Applying for a Visa

ALERT: Berkeley International Office (BIO) currently recommends minimizing international travel due to the changing nature of U.S. immigration policy. Given the current U.S. immigration climate, you should be prepared for the possibility of increased scrutiny at the U.S. port of entry in the form of additional questioning and/or inspection of your phone or social media. For important information regarding current U.S. immigration policy, Executive Orders, and travel advisories, please see BIO's Immigration Policy Updates & FAQ webpage

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: BIO is closely monitoring the current coronavirus outbreak and Presidential Proclamation suspending entry into the United States for those deemed to pose a risk of transmitting the coronavirus. Effective Sunday, February 2nd at 5 p.m. eastern standard time, the U.S. government will deny the entry into the U.S. of any foreign national (except immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents) who has traveled in China within the last 14 days. For information about immediate family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who may be exempt from this suspension, please review section 2 of the Presidential Proclamation. Restrictions on travel to and from China are rapidly evolving, as well as impacting local consulates and embassies working with U.S. visa applications. Mail delivery in parts of the world is also impacted and may result in delays in the delivery of immigration documents. Should you have urgent, emergency travel needs to or from this region, please contact BIO for advising.


All nonimmigrant visitors are required to have a valid visa (*except Canadians) in their passport to be allowed entry into the United States. For general information, see the U.S. Department of State website.

  • An appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad may be required.
  • Visas cannot be issued inside the United States.

F-1 and J-1 Visas

Do the following to get an F-1 or J-1 entry visa:

  1. Obtain I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) from UC Berkeley by completing the NIF.
  2. Check the current wait times for visa appointments and issuance in your city.
  3. Pay the SEVIS Fee, if applicable.
  4. Complete the Visa Application form DS-160.
  5. Make a visa appointment and go to an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Canadian Citizens

*Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a visa to enter the United States 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 United States.

Increased Visa Screening

Be mindful of your social media presence!

The DS-160 visa application includes specific questions requiring you to list all social media platforms, identifiers, and handles used in the previous 5 years. 

The DS-160 may also require:

  • Five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, and international travel
  • Admission of all prior immigration violations
  • Whether specified family members have been involved in terrorist activities

Visa Appointments

Read the U.S. Department of State website 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 your 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 appointments, especially May through August. However, consulates may give priority to F-1 and J-1 student applicants, if requested.

Visa Interviews

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 (F/J new students) or proof enrollment (F/J currently enrolled students) or UC Berkeley appointment letter ( J scholars)
  • Evidence of financial support (J scholars)
  • Visa application forms and fees
  • SEVIS Fee receipt (F-1 and J-1 only)
  • F-1 Students on OPT or STEM OPT Extension do not require proof of enrollment, but they must also bring an unexpired EAD card and a job offer letter or current employment verification letter.
  • J-1 Students on  post-completion J-1 Academic Training will need the J-1 AT DS-2019 and job offer letter or current employment verification letter.

Some consulates may require additional documentation, so check the consulate website for visa application instructions. Visa application forms and fees can be found on the consulate website.

Security Clearances

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 check is cleared. It is common for the security clearance to take a couple of weeks to a couple of months. If you are 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.

Video: The Visa Application Guide