Applying for a Visa
Obtaining the U.S. Visa and Entry to the United States
Students who receive the I-20 form ("Certificate of Eligibility") will apply for the F-1 Visa
Students or Scholars who receive the DS-2019 form ("Certificate of Eligibility") will apply for the J-1 Visa
Applying for a Visa
Pay your SEVIS I-901 fee. You should only pay the I-901 fee for I-20/DS-2019 of the school you plan to attend.
Review the visa application procedures for your country's embassy or consulate. Please also review the estimated visa wait times.
Complete the Department of State's DS-160 form and pay the DS-160 fee, then schedule your visa appointment. The visa appointment should be no earlier than 120 days prior to your program start date.
Requesting an emergency appointment: Some embassies and consulates continue to have closures and other limited availability. Before you can request an emergency appointment you must schedule a visa appointment for a future date (even if it is later than you want it to be). Then, you can follow the embassy/consulate's procedures for requesting an emergency appointment (if such a request is available). Unfortunately, there is no guarantee an embassy/consulate can or will approve your request to schedule an appointment prior to the I-20 or DS-2019 start date.
Generally, the embassy/consulate will ask for a copy of the I-20/DS-2019 as evidence of an emergency need (based on the I-20/DS-2019 program start date). In order to not delay processing we recommend only sending the materials the visa officer actually needs to make a determination on your request. Generally, U.S. Department of State does not require or consider a letter from the University unless one is specifically requested (as is sometimes the case when a student is selected for administrative processing). But in order to help our students feel supported, you may print and/or use this letter from our office confirming the semester start date (identical to what is already documented on your I-20 or DS-2019). This letter is not required and is not expected to make any substantial impact on the outcome of your request.
You may also find this video helpful for understanding how emergency appointment requests are handled.
If you cannot get an appointment prior to the start of classes you will likely need to defer your admission and I-20/DS-2019 to the next session start date, if available. Contact ISSS and Admissions for assistance with this procedure.
- Bring all required documents to your visa interview.
If the visa is granted you will use that student visa along with your passport and the I-20/DS-2019 for the school you plan to attend when entering the U.S. You may enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days prior to the program start date indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019.
Documents You Will Need to Apply for Your U.S. Visa
- Valid passport from your home country
- Certificate of Eligibility: I-20 Form or DS-2019 Form
- Letter of admission from the University at Albany (students) and/or any other official invitation letters that may have been sent to you by the University (scholars)
- Evidence of financial support (bank statements, letters of assistantship, sponsorship, and any other proof that you have sufficient funds for educational and living expenses)
- Any evidence you have to demonstrate that you have strong ties to your home country and that you plan to return to your home country at the conclusion of your study and any period of authorized employment.
- Proof of payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee. The fee is currently $350 for F-1 students and $220 for J-1 exchange visitors.
After receiving your I-20/DS-2019 from the University you can apply for the U.S. visa at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy nearest your place of residence. The earliest you can attend the interview for the U.S. visa is 120 days prior to the program start date on your I-20/DS-2019, though you are allowed to schedule an appointment/interview date before then (as long as the actual appointment/interview is no earlier than 120 days prior to the program start date).
If you have dependents (spouse and/or children) that will travel to the U.S. with you each dependent must have a separate I-20/DS-2019. If you did not request an I-20/DS-2019 for your dependents at the time of admission, please ISSS.
See Study in the States for helpful information on preparing to come to the United States.
Additional Resources for the Visa Application
- Contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy near your residence in your home country to learn the correct procedure and to make an appointment for a visa interview. You may find this website particularly helpful: https://ustraveldocs.com/
- Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
- When you arrive at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy make sure that you have all of the above listed documents for applying for the visa (including a receipt for the I-901 fee) to present to the officer who is processing your visa request.
- We highly recommend you take a look at NAFSA's 10 Points When Applying for a Student Visa for tips.
- Argo Visa is a company made up of former consular officers. They have a free Youtube channel offering visa applicants tips and advice.
- If you are granted the visa it will be affixed to your passport and it will state the number of entries that you have been granted and an expiration date. If an “M” appears under the number of entries, it means “multiple” entries are allowed using that visa.
- Once the above steps have been completed you are ready to travel. You should have the entire I-20 (3 pages) or DS-2019 (2 pages) that was sent from the University, your passport with the new visa inside, and your letter of admission. Do not misplace these documents! If you do lose any of these documents, contact International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) for assistance, and do not travel to the United States until your documents are replaced.
- The earliest you may enter the United States in F-1 or J-1 is 30 days prior to your program start date. Check your I-20 or DS-2019 for this date. You must enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status in order to attend classes at the University.
- You must use the I-20 you received from the University you plan to attend when entering the U.S. If your plans about attending UAlbany change, please notify UAlbany ISSS prior to entering the U.S.
Entry to the United States
Upon arrival in the United States you will need to pass through an immigration inspection check at the port of entry to the U.S. The immigration officer will ask you certain questions and you will present the officer with your complete Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 Form or DS-2019 Form) and your passport with U.S. visa. The border officer may stamp your visa with the date of admission, class of admission (e.g. F-1 or J-1) and admitted until date (usually D/S, meaning “Duration of Status”).
U.S. Customs and Border Protection will also issue Form I-94, the Arrival/Departure Record in an electronic format. As soon as you can after arriving in Albany you should visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website to print out a copy of the I-94 and keep it safe with your other important documents.
International students and scholars are required to report to the school indicated on the I-20/DS-2019 that is presented at the U.S. port of entry. Upon arrival in Albany, bring your I-20/DS-2019, passport, U.S. visa and copy of Form I-94 to the University’s International Student and Scholar Services Office.
Other Visa Matters
If you are currently attending a school other than the University at Albany but will be leaving the U.S. and then returning to enroll at the University:
- If your visa is expired you should follow the directions above to obtain the U.S. visa. For complete information on who needs to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee, see the SEVIS I-901 Fee Frequently Asked Questions.
- If your student visa is still valid you may re-enter the U.S. on the new I-20 or DS-2019 from the University at Albany. In this case, your transfer is completed when your re-enter the U.S. and report your arrival to International Student and Scholar Services.
If you are currently attending a school in the United States and will be remaining in the United States during the transfer period:
- You should follow instructions from the Admissions Office to transfer your current I-20 form to the University at Albany. Upon arrival in Albany you are required to bring your old and new I-20 forms to International Student and Scholar Services. Within the first 15 days of your enrollment DHS will be notified that you have transferred schools and you will receive a new I-20 showing your continued attendance and that your transfer has been completed.
If you are currently in the United States under a status other than F-1 or J-1:
- You should contact the Admissions Office for confirmation of your eligibility to study in your current status.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our ISSS office.