Step 3: Prepare to Enter the U.S.
Once you have received your Form I-20/DS-2019 from Brandeis University and your SEVIS fee has been paid, most students, except for Canadian citizens, should schedule an appointment at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate as soon as possible.
Canadian Citizens: Canadian citizens are not required to obtain an entry visa stamp, but all Canadian citizens must obtain a Form I-20/DS-2019 and pay the appropriate SEVIS fee at least 3 business days before entering the U.S. and obtaining F-1/J-1 student status at the U.S. Port-of-Entry.
Schedule and Apply for a Visa
All new F-1/J-1 applicants, except for Canadian citizens, must appear for an in-person interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The earliest that F-1/J-1 students may be granted a visa is 120 days prior to the start of the student's academic program at Brandeis (see your program start date on your Form I-20/DS-2019).
Processing times for visa issuance vary and may require additional time due to security checks. The U.S. Department of State provides approximate information on visa processing times, required materials, and current listings of U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad. You will find links to these sites under "Helpful Information" on this page.
Current Visa Wait Times: You can check the current visa wait times by reviewing this comprehensive spreadsheet with current visa wait times which is updated weekly.
Prepare for Your Visa Interview
To be issued a student visa, the Consular Officer will ask you to prove that you plan to return to your home country when you complete your studies in the U.S. and that you have no intention to remain in the U.S. In order to demonstrate to the Consular Officer that you plan to return to your home country, you will be asked to show that:
- You have sufficient assured funds to cover all your expenses for the duration of your stay in the U.S. If you are receiving a scholarship from Brandeis,or if you are sponsored by an agency or organization, be prepared to show a letter of your award/sponsorship. If your funding is from personal and/or family funds, be prepared to show bank statements/letters, certified letters of credit, proof of your annual salary and/or your total available assets or that of your immediate family.
F-1 Students: At minimum, you must prove to the satisfaction of the United States Consular Officer that you have sufficient funds for at least one year of study. According to the limitations of your visa status, you will not be permitted to work off-campus during your first year at Brandeis. Also note that on-campus jobs are limited.
- You have “strong ties” to your home country and that you will return home upon completion of your program. Strong ties are various aspects of your life (professional, family, financial, etc.) that bind you to your country of residence. Strong ties may include all your family resides in your home country and not in the U.S., you have a job awaiting you at home upon completing your studies, all of your assets are at home and not in the U.S., etc.
- You can articulate your plan. What do you want to study or research? Why did you choose Brandeis University? What activities will you pursue in your home country after you complete your degree/program? You may be asked many questions in the interview or your time in the interview may be very brief. It is important to be calm, clear, and concise.
Documents to Bring to Your Visa Interview
- Valid Passport
- Proof of Assured Funds (Financial Documents) as reflected on your Certificate of Eligibility Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 (bring all ORIGINAL bank documents and support letters)
Original Certificate of Eligibility Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 (be sure to carefully review for possible errors and sign your document prior to your interview)
SEVIS Fee Payment Receipt
The Acceptance Letter and Financial Aid Award Letter (if any) from Brandeis.
Check your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate website for additional requirements such as application fees, photos, etc.
The U.S. Consular Officer will review your documents during your visa interview. Be prepared to answer potential questions about your family, finances, choice of degree program (for students) and why you are choosing to come to Brandeis.
If the official believes that all is in order, he or she should issue you an F-1/J-1 visa allowing you to enter the U.S. in F-1/J-1 status for the purpose of studying at Brandeis University.
What You Will be Told at Your Interview
- Your visa has been granted and will be given to you at that time or it will be mailed to you.
- Your visa has been denied. The U.S. Embassy/Consulate should provide you with a written explanation explaining the reason for the denial as well perhaps giving you some information verbally. If you are denied a visa, contact the ISSO immediately with as much information as possible about your visa interview and the ISSO will provide some guidance as to the next step.
- Your application needs further review and will be sent for a Security Advisory Opinion (SAO). This does not mean that you have been denied a visa. However, it does mean that your file will be sent to Washington D.C. for further security screening. Please note that it is not possible to expedite the processing time for an SAO. The approximate processing time is 30 days but processing times may vary. If you receive an SAO, please keep the ISSO informed about the status of your visa.