Applying for a U.S. Student / Exchange Visitor Visa

When you apply for an F-1/J-1 visa for the first time, you will have a brief personal interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your place of residence. The interview will typically be conducted in English however this is not always the case. A consular official often interviews hundreds of applicants in one day. The official must make a quick decision about your application and your interview may be no more than three to five minutes. If you are well prepared and organized, your chance of obtaining the visa is very high.  

The U.S. consular official needs to believe, and you must convince them, that (1) you are a legitimate student/scholar with an educational plan, (2) you have financial resources to study in the U.S. (for at least one year), (3) you have strong connections to your home country, and (4) you do not intend to immigrate to the U.S.

Consular officials will want to see:

  • Evidence that you have paid the U.S. $350 F-1 Student or $220 J-1 Exchange Visitor SEVIS fee online.
  • Evidence that you are a qualified, legitimate student/scholar.
  • Evidence that you have the financial resources to pay for your education in the U.S.: statements from your or your family's bank account and/or financial aid award letter.
  • Evidence of strong economic, family or social ties to your home country.
  • Evidence that you will return home after you finish your studies.
  • Passport, valid for at least six months beyond your planned period of stay in the U.S.
  • Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application confirmation page
  • Visa application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview
  • I-901 SEVIS fee payment confirmation page, the receipt proving that you have paid the U.S. $350 Student/$220 Exchange Visitor SEVIS fee
  • Passport-size, immigration style photograph of you (if you are unable to upload your photo while completing Form DS-160
  • For J-1 Professors: if you are married or have children and are bringing them, you will need proof of relationship to your spouse and children (marriage certificate, birth certificates, identification cards, etc.)
  • Signed Form I-20 or DS-2019 issued by Whitman College
  • Letter of admission or employment contract from Whitman College
  • Financial aid award letter or scholarship letter, if applicable
  • Copies of your secondary (high) school certificates or transcripts showing that you are an accomplished student
  • Copy of your secondary school diploma
  • Copy of your TOEFL/IELTS score (if applicable)
  • Copy of SAT/ACT score (if applicable)
  • Your financial aid/scholarship award letter from Whitman College
  • Bank statements (for the past six months) and/or a certified letter from your bank stating the amount of money in your bank account
  • Statements (for the past six months) show savings or stock accounts
  • Tax documents from your family home or business
  • Letters from any sponsors (if applicable) who have promised to provide specific costs such as room and board, books, etc.
  • Documents which prove that as sponsor can afford the promises made
  • Form I-134 (Affidavit of Support) completed by your sponsor, indicating that they have the funds to support their promised contribution. Download the form.

It is important for you to prove to the U.S. consular official that you have family, social and career "ties," or "connections," to your home country. These connections will help assure the official that you plan to return home after completing your studies. Below are some examples:

  • Evidence that you plan to return to work in a family business upon completion of your U.S. education (if your family owns a business)
  • If you are interested in attending a graduate program in your home country upon your return, make sure you mention that if you are asked about future plans
  • Information about family members who have traveled or studied overseas and returned
  • Information about your own previous travel to the U.S. (if any)
  • You can mention your close ties with your family, friends and social/cultural associations in which you are involved (if any) 

Make sure that all your documents are together and in order. Organize appropriate documents together. For example:

  • All Whitman College-issued documents
  • All documents that prove you are a legitimate and excellent student
  • All financial documents
  • All documents demonstrating your ties to your home country