Visa Matters

Obtaining the U.S. Visa and Entry to the United States

  • Students who receive  the I-20 form ("Certificate of Eligibility") from  will apply for the F-1 Visa
  • Students who receive  the DS-2019 form ("Certificate of Eligibility") will apply for the J-1 Visa

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 (“University”) and any other official letters that may have been sent to you by the University;
  • Evidence of financial support (bank statements, letters of assistantship, sponsorship, and any other proof that you have sufficient funds for educational and living expenses); and
  • 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.  You can pay the fee online at  The fee is $200 for F-1 students and $180 for J-1 students.

After receiving your I-20/DS-2019 from the University you can apply for the U.S. visa from the U.S. Consulate or Embassy nearest your place of residence. The earliest you can apply for the U.S. visa is 120 days prior to the starting date on your I-20/DS-2019.

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. Students should budget for at least $4,000 per dependent per year for the living expenses of each dependent. If you did not request an I-20/DS-2019 for your dependents at the time of admission, please contact the admissions office.

See Study in the States for helpful information on preparing to come to the United States.

How to Obtain the U.S. Visa

  • 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.
  • 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 (including a receipt for the fee) to present to the officer who is processing your visa request.
  • 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” entry.
  • 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.

Entry to the United States

Upon arrival in the United States, you will have to pass through an immigration inspection check at the port of entry to the U.S. The immigration office 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. You will receive an admission stamp in your passport, near the U.S. visa, with the date of admission, class of admission (for example, F-1 or J-1) and admitted until date (usually D/S, meaning “Duration of Status”).

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has recently automated Form I-94, the Arrival/Departure Record, at air and sea ports. The paper form will no longer be provided to a traveler upon arrival (except at land border ports of entry), but will be available 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. Your transfer, in this case, is  completed when your entry to the U.S. is recorded by Customs and Border Protection. You are required to report to International Student and Scholar Services upon your arrival.

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, USCIS will be notified that you have transferred schools, and one more I-20, with a “Transfer completed from …,” notation will be provided to you.

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 on your current visa.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our ISSS office.