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Santa Clara University

Applying for your visa

What is a Visa Stamp?

The F-1 visa stamp is a travel document issued by U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and placed into your passport. This document is proof that the U.S. Department of State has reviewed your visa application and completed the required security checks to confirm that you intend to be a student and are safe to enter the U.S. 

All F-1 international students (except Canadians) are required to have valid F-1 visa stamp and a valid I-20 before they can enter the U.S.

Canadian Citizens

If you are a Canadian citizen you are “visa exempt” which means that you do not need an F-1 visa stamp in your passport in order to enter the U.S. You are still required to secure an I-20 and pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before you can enter.

Current F-1 Visa holders

If you currently have a valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport, even if it lists another U.S. school or university, you most likely do not need to apply for a new visa stamp.  You are still required to secure an I-20 and pay the I-901 SEVIS fee before you can enter.

Visa Application Process

If you are outside the United States (and you are not a Canadian citizen and you do not already have a valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport), you will need to obtain an F-1 visa stamp in your passport before you can enter the United States. 

More information about the visa application process at can be found on the designated website of the Embassy or Consulate that you will visit, however, you will generally be required to:

You should complete this online and retain proof of payment. 

If you are a student from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, the Gambia, you cannot pay the SEVIS fee online and should follow our special instructions.

Learn more about paying your I-901 SEVIS Fee here.

If the DS-160 is asking for the contact information of your school, you can use the following information:

Organization: Santa Clara University
Name: Sarah Bonnel
Relationship: PDSO, RO, Assistant Director of ISS
Address: 500 El Camino Real Santa Clara, CA 95053
Phone: (001) 408.551.3019
Email: iss@scu.edu

The process to schedule your visa interview appointment varies by country. Please visit the website of your U.S. Embassy or Consulate to learn more.

If the first available appointment is after the program start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019, you may be eligible to request an expedited or emergency appointment. Carefully follow the instructions of your U.S. Embassy or Consulate and contact iss@scu.edu if you have any questions.

Most applicants will be required to attend their visa application appointment in person. If you have previously had an F-1 visa stamp, you may be eligible to apply via mail.

Prior to your interview you should collect originals and copies of all supporting documents. We recommend that you carry:

  • Proof of I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment
  • Proof of DS-160 Visa Application Submission
  • Proof Visa Fee Payment
  • Passport
  • I-20 (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 exchange visitors)
  • Proof of funding for your time in the U.S. (must be in english, must be dated within the last 3 months)
  • Proof of your admission or acceptance to SCU
  • Proof of your academic qualifications for your program (TOFEL scores, admission test scores, prior degree diploma / transcripts)
  • Proof that you have financial, physical and familial ties to your home country

During your visa interview you will be asked several questions about your academic and financial standing. You should always be honest. Though the interview is short (most interviews are less than 5 minutes long), they are very serious. We recommend students be formal and respectful. Students should answer questions directly and keep responses brief and to the point. Here are some common topics and questions you may encounter:

Academics
Why did you apply to SCU?
How many schools did you apply to?
What do you plan on studying?
Why do you want to study in the U.S.?
How long will you study in the US?
(during COVID-19) Are your courses online?

Finances
How much does will it cost to attend your school?
Who is paying for your education?
What business is your family / sponsor in?
Have you received scholarships or loans?
What is your sponsor’s annual income?
Can you show your sponsor’s financial statements?
What is your relationship to your sponsor?
Why is your sponsor willing to sponsor you?

Family
Do you have family in the U.S.?
How many siblings do you have?
What is your brother/sister doing in the U.S.?
What does your mother/father do for a living?
Where do your parents live?

Practical Considerations
Where will you live?
What are your plans after graduation?
Do you plan on returning home over breaks?
Have you visited the U.S. before?
Why do you not want to study in your home country?
Do you plan on working on-campus while studying at your University?

Carefully follow the instructions from your U.S. Embassy or Consulate about your visa appointment. Many consulates will have limitations on how early you can arrive, instructions on how to queue as well as limitation on what you can bring with you (most U.S. Embassy or Consulates ban cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices).

Your interview will only last a few minutes, but it is important that you are professional, respectful and on time for your interview.

After your interview, the Consular Office will take your passport for visa issuance.

Once the visa stamp has been affixed to your passport, your passport will be returned to you. Passport return process varies by U.S. Embassy and Consulate (some return via courier delivery, some via pick-up).

F-2 and J-2 dependent applicants should always carry originals and copies of the following documents:

Proof of DS-160 Visa Application Submission
Proof Visa Fee Payment
Passport
I-20 (F-2) or DS-2019 (J-2)
F-2 or J-2 Spouse: Proof of Marital Relationship (such as, marriage certificate, with translation)
F-2 or J-2 Child: Proof of Parental Relations (such as, birth certificate, with translation)
Proof of additional funding for time in the U.S. (must be dated within 3 months and in English)

If an F-2 or J-2 dependent is applying separate from their F-1 or J-1 family member, they should carry the above documents as well as proof of the family member’s F-1 or J-1 status status, including:

  • Copy of F-1 student's most recent SCU I-20 (or J-1 exchange visitors DS-2019)
  • Copy of F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor's passport
  • Copy of F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor's visa stamp
  • Copy of F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor's I-94 (print here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/)
  • If the F-1 student is a currently enrolled in classes: 
    • Copy of the admission letter
    • Enrollment verification letter or transcripts
    • Class schedule print out
  • If the F-1 student has graduated and is on OPT / STEM OPT: 
    • Copy of your OPT / STEM OPT EAD card(s)
    • Letter from your company verifying the OPT / STEM OPT employment
    • 3 Pay-stubs showing the OPT / STEM OPT employment 
  • If the J-1 exchange visitor is a student
    • Copy of the admission letter
    • Enrollment verification letter or transcripts
    • Class schedule print out
  • If the J-1 exchange visitor is a research scholar or professor
    • Invitation or Employment Offer Letter

Visa Application Processing Time

Processing times for visa applications vary depending on your country of citizenship, the time of year you are applying and your area of study.

You can review general processing times online, but we recommend that you begin your visa application process 1-3 months before your expected arrival in the U.S.

Administrative Processing

Occasionally the U.S. Consulate or Embassy requires extra time to review the details of your application to ensure you have the right security background and the required non-immigrant and bonafide student intent. This can lead to a delay in your visa application called administrative processing.

If you receive any notifications from the Consulate or Embassy about your visa processing being delayed or denied, please contact our office.

Visa Approval

Once your F-1 visa has been issued, your passport will be returned to you and you will be able to arrange for your travel to the United States. F-1 international students may enter the United States up to 30 days before the program start date listed on the I-20.  Please consider processing times and your program start date carefully when making your travel plans to the United States.