Review Your Immigration Documents

  • Confirm the information on your I-20 or DS-2019 is correct and seek a correction if necessary.
    • Most exchange students will apply for the J-1 exchange visitor visa.
  • Confirm your passport meets validity requirements and, if not, renew your passport.

Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee

Make Your Visa Appointment

You should apply for your visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. Depending on your country of residence and field of study or research, visa processing times can be lengthy so apply early.

Prepare For and Attend Your Visa Interview

Be prepared to discuss and document your 1) academic preparation and purpose for traveling to the U.S.; 2) intent to depart the U.S. after your program; and 3) ability to pay all expenses associated with your program.

Visa Processing and Delays

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 Department of State 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, 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.

If further Administrative Processing is required, you must wait 60 days from the interview date or the date of supplemental document submission, whichever is later, to make an inquiry.

  • ISSS is unable to help expedite or intervene in your visa application process.