Applying for a Visa
All nonimmigrant visitors are required to have a valid visa (*except Canadians) in their passport to be allowed entry into the U.S. Non-immigrant visitors may need to make an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to receive a visa. Visas cannot be issued inside the U.S. For general information, see the Department of State website.
F-1 and J-1 Visas
Do the following to get an F-1 or J-1 entry visa:
- Obtain I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) from UC Berkeley
- Pay the SEVIS Fee, if applicable
- Make a visa appointment and go to an interview at a U.S. consulate.
*Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a visa to enter the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1, but must still pay the SEVIS Fee and present their I-20 or DS-2019 at the U.S. port of entry. However, if the visitor has "Landed Immigrant" status in Canada, a U.S. visa is required to enter the U.S..
Read the U.S. Department of State web site for more information about the visa application process and Temporary Visitors to the U.S.
Visa Wait Times
Since visa appointments are limited and visa processing times can be lengthy, make the appointment as early as possible. Consulates will generally accept appointments up to 120 days prior to the start of studies. There may be long waiting periods for apppointments, especially May through August. However, consulates may give priority to F-1 and J-1 student applicants, if requested.
When going to the visa interview, bring:
- Passport (valid at least six months into the future)
- Certificate of Eligibility I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1)
- Proof of admission (or proof enrollment for current students) or UC Berkeley appointment letter
- Evidence of financial support
- Visa application forms and fees
- SEVIS Fee Receipt (F-1 and J-1 only)
- Students on OPT or STEM OPT must also bring an unexpired EAD card and a job offer letter or employment verification letter.
Some consulates may require additional documentation, so check the consulate web site for visa application instructions. Visa application forms and fees can be found on the consulate web site.
In some cases, the consulate may require a security clearance on the visa application. A visa may be approved, but cannot be issued until the security checked is cleared. It is common for the security clearance to take a couple of weeks to a couple of months. If subject to a security clearance, please email Berkeley International Office at InternationalOffice@berkeley.edu so we can advise on the implications of a delayed arrival.
See also the Security Clearance Advisory memo.