Applying for a Visa

COVID-19 alert: Global travel conditions are highly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of State has announced a phased resumption of routine visa services. Visit your local U.S. embassy or consulate website to confirm operating status and find information about appointment rescheduling and/or emergency services.

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 (degree-seeking students), VSIS (Summer Sessions students), or being invited by a UC Berkeley department or lab as a J-1 Exchange Visitor
  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 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.

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.

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Additional Information

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:

  • Point of Contact in the US? F/J Enrolled Students should use the Berkeley International Office contact address and phone and provide the name of the DSO/ARO who issued your I-20/DS-2019. J-1 Scholars should use the name and contact information from their host department.
  • Address Where You will Stay in the US? If you don't know your U.S address, use the address you will use when you first arrive in the US, which might be a temporary address like a hotel or friend.
  • 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 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 (F/J Enrolled EAP or Degree-Seeking Students)
  • 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.

Travel/Visa Updates and Q&A Webinar - July 15, 2021

This webinar, recorded on July 15, 2021, instructs newly admitted and continuing students attending UC Berkeley for Fall 2021 on the U.S. embassy or consulate visa application process and entry/re-entry to the United States. Berkeley International Office's Assistant Director for Student Services answers student questions and discusses planning for the fall semester, current travel concerns, embassy and consular closures, and more. View the presentation slides.

Please note that the information in this video is subject to change. Watch for emails from the university and Berkeley International Office and monitor our COVID-19 FAQ webpage.

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Video: The Visa Application Guide
Note: Please review BIO Travel & COVID-19 FAQ pages for current travel restrictions. Travel restrictions noted in this video may not be up-to-date.