do not notify proper offices of your cancellation may be stuck with a fee bill, if your academic records are not properly updated.

Please note that ISSS cannot do anything to expedite the visa process on your behalf, and we cannot make inquiries to U.S. embassies/consulates on your behalf.