United States Visa
Once you fulfill the application process for a Form I-20 or a DS-2019, the Office of International Students will enter you into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) database and print out a copy of the form. This hard copy will be mailed to you. When you receive the form from Fairfield University, it is recommended you make an appointment at the U.S. consulate or embassy in your country of residence. Keep in mind that in some countries it may take months to make an appointment. For more information about visa applications, please consult the U.S. Immigration website.
Prior to your appointment with the Consulate, you MUST complete Form I-901 and submit a SEVIS fee of $200 (for F students) or $180 (for J students) to the Department of Homeland Security. There are a number of ways to do this:
- Download the I-901 at the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement website. When completing the I-901, enter your name exactly as it appears on the I-20 or the DS-2019. If you choose to complete the I-901 online, you may pay by Visa, MasterCard or American Express.
- Another option of payment for non-immigrant students and exchange visitors in more than 130 countries is by the Western Union Quick pay service. The instructions along with a completed sample of the Western Union form can be found on the SEVIS website. Bring a printed copy of the instructions and the sample of the completed Western Union form to the Western Union Agent in order to correctly process their payments.
- If you elect to submit the I-901 by mail, include a check, international money order, or foreign draft (drawn on U.S. banks only) in the amount of $100 USD. Mail the form and the fee to the address listed on the Form I-901. The Department of Homeland Security will mail you a receipt within three days of processing the fee. Be sure to make copies of your receipt and keep it with your other important immigration documents. Note: It is better to pay your SEVIS fee online because it will be processed immediately. At the time that you make your payment, you will be able to retrieve your receipt directly from your computer. You must pay the fee at least three business days prior to applying for your visa or applying for admission to the United States at the port of entry if you are exempt from the visa requirement. At this time, the SEVIS fee can only be processed by the Department of Homeland Security via mail or online. You may not pay the fee at a United States embassy, Consulate, or at the port of entry.
Obtaining a U.S. Visa
In order to obtain a U.S. visa, you will need to present documentation much like what you submitted to Fairfield University for the issuance of your Form I-20 or DS-2019. You will need to interview (in person) during which you will present the documentation and will be asked questions about it.
First, you need to complete Form DS-156 for nonimmigrant visa and, if needed, DS-157 or DS-158 supplemental applications. You will also need to provide the receipt for the SEVIS fee payment, your passport, two passport type photographs (photograph specifications), your Form I-20, evidence of sufficient financial support (same as you presented to Fairfield University), your letter of admissions to Fairfield, test scores and academic records, proof of English proficiency, and evidence of compelling ties.
Make sure that your documentation is accurate and recent. It is crucial that the consul is given as much information as possible to justify your study at Fairfield. However, make sure not to overwhelm the consul with information he/she does not ask for.
During the interview, the consul will be speaking with you in English. This is to test your language proficiency. Be ready to answer basic questions about why you plan to study in the United States, why at Fairfield University, what your professional goals are, and about any documents you present. Proving English proficiency is very important.
The consul will work on the presumption that you have immigrant intent, in other words, that you want to get this visa and then stay in the United States forever. It is your responsibility to convince the consul that that's not the case by providing proof of compelling ties. Compelling ties are those things that tie you to your country and which prevent you from permanently moving to the United States. Examples includeamily ties, property, and previous U.S. travel. If your spouse or children (or close relatives) remain in your home country, you will be more likely to return home. Ownership of a home, business, or any other property indicates that you are more likely to return home after you finish your studies in the United States. Last, if you have traveled to the United States before (as a tourist or other status) and have returned home, you will then have a good record with the U.S. government. They will take past travel to the United States into consideration.
Most visas that fail to be approved are due to the inability to prove compelling ties. In the case that your visa is denied, there is nothing the Office of International Students can do for you other than help you prepare for another interview.
The Canadian Exception
Canadians citizens are not required to obtain a U.S. visa before entering the country. However, make sure that you present all the documentation described above at the port of entry. Make sure you let the officer at the border know that you are applying for "F-1 Student Status." Make sure the annotations "F-1 and D/S" are on your I-94 card. If you don't have these annotations, and don't present documentary evidence for F-1 status you will enter the United States as a tourist and you will not be able to study at Fairfield University legally.