Applying for a U.S. Visa
A valid visa is required to lawfully enter the United States. For information on processing times and procedures, visit the U.S. Department of State.
Quick Facts about U.S. Visas:
The Visa Interview
An in-person consular interview is generally required and you should schedule your appointment as soon as possible. Please be aware that there could be substantial delays due to visa appointment wait times and visa processing times. You can look up visa appointment wait times by city on the Department of State website.
Background and Security Checks
U.S. Embassies and Consulates routinely conduct background checks on visa applicants. In some cases, background checks result in significant delays in visa issuance. Please inform International Student and Scholar Services and your department at UT if you experience significant delays in visa issuance.
Exception for Canadian Citizens
If you are a Canadian citizen, you are not required to obtain a U.S. visa stamp in your passport. However, if you plan to come to UT as an F-1 or J-1 student, scholar, or researcher you must pay the SEVIS fee before entering the United States.
Bringing Family Members with You
Immediate family members (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) who will accompany you to the U.S. may apply for dependent visas.
Visa Application Requirements
- Application form DS 160
- Payment of the visa application fee
- U.S. passport-style photos for each visa applicant
- Passport(s) valid for at least 6 months into the future for each visa applicant
- Signed original form I-20 or DS-2019
- SEVIS Fee Receipt
- Proof of ties to your home country: F and J visas are non-immigrant visas. This means that you must demonstrate that you plan to return to your home country upon completion of your program. You can do this by showing strong ties to your home country with evidence such as proof of property ownership, a job offer letter, or letters from family.
- Proof of financial support: You must be able to verify that you have funds for at least one year of residence in the United States. Be prepared to show bank statements from your personal account or your sponsor’s account. If you have a sponsor, you should also provide an official statement of financial support. For those receiving funds from UT Austin, you should provide a letter from your supporting department that specifies your position, salary, and benefits.
- J-1 Exchange Visitors in professor, researcher, short-term scholar and intern categories: Provide the invitation letter you received from your sponsoring UT department.
- F-1 Students and J-1 Exchange Visitors in student categories: (1) Newly admitted students – UT admission letter; (2) Current students – Official UT Transcript in a sealed envelope and a Letter of Good Standing (also known as Certification of Enrollment).
- F-1 Students on Post-Completion and STEM OPT: Current OPT EAD Card and offer letter or proof of employment. If your STEM OPT application is still pending, you should also bring a copy of the I-797 Receipt Notice for the STEM OPT application.
- J-1 Exchange Visitors on Post-Completion Academic Training: Offer letter or proof of employment.
- Original I-797 H-1B Approval Notice: This is the form issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services upon approval of your H-1B petition.
- Copy of H-1B Petition: The petition includes Form I-129 and the certified Labor Condition Application (LCA).
- Employment Verification: Your department should issue a letter on official letterhead that includes your name, position, employment dates, and a brief job description. We also recommend you bring your three most recent earning statements from UT as evidence of your continuing employment.
Applications for Dependent Visas
- Be prepared to show evidence of relationship to the primary visa applicant such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, or official family registry.
- If dependents are attending the visa interview alone, they will need to bring copies of all documents listed above for the primary visa holder.
SEVIS Fee (F and J only)
If you are applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa, you are required to pay the SEVIS fee. Be sure to pay at least three business days before your scheduled interview.
- You will need the information listed on your I-20 or DS-2019 to complete payment.
- Pay with a credit card or by Western Union Quick Pay using Form I-901.
- Print the electronic receipt immediately upon payment. You will need to show it to the consular officer at the time of your interview.
- F-1 students pay $350 while J-1 Exchange Visitors pay $220. The fee is non-refundable, even if the visa application is denied.
- Spouses and dependent children are not required to pay the fee.
The Visa Stamp in My Passport is About to Expire, Do I Need a New One?
The visa stamp in your passport is required only for entry into the United States. Once you are in the U.S. the visa stamp may expire as long as you have:
- A passport that is valid for at least six months into the future
- An unexpired I-20 (for F-1s) or DS-2019 (for J-1s)
- An I-94 that indicates D/S (F-1 and J-1 only) or a date into the future
If you leave the country, you will need to apply for a new visa before returning to the United States.
Applying for a U.S. Visa in a Third Country
U.S. visa holders who apply for a visa stamp in a country other than their own are known as “third country nationals”. To make sure you are eligible to apply for a new visa as a third country national, be sure to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate Office in that country before traveling.
If your application is denied, you will not be allowed to reenter the U.S. with your expired visa stamp and must immediately return to your home country. If your application is delayed due to a prolonged background check, you will be required to remain in that country until the background check is completed.
Those who wish to apply as third country nationals in Mexico or Canada should discuss their plans with an advisor in ISSS before making arrangements. In general, ISSS does not recommend that third country nationals apply for a U.S. visa in Mexico or Canada.