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Immigration & Visas for International Students - Apply for a Visa

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Visa Information

International students (except Canadians) must appear before a United States consulate or Embassy in order to secure an F-1 or J-1 visa. The following items must be presented at your interview:

  • Form I-20 for F-1 students OR Form DS-2019 for J-1 students issued by the University of Maine,
  • Proof of SEVIS I-901 fee payment,
  • A valid passport,
  • Proof of sufficient financial support.

If you plan to bring dependents (spouse or children) you will also need to present:

  • Form I-20 is also used for F-2 dependents,
  • Proof of marriage or birth certificate showing dependent child
  • Proof of sufficient financial support for both you and your dependents

Students are encouraged to apply for a visa as early as possible.

Students with F-1 status who are transferring from an educational institution in the United States should consult with the international student adviser at their present school for instructions on the Immigration Service’s transfer process. This should be done as early as possible to avoid any difficulties.

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What To Do With Your I-20 (F Students) or DS-2019 (J Students and Scholars)

1. Read page two carefully.

2. Check to make sure all of your personal information is correct: spelling of names, date of birth, country of citizenship. If anything is incorrect, please contact our office at the above phone number or at umintprg@maine.edu.

3. Sign page one where indicated.

4. Use your I-20 or DS-2019 to apply for your F-1 or J-1 visa at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

5. Present the I-20 or DS-2019 to an Immigration official at the Port of Entry (border or airport) with your passport.  DO NOT WAIT FOR THE OFFICER TO REQUEST IT.  HAVE IT READY FOR INSPECTION WITH YOUR PASSPORT. 

6. Keep your I-20 or DS-2019 safe.  This document along with the entry stamp in your passport proves your lawful status in the U.S.

7. Report to our office upon your arrival at UMaine so we may make copies of your documents. Keep your I-20 or DS-2019 safe.

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What To Do With Your I-20 (F-1 Student) or DS-2019 (J-1 Students and Scholars) for Canadians

1. Read page two carefully.

2. Check to make sure all of your personal information is correct: spelling of names, date of birth, country of citizenship. If anything is incorrect, please contact our office at the above phone number or at umintprg@maine.edu.

3. Sign page one where indicated.

4. Present the I-20 or DS2019 to an Immigration official at the Port of Entry(border or airport). She or he will stamp page one. YOU MUST GET THIS STAMP. If the officer forgets to stamp the document, ask her/him to do so. DO NOT allow the Immigration Official to simply waive you through the border. If you do not get this stamp, you will have to travel back to the border to have it done at a later date.

5. Keep your I-20 or DS2019 safe. This document, along with the I-94 card which the officer will also stamp, proves your lawful status in the U.S.

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10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa

1) TIES TO HOME COUNTRY: Under US law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning in the United States. “Ties” to your home country are the things that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you are a prospective undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask you about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans, and career prospects in your home country. Each person’s situation is different, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter which can guarantee visa issuance.

2) ENGLISH: Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.

3) SPEAK FOR YOURSELF: Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf. If you are a minor applying for a high school program and need your parents there in case there are questions, for example, about funding, they should wait in the waiting room.

4) KNOW THE PROGRAM AND HOW IT FITS YOUR CAREER PLANS: If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the United States relates to your future professional career when you return home.

5) BE CONCISE: Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute or two of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer’s questions short and to the point.

6) SUPPLEMENTAL DOCUMENTATION: It should be clear at a glance to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthily written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you’re lucky.

7) NOT ALL COUNTRIES ARE EQUAL: Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the United States as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be intending immigrants. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the United States.

8) EMPLOYMENT: Your main purpose of coming to the United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their US education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end or your program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the United States. If asked, he prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the United States. Volunteer work and attending school part-time are permitted activities.

9) DEPENDENTS REMAINING AT HOME: If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family members will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support themselves, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.

10) MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE: Do not engage the consular officer in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.

From NAFSA: Association of International Educators

1999 Annual conference session Consular Affairs Issues: View From the United States

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Web Links for Further Information about Visas and SEVIS Fee

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Last Modified On November 7, 2013


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