Visa Application & Expiration
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.
Ensure that you have applied for your academic program, received your I-20 / DS-2019, and have paid the SEVIS fee.
Before you apply for any visa, you will need to perform the following tasks:
- Apply for your academic program.
- Apply for any scholarships you may be eligible for.
- Receive your I-20 (F Visa) or DS-2019 (J Visa). You will not be able to schedule a visa interview or pay the SEVIS fee without these documents. For more about these documents, visit the important documents tab.
- Pay the SEVIS fee. This fee indicates which university you are attending.
You will not be able to apply for a visa interview until you have finished these steps. If you are not coming to the United States via an F or J visa, please refer to the page about your visa type for information about the documentation required for your visa.
Make an appointment with the American Consulate or Embassy that has jurisdiction over your home country.
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. If you want to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in Canada or Mexico, please download the instructions.
Find the embassy or consulate closest to you. You should apply for your visa well before the date you would like to depart for Cincinnati.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.
Bring all necessary documents to your visa interview.
These documents include the following:
- 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
Prove that your stay is temporary using appropriate documentation.
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. You must prove that you intend to return to your country after completing your program. You can demonstrate this by following these tips:
- 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.
- You must be qualified for the program.
- 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.
- 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 support while you are in the U.S.
- Remain calm and impersonal when speaking to the consular officer. Do not try to negotiate or discuss personal matters.
- Do not emphasize any ties you may have to the United States or to family members in the United States.
U.S. government officials are convinced more easily by written documents than by spoken statements. When possible, 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.
- Your visa application if at least part of your financial support comes from your home country.
Receive acceptance or denial of your visa.
Always remember that visa approval is at the discretion of Consular Officers viewing visa applications at U.S. embassies and consulates. This means that even if you are accepted to a program and have received your I-20 or DS-2019, the Consular Officers decide if you receive a visa.
In addition, some students and scholars may have a delay in receiving their visa due to a required security check. Security checks are required if you are from a country on the Department of State’s List of State Sponsors of Terrorism or are studying in a field on the Critical Fields List.
If you have been accepted, congratulations! Take a look our orientation and check-in section to see your next steps. And remember, you will not be allowed to enter the United States more than 30 days prior to the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Provide the date and location of your visa interview, and details regarding the reason given by the visa officer for the denial. We will help you reapply or determine your next steps.
Form I-20: Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student
An I-20 can be used for the following:
- To obtain an F-1 visa from American Embassy/Consulate in your home country.
- To enter the US for the first time.
- To reenter after a short visit outside the U.S.
- To transfer to another school.
- For entry of family (spouse, children).
- To extend expected program completion date.
DS-2019: Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Students Status (J-1 Visa)
A DS-2019 can be used for the following:
- To obtain a J-1 visa from American Embassy/Consulate in your home country.
- To enter the US for the first time.
- Extension of stay and renewal of Entry Permit (I-94).
- To re-enter after a short visit outside the U.S.
- For entry of family (spouse, children).
- To extend expected program completion date.
I-94: Arrival-Departure Record
Customs & Border Patrol now electronically records your arrival and departure information at your point of entry. If the last time you entered the U.S. was after April 30, 2013, you will have an electronic I-94 card that can be printed at www.cbp.gov/i94.
If your last date of arrival in the U.S. is prior to April 30, 2013, you will have a paper I-94 card. The I-94 is the small white card in your passport on which the visa classification and the expiration date of your authorized stay is written when you enter the U.S.
A passport is your country’s identification of you as a citizen. Your passport must remain valid at all times. It is not allowed to expire. You may renew it by contacting your Embassy/Consulate within the U.S.
Visa: Stamped Page in Passport
A visa is normally a stamp placed in your passport by an official of the United States (or the country you are entering) permitting your entry. You must have a valid visa to enter the United States (unless visa exempt). However, unlike a passport, once in the U.S., a visa is allowed to expire.
If you want to extend your stay in the United States, you must file a request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status before your authorized stay expires.
If you remain in the United States longer than authorized, you may be barred from returning and/or you may be removed (deported) from the United States. Check the date on your Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, to determine the date your authorized stay expires. We recommend that you apply to extend your stay at least 45 days before your authorized stay expires.
You may apply to extend your stay if:
- You were lawfully admitted into the United States with a nonimmigrant visa
- Your nonimmigrant visa status remains valid
- You have not committed any crimes that make you ineligible for a visa
- You have not violated the conditions of your admission
- Your passport is valid and will remain valid for the duration of your stay
For exchange visitors who are not enrolled students, the sponsoring department must submit a "J-1 Scholar Program Extension" eForm through iBearcatsGlobal at least 5 days prior to the DS-2019 expiring. Proof of insurance (insurance card and copy of the policy) meeting the regulations must also be supplied at the time of extension for those not covered by University Benefits.
Enrolled students need to submit an "Extension of Program" eForm through iBearcatsGlobal. A UC International Services advisor will review the documents and schedule the exchange visitor for an appointment if everything is in order.
You may travel to a contiguous territory or adjacent island and return to the U.S. using an expired visa or an older, different visa for those who have changed status in the U.S., as long as the visit does not exceed 30 days.
Contiguous territory refers to Canada and Mexico. The term "adjacent islands" means Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea (except Cuba).
If you decide to travel using the automatic extension of visa provision, you must:
- Be in possession of a Form I-94 and in the case of an F or J student or exchange visitor, a current I-20 or DS 2019.
- Not be abroad for more than 30 days and the travel must be limited to contiguous territory (Mexico or Canada) or adjacent islands.
- Maintain, and intend to resume, nonimmigrant status.
- Apply for readmission within the authorized period of initial admission.
- Be in possession of a valid passport.
- Not be required to apply for authorization for admission under INA212(d)(3).
- Have a country of citizenship that is not Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea or Cuba.
- Not be traveling to contiguous territories to apply for a new visa.
The length of time you may remain in the United States on exchange visitor status is determined by the general limitations for the category and the length of time needed to complete the objectives outlined by your visa type. However, the expiration date on your visa is not the date that you need to leave by; it is the last date in which you can enter the U.S. In general,
- Exchange Visitors in the Professor or Research Scholar category have a maximum stay of five (5) years.
- Short-Term Scholars have a maximum stay of six (6) months.
- Specialists have a maximum stay of one year.
- Non-degree students have a maximum stay of (2) two years.
- Degree Students do not have a maximum stay limitation. They are permitted to extend for as long as necessary to complete the program of study provided they are studying full time and making good academic progress.
When do I need to leave, specifically?
You can determine the date when you must leave by viewing the Form I-94 online. You must exit the U.S. on or before the departure date listed on the I-94.
Traveling with an Expired Visa
Unless you are traveling to Canada, Mexico or other contiguous territories for less than 30 days, you will need to get a new visa stamp to re-enter the United States. You will need to stop at the American Embassy/Consulate nearest to where you are going. You will need to bring the following items with you:
- Current Form I-20 or DS-2019 endorsed for travel (carry all I-20's / DS-2019's you have ever been issued)
- Valid passport (unless passport exempt)
- Proof of financial support as listed on the form I-20 or DS-2019
- Evidence of intent to return home following completion of study (such as employment letters, property ownership, immediate family, etc.)
- Copy of your UC transcript
- Students on Optional Practical Training should bring their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and proof of employment.
- Students on Academic Training should bring proof of employment.
Visa processing times and procedures do vary by country. For example, some Embassies/Consulates may want to see a recent transcript, others won’t. Some Embassies/Consulates require a personal interview, others don’t. We recommend that you have a friend or relative call the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your home country to find out processing times and procedures.
Or, you may want to call the visa processing office at the Department of State at (202) 663-1225 or visit their website for more information. In addition, if you are studying or conducting research in one of fields listed on the Technology Alert List you may be subject to a security check that could take up to several months to complete. You will want to plan your trip accordingly.
Upon your return, you are required to report to UC International Services immediately with your new visa. We have to maintain a copy of it in your student file.