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 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. You must be physically present in the country in which you are applying for the visa.
  • The maximum length of the visa and number of entries is determined by the visa category and country of citizenship. See the Reciprocity Table for your country of citizenship and the visa category for more information.

F-1 and J-1 Visas

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

  1. Obtain a valid I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) from UC Berkeley by completing the NIF (degree-seeking and UCEAP 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 and pay the DS-160 fee. (Note that some applicants may pay an additional Visa Reciprocity fee, acording to their visa category and nationality.)
  5. Make a visa appointment and go to an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. (See below for required documents.)
*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. New initial students/scholars may apply for a visa up to 365 days in advance of their program start date. 

Visa Interviews & Required Documents

When going to the visa interview, bring:

  • Passport (valid at least six months into the future)
  • Valid Certificate of Eligibility I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) 
  • Proof of admission (F/J new students) or proof of 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.
  • F-1/J-2  spouse or child dependents will need their own  F-1 I-20 or J-2 DS-2019 and copies of all of the primary F-1/J-1's documents

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.

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

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 so we can advise on the implications of a delayed arrival.

Additional Resources

New Students: See the Applying for your Student Visa pre-arrival webinar recording and slides.

Continuing Students: See our Travel & Visa Webinar recording and slides.