You are expected to apply for your F-1 visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate having jurisdiction over your place of permanent foreign residence. (If you attempt to apply for your visa outside your home country, the application process can be much more difficult and time-consuming, with a greater possibility of denial.) In preparation for this process, I urge you to review the information related to general eligibility for student visas at the website of the U.S. Department of State, http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html. In addition to this general information, you should also inquire in advance about specific visa issuance procedures, required forms and fees, and processing times at the U.S. embassy / consulate for your place of foreign residence, as there are local variations. Links to the individual websites of U.S. embassies and consulates around the world can be found at http://www.usembassy.gov. Once you have located the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your place of residence, you should look for information on the topic of “non-immigrant visas/F-1 student visas.” Summary information on visa processing times at various U.S. embassies and consulates around the world can be found at: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html.
In all cases, completed visa application forms - - - Form DS-156, “Application for Nonimmigrant Visa” and DS-158 “Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant” are required, along with your passport (with at least six months validity); your Form I-20AB; your letter of acceptance; financial documentation (more about this below); photographs; the visa application fee payment; and a personal interview. Another form, Form DS-157, “Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application” is required for all male nonimmigrant visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 45. It may also be required of any other nonimmigrant visa applicant, at the discretion of the embassy/consulate.
[Please note that F-1 students who are moving from one U.S. program to another -- from a U.S. high school to a U.S. college or from one U.S. college to another U.S. college – and are in possession of a “transfer pending” I-20 form are not required to pay the $200 “SEVIS I-901 Fee” again, either for renewal of the F-1 visa or for reentry to the U.S. from abroad.]
With respect to the need for financial documentation, you should be prepared to provide the consular officer with documentary proof that you have sufficient financial resources to cover any “family funds” or “personal funds” components of your financial support statement (items #8a and #8c on page 1 of the I-20form). Specifically, the consular officer will want to be assured that the student will have adequate funds available to cover the family / personal funds component for the first year of study and that, “barring unforeseen circumstances,” adequate funds will be similarly available for each subsequent year of study from the sources(s). Acceptable documentary evidence may include bank statements, certified letters of account balances or credit lines, or other proof of your family’s annual income and/or total assets. If you have funding from any other outside sponsor – whether an individual or an agency - you should be prepared to present proof of that funding to the consular officer, as well. [You should also be aware that Amherst College will consider your use of your Amherst College I-20AB form for the acquisition of your F-1 visa and your subsequent entry to the U.S. as further attestation that you have sufficient financial resources to cover any financial components listed in items #8a or #8c of the I-20AB form.]
Another very important criterion used in the evaluation of visa applicants is “non-immigrant intent.” The consular officer must be convinced that you intend to remain in the U.S. temporarily and only for the period of time needed to complete your education. You should be prepared to demonstrate that you have close ties to your home country (professional, family, financial, etc.) and to explain the personal reasons why you intend to return to your home country after you complete your studies. The most common reason for visa denial is the applicant’s failure to convince the consular officer of intent to return home, so you should be certain to give some thought to this issue before your visa interview.
The consular officer is free to require whatever additional information seems necessary and has complete discretionary authority in determining your financial sufficiency, your nonimmigrant intent and your overall eligibility for the F-1 visa. The burden of proof is always on the visa applicant, so you should be prepared to respond to questions about your ability to finance your education and your intentions to return to your home country upon completion of your education. The vast majority of our new international students receive their F-1 visas without problem. If you encounter difficulty, you should contact Dean Bassett immediately.
Visa issuance may take as long as six to eight weeks; in some cases, supplementary security clearances may take even longer. Therefore, you are encouraged to submit your visa application materials as early as possible to ensure receiving your F-1 visa in time to enter the U.S. in time for the start of the Orientation at the end of August.