If you are coming to study in the United States for the first time, you will need to follow certain procedures in order to acquire the necessary documentation allowing you to study at Fairfield. The documents you will need are:
- A valid passport
- A valid U.S. visa
- A valid Form I-20 (only if you are coming as an F1 student)
- A valid DS-2019 (only if you are coming as a J1 student)
- Declaration of finances
- I-94 card
The passport is a document issued by your government giving you permission to travel outside of your country. It is renewed through your embassy or the nearest consul and it serves as your identity documentation in a foreign country. Make sure to keep your passport in a safe place. You should also keep a copy of your passport in a safe place in case the original becomes lost or stolen. Your embassy will be able to issue a replacement more promptly, if you can provide them with a copy of the original. In order for you to maintain your legal status in the United States, your passport must remain current at all time. For passport renewal, your embassy may need a letter verifying that you are a full-time student. You may request such a letter from the Office of International Students.
United States Visa
A visa is a document which grants you permission by the U.S. government to request entry into the United States as a non-immigrant under specific conditions. It is a multi-colored stamp in your passport issued by an American Embassy or consulate abroad. Depending upon the agreement between your home government and the United States government, you may have been issued a visa with an expiration date or possibly a multiple-entry visa.
You should prepare yourself adequately for your appointment at the Consulate or Embassy by taking with you any documents that the Consul requests. You may show whatever supporting material you have, if the interviewer asks for it. The Consular Officer will review your application and documentation in order to be certain that you are indeed a non-immigrant and that you do not intend to live in the United States permanently. The burden of proof is on you. The strongest factors taken into consideration by the Consular Officer are family ties, property, job, and other financial commitments in your home country. It is rare that a Fairfield student has had any difficulty in obtaining a visa to re-enter the United States. If you are well-prepared and truthful in your efforts, your visa will probably be issued routinely.
Once you enter the United States, you will not need your visa unless you plan to travel abroad and return to the United States. For more details, please read the travel section.
Types of Visa
There are 65 different types of non-immigrant visas. These categories are determined based on the purpose of the foreigner's visit to the United States. Of these 65 categories, only B visas (for tourism and business), F-2 visas (dependents of F-1 students), and C visas (transit visas) are not legally allowed to enroll full-time in a degree-seeking program.
As an international student coming to the United States, you will need either F-1 student status or J-1 exchange visitor status.
The F-1 student visa permits an individual to enter the United States for full-time study at an authorized institution in the United States. To obtain F-1 status, it is necessary to present a Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility) to an American Embassy.
J-1 exchange visitor status permits the individual to enter the United States for study, teaching, research, or training. The individual presents a Form DS-2019 to an American Embassy abroad to obtain a J-1 visa. He/she is obligated to engage in the activities specified on the Form DS-2019 while in the United States. Students holding J-1 visas generally receive support either from the University or hold scholarships from the United States government or home government. The exchange visitor's sponsor is the organization which issues the form DS-2019, which may or may not be the agency that actually provides financial support.
A form I-20 is a government form which tells the U.S. government that you are eligible for F-1 student status. It certifies that you expect to be a "bona fide" student, meet Fairfield's admissions requirements, will pursue a full course of study, and proved to us that you will be able to support your expenses of studying and living in the United States. You need a Form I-20 to obtain an F-1 student visa, or status, or to maintain your legal status while transferring schools in the United States. You only need to obtain a Form I-20 if you wish to study on an F-1 non-immigrant status. Be aware, however, that we can only issue a Form I-20 once you have received your admission letter and the University has received your admission deposit.
Similarly to Form I-20, Form DS-2019 is a government document which certifies your eligibility to come to Fairfield University as an exchange student, professor or research scholar. This form clearly defines the parameters and conditions of your exchange program as defined by the sponsor. You need a valid DS-2019 to maintain your J-1 status in the United States. You should only obtain a Form DS-2019 if you wish to come as an exchange student, professor or scholar. A DS-2019, however, can only be obtained from Fairfield University once you have been recommended by one of our partner Universities abroad. Here is a list of Fairfield's partner schools for exchange:
- IQS - Barcelona, Spain
- Sophia - Tokyo, Japan
- Baden-Wuerttemberg - Germany
- Maastricht - The Netherlands
- UCA - Managua, Nicaragua
- Shanghai University of Science and Technology, Shanghai
- Central China Normal University, Wuhan
Declaration of Finances
To secure a student visa, you will need to submit financial documentation to show you can cover the cost of tuition for one full year. Fairfield University encourages you to register with FundsV to submit your bank documentation. If your bank is represented with the FundsV network, then you may register (free of charge) for unlimited account balance verifications and access to a FundsV profile for one year. Your profile will only be accessible to the Office of International Programs staff, and will provide Fairfield University with enough financial documentation to issue your I-20. If your bank is not represented with FundsV, please send a valid bank document to the Office of International Programs by mail.
The I-94 card is issued at the port of entry when you travel into the United States. The card is a loose piece of paper which is stapled opposite to your U.S. visa. On this card, the officer at the port of entry gives you a "status." Status is your reason for being in the United States, and the different categories correspond to visa categories. This document determines whether you are in the country as a tourist (B-2), student (F-1), or any other status. Besides determining your status, the I-94 card determines the length of your stay in the United States. For F-1 students this will read "D/S" which means "duration of status." In other words, you will be able to stay legally in the United States as long as you maintain your status.