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Office of International Services
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Office of International Services

Visa Basics > Getting an Entry Visa

Getting an Entry Visa

Once you have received your I-20 or DS-2019 from Teachers College, you should first review the information enclosed with your document and follow any instructions indicated. Once you have done so, you should take steps to apply for an F-1 or J-1 entry visa. An entry visa is necessary if you:


  •     are outside of the United States;
  •     intend to enter the U.S. to pursue full-time studies at TC;
  •     do not already have a valid F-1 or J-1 entry visa
  •     have received an I-20 or DS-2019 from Teachers College for this purpose.

 

In order to apply for a visa, consult the procedures of your local U.S. consulate or embassy. Since consulates and embassies differ in their procedures, you should go to the web site of your nearest consulate by going to http://travel.state.gov/ or http://usembassy.gov/ for instructions about application fees, procedures, and time frames.

Students who are entering the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 student status are required, in most cases, to undergo a visa interview. Getting a visa appointment, especially during busy summer months, may be difficult. However, students and scholars are typically given priority. For an estimate of waiting times to get a visa appointment at your nearest U.S. consulate, go to the State Department's Visa Wait Times web site.

If you are a citizen of Canada you are not required to have an entry visa to enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status, but you must carry Items 1, 2, and 4 when making your entry into the United States. See the information in this web site regarding Canadian citizens.

In general, the items required to apply for a U.S. student visa include:

  1.     Original Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 Student Status) or Form DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for J-1 Exchange Visitor Status) (see instructions, above)
  2.     Financial Documents;
  3.     Visa application forms, which will be given to you at the U.S. consulate; most consulates have visa application forms that can be downloaded
  4.     Proof of I-901 SEVIS fee payment (see below)
  5.     Visa application fees (obtain payment instructions from your local U.S. consulate)
  6.     Passport Photographs

In order to issue an F-1 or J-1 visa, the consular official must determine that you have adequate finances for your program, and that you will return to your home country upon completion of your academic program. If you are married and plan to bring your family, you are required to show funds to support them as well. Here are some tips for going through the process of obtaining a visa successfully.

I-901 SEVIS Fee


On September 1, 2004 the US Department of Homeland Security started charging an "I-901 SEVIS fee" for certain applicants seeking admission into the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status. The non-refundable fee of US $200.00 for F-1, or $180.00 for J-1 must be paid before applying for a visa and/or entering the United States.

Persons subject to the fee include:

  •     students making their initial entry to the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status
  •     students returning to the U.S. in F-1 status following an absence of five months or more from the United States
  •     students applying for a change of non-immigrant status to F-1 or J-1 status
  •     students applying for reinstatement to F-1 or J-1 status
  •     students who are transferring from a J-1 exchange visitor program with a program number starting with "G" to a program code starting with "P"

Persons who are not subject to the fee include:

  •     students who began full-time studies in F-1 or J-1 status before 9/1/2004 and have maintained continuous, valid F-1 and J-1 status since initial entry
  •     F-2 or J-2 dependents
  •     J-1 students sponsored by an exchange visitor program with a program number starting with "G"

In order to pay the fee, you will first need to receive an I-20 or DS-2019 from Teachers College, if you intend to enroll at TC as an F-1 or J-1 student. Once an I-20 or DS-2019 has been produced, the OIS will send detailed SEVIS fee information to you if you are subject to the fee. You may also refer to the information on the Department of Homeland Security's approved SEVIS fee payment site, http://www.fmjfee.com/.

Visa FAQs


I am a new student. How early can I apply for a new visa?

You may apply for a new visa up to 120 days before the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019.  However, under current immigration guidelines, you may not enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019.

I have a U.S tourist / visitor's visa. Can't I just come in and start my studies using that visa?

No. U.S. immigration regulations prohibit visitors from pursuing academic or professional programs of study. Visitors may come to the U.S. to investigate possible programs of study, but in order to pursue full-time academic or professional they will need to re-enter the U.S. on a student visa or another kind of visa that permits study.

I received an I-20 from several different schools, and am still deciding which one to go to. Does this present a problem?

When applying for a visa, and entering the U.S., you must present the I-20 from the school which you plan to attend.  If you are a new student, you must attend the school printed on your F-1 visa as your school of initial attendance; otherwise, you may need to go back to your U.S. consulate and obtain a new visa. Please plan carefully, and contact the Office of International Services at tcintl@tc.columbia.edu with more detailed information regarding your situation.

My spouse / children will come with me. Do they need visas as well?

The spouse and dependent children under 21 of an F-1 student should obtain F-2 visas; the J-2 visa is for dependents of J-1 students. Each dependent who will come in either F-2 or J-2 status should have their own separate I-20s / DS-2019s.

I am already in the U.S. as an F-1 student and am transferring to Teachers College. Do I need a new visa?

Not necessarily. If you are already in the U.S. in valid F-1 status, you may simply need to transfer your immigration sponsorship to our institution. A new visa may or may not be necessary depending on your travel plans. In general, an F-1 student will not need a new visa once the transfer process has been completed, as long as the previous visa is still valid (unexpired).

My visa was denied because the visa officer did not believe I would return home after I was done. What can I do?

Please contact the OIS. F-1 and J-1 visas are non-immigrant visas: an applicant for a non-immigrant visa must show his/her intention to return home after completing studies. Persons who have taken affirmative steps toward eligibility for permanent residency or citizenship are seen as having 'immigrant intent" and are therefore not eligible for non-immigrant visas. However, 'immigrant intent' standards for students are not as stringent, since students are often unable to provide firm evidence (such as employment or property) of their intention to return home after completing studies. If your visa is denied, please ask for a written notice of denial from the consular office, and contact the OIS at tcintl@tc.columbia.edu.
Office of International Services
Teachers College, Columbia University
Box 7, 525 W 120th Street
New York, New York 10027-6696
Phone: (212) 678-3939 ♦ ~ Fax: (212) 678-3990 ♦ Email: