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International Student Services


Obtaining a Visa

Students reading outside

After you are accepted to St. Ambrose, obtaining your visa is the first step in preparing to come here. Follow the steps below, and you'll be well on your way to success!

  1. Gain admission to St. Ambrose University.
  2. St. Ambrose will prepare your Form I-20 (for F-1 visa applicants) or DS-2019 (for J-1 visa applicants) and send this to you by courier. 
  3. In the meantime, prepare by learning about the forms and details required in the F-1/I-20 and
    J-1/DS-2019 visa processes.
  4. After you receive the I-20 or DS-2019, pay the SEVIS/I-901 fee.
  5. Visit the website of your local US Consulate to make a visa interview appointment.
  6. Take the I-20 or DS-2019 with the supporting documents (proof of English, transcripts, proof of funding sources) to the visa interview. Be prepared to discuss your educational goals and academic plan of study.
  7. Your visa case is adjudicated by the US Consulate.
  8. If approved, you will receive a visa, which will be a large sticker in your passport.  Use the visa and I-20 or DS-2019 to enter the US.  If your visa application is denied, the US Consulate gives you the reason in writing. Ask the Consulate or visit their webpage to learn about appealing any denial and contact us.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get a visa?
The amount of time it takes to process a visa varies depending on the resources available at each Consulate and the number of requests. Visit this US Department of State Visa Wait Times website for an estimated time frame.

What is the SEVIS or I-901 fee?
The SEVIS fee is paid by students before they can obtain the student visa. You need a SEVIS fee receipt in order to obtain a student visa interview appointment. Visit the SEVIS fee website to learn more and to learn about payment options. You need the information on your non-immigrant paperwork (I-20 or DS-2019) to pay the fee.

What is an I-94 card?
An I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) is a small white card issued at the US border which is normally stapled or placed inside the passport. The student writes in their name, date of birth and country of citizenship. The I-94 card shows the place of entry into the US, the visa status and the expiration of the visa status.  This is a very important immigration document and should not be lost.

The visa status expiration date is noted as a specific date on the I-94 or as "D/S" which means "Duration of Status". This means a student can remain in the US as long as long they maintain legal status.

Why does my visa have an expiration date?
When you receive your visa, you will notice that it contains a specific expiration date. However, it is possible that your education is the United States will finish later than the expiration date on your visa. This is not a problem as long as you remain in the US. Your I-20 or DS-2019 and your I-94 card will be marked "D/S" which enables you to remain in the US for your education, so long as you are abiding by the regulations of your visa type.

However, if you leave the US and the expiration date on your visa has passed, you will need to obtain a new visa to re-enter the US. Be sure you know your visa expiration date and keep this in mind when planning any trip outside of the US - even to Mexico or Canada. If in doubt about what to do, please visit us!

Canadian exception:
The US and Canadian governments have made an agreement that Canadians do not need to physically obtain a visa in their passport to study in the US. The student needs all the same documentation and all the same visa rules apply. If the Canadian border official determines all the visa requirements are met, the I-20 is stamped and an I-94 is issued granting the student visa status without a physical visa in the passport.

Keys to Success

  • The process to obtain a visa varies in each US Consulate depending on resources. Some Consulates use the web to schedule appointments, and others use the phone. Refer to your local US Consulate for details.
  • The time it takes to obtain a visa varies from 2 days to 6 months. Apply as early as possible.
  • Concisely and directly answer visa interview questions. Do not hesitate to ask the officer to repeat a question.
  • An F-1 visa interview requires proof that you do not intend to immigrate to the US. Can you prove you have strong ties or reasons to return to your home country?
  • Be prepared to talk about your academic and personal goals in the consular interview. Why study at Ambrose? What are your plans when you complete your degree?
  • Take all supporting admission documents to the visa interview: acceptance letter, educational transcripts, proof of funding, as well as admission test results and proof of English ability.
  • Be careful completing forms and proof read your immigration documents and visa for any possible mistakes. Mistakes can lead to delays so be careful and pay attention to details.