All nonimmigrant visitors are required to have a valid visa in their passports to be allowed entry into the U.S. You may need to make an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad to get your visa. Visas cannot be obtained within the U.S. For general information about getting a visa, see the Department of State web site.
Getting an F-1 or J-1 entry visa involves three main steps:
- Obtaining your I-20 from Gettysburg College
- Paying the SEVIS Fee (this is paid by Gettysburg College for you),
- Making a visa appointment and going to an interview at a U.S. consulate.
*Canadian Citizens - Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a visa to enter the U.S. as an F-1, but must still pay the SEVIS Fee and present the Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) at the U.S. port of entry. However, if you have "Landed Immigrant" status in Canada, you must obtain a U.S. visa.
Read the U.S. Department of State web site for more information about the visa application process.
Visa Wait Times
Since visa appointments are limited and visa processing times can be lengthy, you should make your appointment as early as possible. Consulates will generally accept appointments up to 120 days prior to the start of your studies. There may be long waiting periods for appointments, especially during May through August. However, consulates will give priority to F-1 student applicants if requested.
When you go for your visa interview, in general you will need:
- Passport (valid at least six months into the future)
- Certificate of Eligibility I-20 (F-1)
- Proof of admission to Gettysburg College
- Evidence of your financial support
- Visa application forms and fees
- SEVIS Fee Receipt.
Some consulates may require additional documentation, so check the consulate web site for visa application instructions. Visa application forms and fees can be also be found on the consulate web site.
In some cases the consulate may require a security clearance on your visa application. Your visa may be approved, but cannot be issued until the security checked 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 the International Student Advisor to get advice on the implications of your delayed arrival.