Obtaining a Visa
You will need a student visa to enter the United States to study. You must apply for a visa at a US embassy or consulate. Prepare carefully for your visit to the U.S. embassy or consulate. We strongly suggest that you read the information available at the official US government visa website. Also, read all documents carefully, so that you know exactly what you are agreeing to when you enter the United States on a student visa. (Please note different procedures for Canadian students, who are not required to obtain a visa.)
US consulates and embassies will not normally issue visas more than 90 days in advance of the "report date" (see below) on your I-20. You should not plan to apply for your visa before June 1, since that will be about 90 days in advance of your report date. We try to process your I-20 forms as quickly as possible, but you may not receive them until May 20th OR LATER. A visa appointment on or after June 1 is probably the safest choice to ensure that you will have received your I-20 in time. In addition, please keep in mind that you MAY NOT ENTER THE US MORE THAN 30 DAYS IN ADVANCE OF THE REPORT DATE on your I20, so plan your travel accordingly.
Visa procedures vary slightly from one consulate or embassy to another. Before you apply for your visa, check with the US consulate or embassy where you plan to apply to determine exactly what supporting documentation is required.
Several standard items are required for the application:
Form I-20 (or DS-2019 for J students): You will need a form I-20 (or DS-2019 if you are a J student), which we will mail to you in a timely fashion, normally in mid- to late-May. Alternatively, these forms may be provided by a sponsoring agency, if you have one. You must sign the form under Item 11.
School admission letter
SEVIS fee receipt: The US Government now requires students to pay a $200 fee to register with SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). We will send a letter along your your form I-20 explaining how to pay this fee. If possible, you should file and pay on-line via the SEVIS fee website. This site will also answer many of your questions, and you can track your payment and receipt. You must keep the receipt you receive and be able to produce it when you apply for a visa. Print the electronic receipt from on-line payment as proof of payment for your interview.
Receipt for visa application fee (if required)
A current passport valid for at least six months
Evidence of financial support for the period of time and amount indicated on the I-20 or DS-2019 form
Proof of permanent residence outside the United States
Two, 2"x2" passport-type photographs
A nonimmigrant visa application: forms DS-156 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application), DS-158 (Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants), and, if applicable, DS-157 (Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, required for males only)
Additional application materials may be requested by the visa officer to prove your eligibility for a student visa. These may include: evidence of English proficiency, school records to verify academic preparation, and additional evidence of strong ties to your home country (such as property, family, or other community ties) or of your ability to support yourself while in the United States. An application fee or a short interview may be required.
If a visa application interview is required, remain calm and answer all the Visa Officer's questions openly and honestly.
The consular officer will place a visa in your passport. If you receive a multiple -entry visa, you may use it to reenter the United States up to the date of its expiration as long as you have a valid I-20 or DS-2019.
The "Report Date"
You are expected to arrive at Hamilton College no later than the "report date" indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019. An F-1 student may be admitted for a period up to 30 days before the indicated report date or start date listed on the I-20 form. U.S. consulates and embassies will usually issue the F-1 visa as much as 90 days before the report date. If you must arrive later than your report date, contact Hamilton immediately.
If you encounter any problems obtaining your visa, contact Allen Harrison at Hamilton College, or the agency that issued the I-20 or DS-2019.