Students seeking degrees at TCNJ and exchange students from partner universities must obtain a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy outside the United States. Degree-seeking students will apply for an F-1 non-immigrant student visa, while exchange students will apply for a J-1 exchange visitor visa. International students should apply for the visa in their home country, unless circumstances or travel plans make this impossible. If the student applies in a third country, the application may take more time and be reviewed more critically than if it was applied for at home.
Visa procedures may differ from one consulate or embassy to another. Before applying, check with the office where you plan to apply to determine exactly what additional supporting documentation is required. The U.S. Department of State maintains an authoritative website on the visa application process that should be studied carefully. A personal interview with the consular official is now required in most every case. The information below provides a brief summary.
Overview of Requirements for Visa Application
- Complete visa application form and pay visa fees.
- Receipt for payment of the I-901 SEVIS fee (if applicable)
- Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the U.S.
- One 2″ x 2″ photograph.
- Form I-20 (for F-1 applicants) or DS-2019 (for J-1 applicants) from the TCNJ Center for Global Engagement (CGE). If a current student is applying to have a visa renewed, s/he will need a current travel endorsement (having the signature of a member of the CGE on the I-20 or DS-2019 in the travel section of the form).
- A copy of the students offer of admission to TCNJ, or a Status Verification Letter from the CGE for continuing students.
- Financial evidence detailing source and amount of funding. Consular and immigration officers exercise considerable discretion in determining whether financial support exists and is sufficient to cover your entire period of stay. Prepare documentation that is thorough, consistent, credible and varied. Examples of financial documentation: Graduate Assistantship offer letters, bank statements, letters from governmental sponsor, letters of support from family members.
- Academic transcripts, confirmation of admission or enrollment, and proof of English language proficiency may also be requested.
- Evidence of continuing ties to your home country (i.e. family, career, or property) A student visa is in a “non-immigrant” category, and it is important to show that you have on-going connections to your home country. Your visa will be denied unless you are able to convince the consular officer that you will return home after the completion of your studies and your practical training. Unfortunately, there is no single explanation, document, or letter than can guarantee visa issuance.
- If you are an F-1 student on Optional Practical Training, you must also produce your EAD card or receipt notice that your OPT application is pending, and employment verification if OPT has been approved. New students need not worry about this.
- Locate a US Embassy near you: http://usembassy.state.gov/
- Chinese Student Pre-Departure orientation Web Site: http://www.china-nafsa.aief-usa.org/default.htm
- Department of State’s Visa Service Information: http://travel.state.gov/ visa_services.html
Helpful Tips for Obtaining a Visa:
- Apply for the visa in a timely manner: Consult the embassy or consulate where you will apply to see their wait times.
- US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented new policies requiring individuals to meet with a consular officer for a personal interview before being granted a visa. This interview must be scheduled in advance. You are advised to have your I-20 or DS-2019 prior to scheduling your interview and you should use only the I-20 or DS-2019 of the school you will attend. You may also be required to show evidence of financial support for your program. Be prepared to answer questions about why you want to study at TCNJ, what your parents do for a living, and what you plan to do once you finish your degree and return home.
- Continuing students should bring a copy of their TCNJ transcripts to show they are making progress toward degree completion and are in good academic standing
- Students transferring their school sponsorship of the F-1 or J-1 visa to TCNJ may use their previously issued entry visa stamp if it is still valid; these students must enter using their TCNJ-issued I-20 or DS-2019 Form.
- If students are denied the visa, they should ask the visa officer the reason for their denial and then consult with an international advisor at TCNJ.
SEVIS I-901 Fee:
Effective on September 1, 2004, potential non-immigrants who are initially issued an I-20/DS-2019 to begin a new program on or after that date, unless exempted, w ill be required to pay the SEVIS fee prior to obtaining their visa –if a visa is required– or entering the U.S. Generally this fee does not apply to students who have maintained their current F-1/J-1 immigration status and are continuing their program of study.
- More information on the SEVIS I-901 fee