International Students Guide - Applying for a new Visa Abroad

8. Applying for a new Visa at a U.S. Consulate Abroad

If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa during your trip abroad, first check the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you plan to apply to obtain the latest information on non-immigrant visa processing and delays by visiting http://travel.state.gov/links.html You should do this while you are still in the United States! If visa delays prevent you from returning to the United States in time to renew your studies in January, better to know this while you are still here so that you have time to cancel your trip!

General Information

Any student who is traveling outside the United States whose U.S. visa has expired will need to renew it at a U.S. visa issuing post abroad before the student can return to the United States. In most cases, the visa application will be filed in your home country. Its important to note that the winter holiday period is an extremely busy time at visa issuing posts due to the large numbers of travelers and reduced staff who may be taking vacation. Also, in the event of any protests, threats, or terrorist attacks that are judged to be threatening to U.S. embassy or consulate personnel, government officials at those posts may temporarily close or alter their operational hours.

Appointments are now required for virtually all non-immigrant visa applications, even at U.S. embassies and consulates located in countries that didn't previously require appointments. This has resulted in significant delays at some U.S. visa issuing posts abroad.

Allow plenty of time for the visa application process, and begin the process as soon as possible after you arrive home.

The State Department has also prepared two information sheets about student visas on its web site which may be useful to you as an international student. They may be obtained at
http://travel.state.gov/what_consuls_look_for.html
http://travel.state.gov/foreign_student_visas_handout.html

Security Concerns and Special Registration

Individuals from Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria will not be eligible to obtain a new non-immigrant visa unless it can be determined that the individual does not pose a security threat.

Males between the ages of 16 and 45 from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen who will need to renew their U.S. visas while abroad will be required to undergo security checks that may lengthen the processing time for their visa applications.

These same individuals will be subject to "special registration" upon their return to the United States. "Special registration" is part of the legislation passed by the U.S. Congress since the attacks of September 11, 2001. The U.S. government has developed a National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) to help monitor the arrivals and departures of foreign nationals.

Individuals subject to "special registration" are fingerprinted, photographed and questioned under oath upon entry into the United States and must report back to a Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services Office 30 days after entering the United States, and annually thereafter. This list can be expanded at anytime with the publication of additional countries in the Federal Register.

Technology Alert List and Sensitive Areas of Study

Students who are considered to be majoring in "sensitive areas of study" as determined by the U.S. government may also be required to undergo security clearances before a visa can be issued. There is a document called the "Technology Alert List" that visa officers consult for this purpose. China, India, Israel, Pakistan and Russia have received special mention by the U.S. State Department in the context of this list because these countries are considered to possess nuclear capability that is of concern to U.S. national security.

Your visa application might have to undergo a security clearance REGARDLESS of the country you are from. Such clearances can add weeks to the amount of time needed for visa approval. If you find that your visa application is delayed due to a need for the consulate or embassy to send your file for review based on your field of study, please notify the Admissions Office by e-mail, fax or telephone of the situation.

SEVIS Requirements

Visa officials are required to verify your record in the SEVIS system before a visa can be approved. This is also true for any dependents. There have been data transfer problems of some SEVIS records between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State that have resulted in lost information. If the visa official is unable to access your record in SEVIS and you have a SEVIS I-20, please contact the Admissions Office by e-mail, phone or fax to alert us to the problem.

Visa Application Requirements

To apply for a new visa, you will need to complete application form DS-156 "Non-Immigrant Visa Application" and DS-158 "Contact Information and Work History for Non-Immigrant Visa Applicant." If you are male, you must also complete the DS-157, the "Supplemental Non-Immigrant Visa Application." Note that consular officers reserve the right to require a DS-157 from any applicant for any visa classification. You may download these forms: http://travel.state.gov/DS-0156.pdf, http://travel.state.gov/DS-0158.pdf, and http://travel.state.gov/DS-0157.pdf These forms are also available as paper copies at any U.S. visa issuing post abroad.

You will also need one photograph 1 and 1/2 inches square, showing full face, without head covering, against a light background. You will need to have sufficient currency to pay the required visa fees, or a receipt showing that you have paid the visa fees. You will need your SEVIS I-20 form. You will want to have a letter of certification from the Admissions Office, verifying your enrollment as well as the fact that you have been maintaining valid F-1 status.

You will also need to show proof of financial support, binding ties to your home country which you have no intentions of abandoning, and that you plan to return to your home country upon the conclusion of your studies. Some U.S. consulates will ask you how you plan to use your U.S. education in your home country. Many consulates will ask you to present copies of your academic transcripts to prove that you have been maintaining student status in the United States and that you have been making satisfactory progress in your program. Plan to have copies with you, but do not present it to a consular officer unless specifically asked to do so.

Visa Applications in Canada or Mexico

New U.S. State Department regulations that took effect in April 2002 state that any non-immigrant who chooses to apply for a new visa while in Canada or Mexico (but is not a citizen of either of those two countries) and whose visa application is subsequently denied will not be permitted to re-enter the United States. So, international students should consider this matter carefully when applying for a U.S. visa in Canada or Mexico.