Are you preparing for the F-1/J-1 visa application process? Are you uncertain about what to expect at the U.S. consulate during your visa interview? Do you know what documents are needed to enter the U.S.? This page answers these questions for F-1/J-1 students and J-1 scholars. For the most up-to-date information, you can also visit the U.S. Department of State website as well as the instructions at the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply for a visa.

Be sure to take into consideration visa appointments wait times for the city where your U.S. Consulate is located. Also note that administrative processing times can be considerable for some applicants, so be sure to apply for your visa well in advance of your program start date.

Note: Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from the U.S. entry visa requirement, but still must pay the SEVIS fee and present Form I-20 or DS-2019 when entering as an F-1 or J-1 student.


Applying for your Student/Exchange Visitor Visa

This section details the necessary steps to apply for your student or exchange visitor visa for the first time. If you are interested in renewing your visa, please see the section on “Renewing your Student/Exchange Visitor Visa” below.

The International Programs Center (IPC) will create the necessary visa documentation for you, a Form I-20 (for F-1 student status) or Form DS-2019 (for J-1 student status) and mail it to your residence. To receive this form, you will need to demonstrate that you meet the minimum financial requirements for one full year of academic study at UNCG.

This minimum budget amount is based on the University's annual estimate of tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, medical insurance and miscellaneous living expenses. The amount differs for undergraduate and graduate students.

Undergraduate Minimum Budget
Graduate (Master’s and Doctoral) Minimum Budget

Review and submit the following documentation to demonstrate financial solvency and receive your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.

  • Financial Certificate: As the student, you should complete the appropriate (undergraduate or graduate) financial certificate.
  • Bank Statement or Official Letter: Current original bank statement(s) or official bank letter documenting your ability to support your study at UNCG (all documents must not be older than one year at the time of review at UNCG). For details about the amount required, refer to the appropriate minimum budget sheet above.
  • Affidavit of Support: If the bank funds are not in your name, download the form Affidavit of Support, have your sponsor complete and sign this form. If you are being supported by an account in a company or organization’s name, the Affidavit of Support must be signed by the company or organization’s authorized financial signatory and be accompanied by the company or organization’s stamp/seal. An Affidavit of Support form, by itself, cannot be used to demonstrate financial resources.
  • Passport Copy: Please submit a copy of the passport biographical page and any valid or expired U.S. visa stamps you may have in your passport.
  • Mailing your I-20: You may use the eShipGlobal service to have your document(s) express mailed to you through either DHL or FedEx at your own expense. To do so, visit https://study.eshipglobal.com (do not visit DHL or FedEx directly). You will be required to create a user name and password to set up an account. To request shipment, you will need to select the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as your institution and you will have to provide your mailing address, e-mail address, phone number, and credit card information. If you have questions about how to use this service, review the Help section of the eShipGlobal website or e-mail support@eshipglobal.com. Once you have requested the shipment, send an email to isssga@uncg.edu to notify our office that you have requested an eShipGlobal shipment.
Please return any original documents to the following address:
International Student & Scholar Services
International Programs Center
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
207 Foust Building Greensboro, N.C. 27402 USA
FAX: 336.334.5406

Once you receive your signed Form I-20/DS-2019 in the mail, you will be able to pay your SEVIS fee. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires F-1/J-1 students to pay the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee before the U.S. Consulate issues a visa. To learn about each step of the payment process, please see the SEVIS fee payment tutorial. The SEVIS fee will be processed by DHS at least 3 business days prior to the consular interview. Fees will not be payable at the consulate. For information regarding making your I-901 SEVIS fee payment, visit Study in the States.

Now that you have paid your SEVIS fee, you can then schedule your visa appointment with the U.S. Consulate nearest you. Again, be sure to take into consideration visa appointments wait times for the city where your U.S. Consulate is located.

You will need to bring the following:

  • A current, valid passport
  • Form I-20 or DS-2019 signed by UNCG's International Student Advisor or University Official.
  • Evidence of financial support. Your proof of support needs to match the year of expenses listed on your I-20/DS-2019. Research Assistants (RA's) or Teaching Assistants (TA's) should obtain a letter from their department for the annual amount of the RA or TA award. Funds from your sponsor or personal account should be verified with a current bank statement. It is recommended that the bank statement is no more than two months old. Scholarships should be verified with a letter from your company's supplying agency.
  • One or more passport-type photographs.
  • A nonimmigrant visa application (Form DS-160, available at all U.S. Consular Offices).
  • A receipt for the SEVIS I-109 fee. Issuance fee charged for visa. Depending on the country of citizenship, applicants may have to pay an issuance fee (also known as visa reciprocity fee).
  • Other documentation may include evidence of competence in English, of educational attainments (transcripts), police certificates, and an application fee.

Receive your passport containing the F-1/J-1 visa foil in the mail. Check to see that you receive the correct type of visa and that your name and date of birth are correct and match the information in your passport.


Renewing Your Student/Exchange Visitor Visa

If your visa expires while you are in the U.S. (due to a program date extension, or your decision to obtain a second degree), you will need to apply for a new visa if you plan to travel outside the U.S. Note that previous approval for a visa does not guarantee visa renewal.

Before returning to your home country, you must obtain a travel signature on your most current Form I-20/DS-2019 signed for travel by an International Student Advisor.

Schedule your visa appointment with the U.S. Consulate nearest you and learn about the requirements of the U.S. consulate in your country of citizenship. Proceed with the application of your student visa by selecting visa application details. Payment of SEVIS fee will be required prior to scheduling your appointment if your SEVIS record has been terminated or closed for any reason.

You will need to bring the following:

  • A current, valid passport
  • Latest visa foil
  • Form I-20 or DS-2019 signed by an International Student Advisor.
  • Academic Transcript from UNCG and any other U.S. institution you have attended on an F-1/J-1 visa
  • Printout of course schedule to demonstrate registration for full course of study
  • Evidence of financial support. Your proof of support needs to match the year of expenses listed on your I-20/DS-2019. Research Assistants (RA's) or Teaching Assistants (TA's) should obtain a letter from their department for the annual amount of the RA or TA award. Funds from your sponsor or personal account should be verified with a current bank statement. It is recommended that the bank statement is no more than two months old. Scholarships should be verified with a letter from your company's supplying agency.
  • One or more passport-type photographs.
  • A nonimmigrant visa application (Form DS-160, available at all U.S. Consular Offices).
  • A receipt for the SEVIS I-109 Fee. Issuance fee charged for visa. Depending on the country of citizenship, applicants may have to pay an issuance fee (also known as visa reciprocity fee).
  • Other documentation may include evidence of competence in English, of educational attainments (transcripts), police certificates, and an application fee.

Within several weeks after your consular interview, you will receive your passport containing the F-1/J-1 visa foil in the mail. Check to see that you receive the correct type of visa and that your name and date of birth are correct and match the information in your passport.


Third-Country Visa Renewal

It is also possible to apply for a visa in a country that is not your home country; however, this can be costly and time-consuming for the following reasons:

  • You may be required to apply for a visa to enter that country.
  • You may need to prove that you have continuously maintained legal status during your time in the U.S. or be sent back to your home country to apply for the visa.

Since refusal in a third country is more likely than at home, students should be prepared with the following documents:

  • Letter of explanation.
  • Copy of I-20/ DS-2019.
  • Copy of passport.
  • Copy of expired student visa.
  • Verification of enrollment letter.
  • Transcripts showing full-time student status.
  • Letter of invitation from person or organization in the third country.
  • Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover all costs of tuition plus expenses. This can be:
    • Letter from department stating the amount of funding you are receiving, and/or
    • Letter from another financial sponsor stating the amount they will give you, plus supporting financial documents such as bank statements. (Note that if you are using personal funding you must also provide these supporting documents from your own funds.)

Should you decide to follow this alternative, we highly recommend you contact I.P.C. for an appointment to obtain detailed instructions.


What to Expect in a Consular Interview

Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the Consular official that they are not. The burden of proof falls upon the applicant. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the U.S. “Ties” to your home country are things that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects, property that you own or will inherit, investments, etc.

If you are a prospective undergraduate student, the interviewing officer may ask about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans, and career prospects in your home country after you return. Each person’s situation is different, and there is not a magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter, which can guarantee visa issuance. Here are some other tips to help you prepare for your consular interview:

  • Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English, not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. If you are coming to the U.S. solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.
  • Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The Consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf.
  • If you are not able to articulate why you will study in a particular program in the U.S., you may not succeed in convincing the Consular officer that you are planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the U.S. relates to your future professional career when you return home.
  • Keep your answers to the officer’s questions short and to the point. Due to the volume of the applications received, all Consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct quick and effective interviews. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute or two of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success.
  • It should be clear at a glance to the Consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read and evaluated. Remember that you will have two to three minutes of interview time, if you are lucky.

For further information, visit 10 Tips for a Successful Visa Interview.


What You Need to Enter the U.S.

Once you have obtained your visa and booked your plane ticket, you will be required to present the items below as you pass through customs and immigration at the U.S. port of entry. The Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) reserves the right to allow or deny you entry to the U.S. Be sure to have the following items on your person and ready to present to your CBP officer in an organized fashion:

  • A valid passport with an expiration date at least six months in the future.
  • Valid F-1/J-1 visa foil in your passport.
  • Valid I-20/DS-2019 form from U.N.C.G. signed by the authorized person. You will need to present the original document, so don’t pack it in your checked luggage.
  • A paper receipt for the SEVIS I-901 fee.
  • Proof of financial support.
  • Name and contact information for your Designated School Official, including a 24-hour emergency contact number at the school.

For further information, please visit Arriving at the U.S. Port of Entry: What a Student Can Expect or watch this video.