Applying for a US visa might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Explore the sections below to learn more about the process for F-1 (nonimmigrant student) and J-1 (exchange visitor) applicants. And when in doubt, please do not hesitate to contact the Center for International Student Engagement (CISE).
APPLYING FOR AN F-1 OR J-1 VISA
How do I know which category of visa to apply for?
- If you are not a US citizen/permanent resident and are planning to study toward a degree in Amherst College’s four-year undergraduate program, then you will most likely be pursuing an F-1 nonimmigrant student visa. If you are pursuing F-1 status, you will need an I-20 from Amherst College in order to apply for your F-1 visa.
- If you are not a US citizen/permanent resident and will be joining Amherst College as a Language Assistant or through a short-term exchange program such as the Yale-NUS exchange program, then you will most likely be pursuing a J-1 exchange visitor visa. If you are pursuing J-1 status, you will need a DS-2019 from Amherst College in order to apply for your J-1 visa.
The CISE will provide guidance regarding the appropriate visa status for your time at Amherst College. While parts of the visa application process are similar for F-1 and J-1 status, there are some critical distinctions between the two. Be sure to review this information as well as well the information provided by your local consulate/embassy very carefully.
Before the CISE can issue the immigration document that you will need for your visa application, there are a few preliminary steps that you will need to complete.
1. Receive an Offer from Amherst College
- Undergraduate Degree-Seeking Students
- This would be your official letter of admission from the Admission Office.
- Short-Term Exchange Students
- This would be your official exchange program offer from the Global Education Office.
- Language Assistants
- This would be your official offer letter from the Dean of Faculty and/or your Department Chair.
2. Pay your deposit or confirm your deposit waiver (if applicable). If you have questions about desposits or deposit waivers, please conctact the Office of Admission.
3. submit a copy of your PASSPORT BIOGRAPHICAL PAGE. To upload, lOG INTO YOUR APPLICATION STATUS PAGE AND USE THE “UPLOAD MATERIALS” TOOL.
4. Ensure that you have completed all requirements with the Office of Financial Aid and have received your finalized award (if applicable) or have a complete Certification of Finances (if applicable).
For Language Assistants, your financial details will be outlined in your official offer letter from Amherst College.
Once you have been admitted to Amherst College and completed all of the preliminary steps, you will be ready to have an I-20 or DS-2019 issued.
- If you are not a US citizen/US permanent resident and are planning to study toward a degree in Amherst College’s four-year undergraduate program, then you will most likely be pursuing an F-1 nonimmigrant student visa. If you are pursuing F-1 status, you will need an I-20, which is a “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” from Amherst College in order to apply for your F-1 visa.
- Along with your application to Amherst College, you provided basic biographical information, contact information, historical immigration information, and even a copy of your passport. Once you have completed all of the preliminary steps, the CISE will review your information and use it to issue you an I-20. If the CISE has any questions about the information provided, we will contact you directly via email.
- The I-20 issuance timeline can vary based on how quickly you complete the preliminary steps and when your Financial Aid information is processed, though many I-20s are issued 2 - 4 weeks after these steps have been completed. If you have any questions about the issuance of your I-20, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the CISE.
- If you are not a US citizen/US permanent resident, will be joining Amherst College as a Language Assistant or through a short-term exchange program such as the Yale-NUS exchange program, and will not be studying towards a degree at Amherst, then you will most likely be pursuing a J-1 exchange visitor visa. If you are pursuing J-1 status, you will need a DS-2019, which is a “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status,” from Amherst College in order to apply for your J-1 visa.
- To apply for the DS-2019, you’ll need to complete the J-1 Exchange Visitor Info Form, which includes an upload of your passport biographical page . Once the form has been completed, the CISE will begin processing your DS-2019 request.
- The DS-2019 issuance timeline can vary based on how quickly you complete the preliminary steps , but most documents are issued 2 - 4 weeks after the DS-2019 Request Form is submitted. If you have any questions about the issuance of your DS-2019, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the CISE.
Receiving your I-20 or DS-2019 in the Mail
- Depending upon your location, mail delivery may take anywhere from 1 - 3 weeks. If you prefer a faster method of delivery, you may request express delivery service at your expense. If you would like to request expedited delivery at an additional expense, please complete the Express Delivery Request form.
- When your I-20 or DS-2019 has been issued and shipped by the CISE, you will receive a confirmation email. If you do not select express delivery, the CISE will email you before shipping your I-20 or DS-2019 to confirm your preferred mailing address. Tracking information for the I-20/DS-2019 shipment will be emailed to you directly from the shipping service.
Please note that this page is intended for general informational purposes only. While we will provide guidance whenever possible, there can be variation in process between different consulates and embassies. Be sure to check the guidelines provided by the consulate or embassy through which you will be applying for your visa. If you are applying for a visa outside of your country of citizenship and/or permanent residence, you may encounter additional challenges or delays. Additionally, you cannot apply for a US visa within the United States.
Pay the SEVIS fee
After receiving your I-20 or DS-2019, and before attending a visa interview at your local embassy or consulate, you must pay what is called the SEVIS Fee or SEVIS I-901 Fee. You will be expected to provide your receipt as proof of payment at the time of your visa interview and your arrival in the US.
- Currently, the SEVIS I-901 Fee is $200 USD for F-1 applications and $180 for J-1 applications.
- Note that this fee is separate and preliminary to any visa application fee that you may need to pay for your visa interview appointment. Visa application fee amounts may vary; check the website of your local consulate/embassy office for more information.
- If you have concerns about the payment of the SEVIS I-901 Fee, please reach out to us in the CISE.
Apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa
Use your Amherst College I-20 or DS-2019 to apply for your F-1 or J-1 visa. Review these tips on applying for a student visa, and then apply for a student visa from a US embassy consulate (preferably in your country of citizenship or country of permanent residence). If you are wondering how long this process will take, you may want to check out the wait times associated with the US embassy or consulate through which you will be applying. The application process generally includes a short interview in English, the application form DS-160, and the application fee.