Once you have your I-20 or DS-2019 and have paid your I-90 SEVIS fee you should make a visa appointment at the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. You can find a list of US embassies here. Some embassies and consulates have longer wait times than others. You can find out the wait time for your location here.
Each Visa applicant will need to complete an online DS-160 form and bring a confirmation page to his or her interview. There is currently a fee to be submitted with the DS-160. You will need to upload a photo while completing the DS-160. If the photo upload does not work you will be required to bring a photo with you to the visa interview. For more information review this webpage: Department of State Visa Photo Requirements.
Here’s a list of items you should expect to take with you to your visa appointment:
ISSS recommends that you review the following pages for more information on the visa process.
This website, 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa, provides helpful information about preparing for your actual visa interview and tips for success.
All visa applicants will undergo a security check before they are issued a visa from the Department of State (DOS). There are two types of security checks:
Name check: The DOS will run your name through several data bases, including the National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) database. If your name comes up, your application will be delayed while they verify that you are not the same person as the one in the database. If you have a fairly common name, like John Smith, there is an increased likelihood of a match to your name. Just because your name matches that of others on the database, it does not make you a criminal; it just means that someone with the same or a similar name may be.
Technology Alert List (TAL) and Security Advisory Opinion (SAO): The U.S. government is concerned with technology transfer and security issues, so it maintains a Technology Alert List that shows the fields of research and study that could cause a concern. If the consular officer reviewing your visa request finds your field of study or research on that list, they will request a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO) from the Department of State. Your new visa cannot be issued until your SAO has been cleared.
Once an SAO has been put into effect, there is not a way to speed the process along. Both the interview process and the security checks take time, so getting a visa may take longer than you had planned. Knowing this can help you make other preparations in case you are delayed.
Please note, it is unfortunately not possible for ISSS to help expedite the visa application process. If your visa application is delayed due to a security check, or for some other administrative reason, there is nothing that ISSS - or anyone else - can do to intervene.