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Obtaining Your Visa

Apply for a Visa

With your I-20 or DS-2019 in hand, contact the nearest U.S. consulate or embassy to find out about application requirements, procedures, hours, fees and processing times, since the procedures differ between different countries. Visit the U.S. State Department for a list of U.S. embassies and consulates.

Present Your Documents to the Consular Officer

  • Valid Passport
  • Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Letter of admission or invitation from Western Carolina University
  • Proof of financial support (i.e. bank statement, scholarship award letter, and/or affidavit of support, to match the amount indicated on the Form I-20 or DS-2019)
  • Two photographs (the passport-style photos must be 2” by 2”. The photos must be in color with full face, frontal view on a white to off-white background. Head height should measure 1” to 1 3/8” from top to bottom of the chin, and eye height is between 1 1/8” to 1 3/8” from the bottom of the photo. Your head must be bare unless you are wearing a headdress as required by a religious order of which you are a member.)
  • Visa application form (available at the U.S. consulate)
  • Test score reports (i.e. TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, if required for your program)
  • Evidence of your intent to return to your home country upon completion of your studies
  • Visa application fee (find out from the consulate what amount is and what forms of payment are accepted)

Entering the United States

Make plans to arrive in Cullowhee at least two weeks before the start of the semester if you plan to live off campus, to give yourself time to find a place to stay. If you have made arrangements to live on campus, you should plan to arrive in time (2-3 days prior) for the mandatory international student orientation, usually held a few days before the first day of class.

On the airplane, before entering the United States, you will be given a white card to fill out, called Form I-94. At the port of the entry, you will be asked to present your passport, containing a valid F-1 or J-1 visa, and your I-20 or DS-2019, and the I-94 to an officer of the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). The officer should then return the following documents to you:

  • F-1 students: Form I-94 with a USCIS stamp and a notation for "F-1, D/S", top page (student copy) of the I-20 with an USCIS stamp
  • J-1 students: Form I-94 with a USCIS stamp and a notation for "J-1, D/S, the pink copy of the DS-2019 with an USCIS stamp on the lower left side

These are your immigration documents. Make sure that you have these documents before leaving the USCIS desk. The form I-94 (a white card) is usually stapled into the passport opposite the visa. Keep them in a safe place. The "D/S" notation stands for "Duration of Status," which means that you are authorized to stay in the United States, as long as you are maintaining student status.

Admittance to Multiple Schools

F-1 students who have been accepted to several different schools, and have received several Forms I-20, must enter the United States with the I-20 of the school they plan to attend, regardless of what I-20 was used in order to obtain the F-1 visa. It is acceptable to have an F-1 visa issued with a notation of one school, and at the port of entry present an I-20 of a different school. (If asked, explain to the immigration inspector what the situation is, that you were accepted to more than one school, and this is the one you wish to attend.) This will avoid having to apply for "reinstatement" (application I-539) and paying a $300 processing fee for entering with the wrong I-20.

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