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Applying for an F-1 or J-1 Student Visa

Upon receipt of your Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019) you will need to make an appointment with the American Consulate or Embassy having jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. Although you may apply at any U.S. Consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. You will need to complete the DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application available at the Department of State website. 

You should apply for your visa well before the date you would like to depart for Cincinnati. Remember that you are required to show proof of having paid the Federal SEVIS Fee when you appear for your visa interview. The summer period is very busy at the U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, and it is important for you to have your visa so that you can arrive in time to begin your program. Appointments are now mandatory for all visas, and some U.S. embassies and consulates require that appointments be made at least four to eight weeks in advance. All U.S. embassies and consulates have a website where you can read the latest information on visa procedures. The U.S. Department of State's web site has pages where you can locate the embassy or consulate near you and find information about waiting times for visa appointments.

Before you apply for the visa, you should understand the process and the rules governing visas. Many visa applications fail. In some countries, most applications fail. Often it is because the applicant did not know the rules or was not prepared. We do not want this to happen to you. Please read what follows very carefully.

The consular officer will take a very legalistic view. In the U.S., it is considered important to be impersonal when administering laws. This is considered rude or improper in many countries, but not in the U.S., where the ideal is to apply laws equally to all, regardless of status or sex. Do not try to negotiate or discuss personal matters.

The most important rule may seem strange to you. The consular officer who makes the decision on your visa application is required to think of you as someone who plans to come to the U.S. permanently, and you must prove that you intend to return to your country after completing your program. U.S. law very clearly states that F and J visas may be given only to persons who intend to remain in the U.S. temporarily. This rule is the number one reason that visa applications are denied.

The other important rules are:

  1. You must have a definite academic or professional objective. You must know what you are going to study and where it will lead. Be ready to say what you want to study and what kind of career it will prepare you for in your home country. Be prepared to explain why it is better for you to study in the U.S. than at home.

  2. You must be qualified for the program.

  3. You must be definite about your choice of schools. If you do not seem certain that you want to study or work at the University of Cincinnati, you will not get a visa.

  4. You must be adequately financed and have documents to prove it. Except in the case when employment is specifically authorized on the Form-I-20 (i.e. graduate assistantship), you may not plan to use employment as a means of support while you are in the U.S.

U.S. government officials are convinced more easily by written documents than by spoken statements. When possible, have papers to show your connections to your home country. If your family owns property, take the deeds. If you have a brother or sister who studied in the U.S. and then returned home, take a copy of the brother’s or sister’s diploma and a statement from an employer showing that they have returned home. If possible, show that an individual or company in your home country will give you a job when you return. If you cannot get a promise of a job, try to get a letter saying that you will be considered for a job, or that the company needs people with the kind of education you are coming to the U.S. to receive. If your family owns a business, take letters from a bank, describing the business, to the visa interview with you. Do not emphasize any ties you may have to the United States or to family members in the United States. Your visa application is stronger and better if at least part of your financial support comes from your home country, even if most of it comes from the U.S.

Read your Form I-20 or DS-2019. Some of the rules you must obey are printed on page 2. Be aware of these rules - especially the requirement that you study full-time. Look at the date entered in item #3 for reporting to the school. You must apply for the visa in time to reach the school and check in with UC International services no later than 30 days after that date.

There is no time limit on how soon you can apply for the visa. The sooner you apply the better. Consular offices get extremely busy during the late summer months (July, August, September). However, you will not be allowed to enter the United States more than 30 days prior to the start date on your Certificate of Eligibility.

What to Bring With You to the Visa Interview

Be sure to bring the following with you to the visa appointment:

  • Passport
  • Required photo(s)
  • Visa fee or proof of visa fee payment
  • Federal SEVIS Fee payment receipt
  • U.S. non-immigrant visa application forms (unless you will completing it at the consulate or embassy)
  • University of Cincinnati admission letter or departmental invitation letter
  • University of Cincinnati SEVIS I-20 or SEVIS DS-2019
  • Test scores and academic records
  • Proof of English proficiency
  • Proof of financial support (if applicable)
  • Evidence of ties to your home country
  • Any other documents required by the embassy or consulate

Security Checks

Due to the tragic events of September 11, 2001 in the United States, many visa applicants will be checked against databases maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). This security procedure will delay visa issuance by 20 days or more. If you are from a country on the Department of State’s List of State Sponsors of Terrorism below or are studying in a field on the Critical Fields List below, you will likely be subject to a security check:

Critical Fields List

  1. Conventional Munitions: technologies associated with warhead and large caliber projectiles, fusing and arming systems, electronic counter measures and systems, new or novel explosives and formulation, automated explosive detection methods and equipment.

  2. Nuclear Technology: technologies associated with the production and use of nuclear material for peaceful and military applications include. This includes materials, equipment or technology associated with nuclear physics or nuclear engineering.

  3. Rocket Systems: technologies associated Rocket Systems and unmanned Air Vehicles including ballistic missile systems, space launch vehicles and sounding rockets, cruise missiles, target drones and reconnaissance drones.

  4. Rocket System and Unmanned Air Vehicle Subsystems: technologies associated with propulsion including solid rocket motor stages and liquid propellant engines. Other critical subsystems include re-entry vehicles, guidance sets, thrust vector controls and warhead safing, arming and fusing.

  5. Navigation, Avionics and Flight Control Usable in Rocket Systems and unmanned Air Vehicles: These capabilities directly determine the delivery accuracy and lethality of both unguided and guided weapons. Associated technologies include: Internal navigation systems, Tracking and terminal homing devices, Accelerometers and gyroscopes, Rockets and UAV and flight control systems, and Global Positioning system (GPS).

  6. Chemical, Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering: associated technologies used to produce chemical and biological weapons.

  7. Remote Sensing, Imaging and Reconnaissance: technologies associated with satellite and aircraft remote sensing including military and intelligence reconnaissance activities, drones and remotely piloted vehicles.

  8. Advanced Computer/Microelectronic Technology: Advanced computers and software that play a useful role in the development and deployment of missiles and missile systems, and in the development and production of nuclear weapons, over-the-horizon targeting, airborne early warning targeting, and Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) processors.

  9. Materials Technology: technologies related to the metallic, ceramic and composite materials for structural functions in aircraft, spacecraft missiles, undersea vehicles and propulsion devices.

  10. Information Security: technologies associated with cryptographical systems to ensure secrecy of communications video, data and related software.

  11. Laser and Directed Energy Systems: technologies associated with laser guided bombs, ranging devices, and lasers having critical military applications.

  12. Sensors: technologies associated with marine acoustics, missile launch calibration, night vision devices, high speed photographic equipment and magnetometers.

  13. Marine Technology: technologies associated with submarines and deep submersible vessels, marine propulsion systems designed for undersea use and navigation, radar, acoustic/non-acoustic detection.

  14. Robotics: technologies associated with artificial intelligence, automation computer-controlled machine tools, and pattern recognition technologies.

  15. Urban Planning: technologies associated in the construction or design of systems necessary to sustain modern urban societies including architecture, civil engineering, community development, environmental planning, geography, housing, land use and urban design.

Department of State’s List of State Sponsors of Terrorism:

  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • Sudan
  • Syria

Visa Denial or Visa Delay

The majority of UC students and scholars will be successful in obtaining their visas. Despite this, a small number may have their visa applications denied. 

The most common reasons for visa denial are:

  • failure to prove sufficient ties to your home country, or
  • failure to provide sufficient evidence of financial support.

The visa officer must verbally inform you of the reason for the visa denial. If your visa is denied, please send an e-mail message to and provide the date and location of your visa interview, and details regarding the reason given by the visa officer for the denial. You should also notify us if you are subject to a security check and the check will not me completed in time to arrive for our schedule quarter.

You can view a video tutorial that outlines the process for applying for a student visa below: