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Apply for a Student Entry Visa

To study at Cornell, most international students need an entry visa. This entry visa stamp makes you eligible to enter and reenter the United States. If you are a Canadian citizen, you do not need an entry visa. Here are the steps to obtain your entry visa.

  1. Apply
  2. Complete Form
  3. Schedule
  4. Show Intent
  5. Gather Docs
  6. Go to Interview
  7. Review Visa

1 Apply for student status at Cornell.

Obtain your I-20 or DS-2019 and pay your SEVIS fee before continuing with the steps below.

2 Complete the DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application.

For help in filling out the form, check out the U.S. Department of State’s DS-160 FAQs.

What should I use for my U.S. address?

If you do not know where you will be living while attending Cornell, use the address where you are currently staying (for example, a hotel, a hostel, or a friend’s or relative’s home). Include the street address and the apartment or room number.

Do my dependents have to fill out a DS-160 too?

Yes. Dependents must submit their own DS-160 form to apply for a dependent visa.

I am a citizen of Canada. Do I have to fill out a DS-160?

No, if you are a Canadian, you can skip this form because you do not need a visa to study in the United States. You still need to prepare the other documents described in Step 5 and ask for F-1 status at the port of entry.

3 Make your visa interview appointment.

Find the U.S. consulate or embassy where you will apply for a visa, then follow the links on that embassy’s website to learn more about scheduling a visa appointment and relevant requirements. Some locations might require additional documentation.

Although Canadians do not need a visa to study in the United States, U.S. consulates in Canada will issue visas for other foreign nationals.

4 Prepare to demonstrate “nonimmigrant intent.”

If you are applying for an F or J visa, you will need to demonstrate your intent to return to your home country after you have finished your academic programs.

Here are some tips for ways to show you intend to return home:

  • Prepare a few sentences that explain how you will use your degree or research at home after you finish your program.
  • Bring copies of deeds to any property (land, house, apartment) that you own in your home country.
  • Bring bank statements of any accounts you maintain in your home country.
  • If you have an employer planning to employ you when you return, bring a letter from the employer stating an intention to hire you.

5 Gather your documents.

Have these documents ready for the visa interview:

  • Passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of first travel to U.S.
  • DS-160 confirmation page with your application ID number (Canadians excepted)
  • I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) form
  • Your admissions letter from Cornell University
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • Proof of financial support. (Bring copies of documents mentioned on your I-20/DS-2019 funding letter or bank statements for personal funds.)
  • Documents showing nonimmigrant intent
  • Any additional documentation requested by your U.S. consulate or embassy

What documents do my dependents need to bring to the interview?

Your spouse and/or children will need to bring the following additional documents to the visa interview:

  • Valid passport
  • I-20 (F-2) or DS-2019 (J-2) form
  • Proof of relationship to you (marriage certificate, birth certificate, or adoption papers)

What if my area of study is on the technology alert list?

The United States government keeps a “technology alert list” of areas of study the government considers potentially sensitive to the illegal transfer of scientific information to hostile individuals or regimes. If your area of study is on the list, the U.S. consulate may complete a security clearance before granting your visa. This could delay your visa application by anywhere from one to three months. There is no way to know for certain ahead of time whether you will be subject to this type of clearance.

The current technology alert list is not published, but in the past, some of the fields that have been on it include nuclear technology; conventional munitions; rocket systems and unmanned air vehicle subsystems; navigation avionics; chemical, biotechnology, and biomedical engineering; remote sensing, imaging, and reconnaissance; and advanced computer and microtechnology.

If you think your field of study may be on the list and you want more information, email the Office of Global Learning.

6 Attend your visa interview.

Be prepared to be interviewed in English. Answer all questions honestly and briefly.

NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, offers some useful advice for student visa interviews.

What if I’m told my application requires further processing?

After your interview, your application may need further processing. The officer will let you know if this is the case. The U.S. Department of State's website has information on further administrative processing.

Should I notify Cornell if my visa processing is delayed?

If your visa processing is delayed by more than one month, notify the Office of Global Learning and your department, as it will impact your ability to enroll.

What if the U.S. government requires a security clearance because of my citizenship?

You may need a security clearance before being granted a visa if you were born in or are a citizen or national of a country the U.S. government has flagged for special security concern. Security clearance can take anywhere from one to three months. The list of flagged countries is not published, but appears to include the following: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the territories of Gaza and the West Bank.

If you’d like information or advice, email the Office of Global Learning.

7 Receive and review the entry visa in your passport.

Make sure that all the information on the entry visa in your passport is correct. Fix any errors before you leave for the United States!

See U.S. visa FAQs for further information on visas, including how to read and understand one. 

Next Up: Visa Delays