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How to Apply for Nonimmigrant Visas
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Overview: Nonimmigrant Visas: Study & Exchange

Student Visa (F-1/M-1): Before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an F or M student visa, you must first apply to and be accepted by a SEVP approved school. Visit the Department of Homeland Security Study in the States school search page to search for SEVP-certified schools.

When you are accepted by the U.S. school you plan to attend, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee. The U.S. school will provide you with a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1/M-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students (Form I-20) to present to the consular officer when you attend your visa interview. If your spouse and/or children intend to reside with you in the United States while you study, they must obtain individual Form I-20s, but they do not pay the SEVIS fee. Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website to learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS I-901 Fee

Exchange Visitor Visa (J-1): Before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a J-1 visa, you must first apply for and be accepted into an exchange visitor program through a designated sponsoring organization. Visit the Department of State J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program website to learn about program requirements, regulations, and more.

When you are accepted into the exchange visitor program you plan to participate in, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Most J-1 Exchange Visitors must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee. Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, Form DS-2019.  After your program sponsor enters your information in the SEVIS system, a SEVIS-generated Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (Form DS-2019) is provided to you. All exchange visitors, including their spouses and minor children, must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Each person receives a separate Form DS-2019. Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website to learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS I-901 Fee.

In addition to the Form DS 2019, participants in the J-1 Trainee and Intern categories require Form DS-7002 (based on Box 7 on Form DS-2019). Learn more about the Trainee and Intern programs.

Overview: Nonimmigrant Visas: Temporary Employment & Business

Labor Certification – Some temporary worker visa categories require your prospective employer to obtain a labor certification or other approval from the Department of Labor on your behalf before filing the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, with USCIS. Your prospective employer should review the instructions for Form I-129 on the USCIS website to determine whether labor certification is required for you.

Petition Approval – Some temporary worker categories are limited in total number of petitions which can be approved on a yearly basis. Before you can apply for a temporary worker visa at the U.S. Embassy in Belarus, a petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, must be filed on your behalf by a prospective employer and be approved by USCIS. For more information about the petition process, eligibility requirements by visa category, and numerical limits, if applicable, see Working in the U.S. and Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers on the USCIS website. Once the petition is approved, USCIS will send your prospective employer a Notice of Action, Form I-797.

Step One: Check the Validity of Your Passport

Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States, unless exempt by country-specific agreements. If more than one person is included in your passport, each person who needs a visa must submit a separate application.

Step Two: Complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160

Please note that you must answer EVERY question on the application forms. If the answer to a question is “none,” please write “none”(Do not leave it blank). Incomplete/incorrect forms will be returned and will require you to schedule a new interview appointment.

Important! Many of our visa applicants are completing the DS-160 incorrectly, causing us to postpone their planned visa interview dates.

Step Three: Collect Any Supporting Documentation

  • Nonimmigrant Visas: Study & Exchange: All Student Visa (F-1/M-1) and Exchange Visitor Visa (J-1) applicants should collect the following:
    • A valid passport
    • DS-160 confirmation page
    • A 2 x 2 inch color photo not older than 6 months – with a light or white background
    • The forms listed in Step 2
    • Student (F-1/M-1) visa applicants should also bring their Form I-20.
    • Exchange Visitor (J-1) visa applicants should also bring Form DS-2019, and Form DS-7002 if participating in the J-1 Trainee and Intern categories.

Additional Documents – Student Visa Applicants:
Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified. For example, additional requested documents may include evidence of your academic preparation, such as:

    • Transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended; and
    • Standardized test scores required by your U.S. school;
    • Your intent to depart the United States upon completion of the course of study; and
    • How you will pay all educational, living and travel costs.

Additional Documents – Exchange Visitor Visa Applicants:
Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified. For example, additional requested documents may include evidence of:

    • The purpose of your trip;
    • Your intent to depart the United States after your trip; and/or
    • Your ability to pay all costs of the trip.
  • Nonimmigrant Visas: Temporary Employment & Business Only a passport, DS-160 confirmation page, a 2 x 2 inch color photo not older than 6 months – with a light or white background, the forms listed in Step 2, and the Receipt Number for your approved petition as it appears on your Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) or Notice of Action (Form I-797), from USCIS.

L Visa Applicants – If you are included in an L blanket petition, you must bring Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, to your interview.

All visa applicants, except H-1B and L, will generally need to show proof of compelling ties to your home country to demonstrate your intent to return after your temporary stay in the United States. Examples of compelling ties include:

    • A residence abroad which you do not intend to abandon
    • Your family relationships
    • Your economic situation
    • Your long term plans
  • Nonimmigrant Visas: Tourism & Visit

Only a passport, DS-160 confirmation page, a 2 x 2 inch color photo not older than 6 months – with a light or white background, and the forms listed in Step 2 are required for the visa interview.  Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified. For example, additional requested documents may include evidence of:

    • The purpose of your trip;
    • Your intent to depart the United States after your trip; and/or
    • Your ability to pay all costs of the trip.

Note: Visa applicants must qualify on the basis of the applicant’s residence and ties abroad, rather than assurances from U.S. family and friends. A letter of invitation or Affidavit of Support is not needed to apply for a nonimmigrant tourist visa. If you do choose to bring a letter of invitation or Affidavit of Support to your interview, please remember that it is not one of the factors that we use in determining whether to issue or deny a nonimmigrant tourist visa.

Step Four: Schedule an Interview Appointment

Nonimmigrant Visas: Study & Exchange: To schedule an appointment for a non-immigrant visa (NIV) interview, please consult the Embassies or Consulate where you are physically present’s website. Please have your DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form Confirmation Number handy. It is located on your DS-160 confirmation page, in bold print.

New Students – F-1 and M-1 student visas can be issued up to 120 days in advance of your course of study start date. However, you will not be allowed to enter the United States in F-1 or M-1 status earlier than 30 days before your start date.

Continuing Students – May renew their visas at any time, as long as they have maintained student status and their SEVIS records are current. Continuing students may enter the United States at any time before their classes start.

Exchange Visitors – Exchange visitors beginning new programs may not enter the United States more than 30 days before their program start date.

 Other Nonimmigrant Visas: To schedule an appointment for a non-immigrant visa (NIV) interview, please consult the Embassy’s online NIV Appointment System. Please have your DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form Confirmation Number handy. It is located on your DS-160 confirmation page, in bold print.

Step Five: Submit Your Passport and Visa Application Forms

Submit the completed DS-160 confirmation sheet, forms listed in Step 2, a 2 x 2 inch color photo not older than 6 months, and a valid passport, to the Consular Office one week before your scheduled interview date.

Step Six: Pay Application Fee

On the day of your interview, please pay the following nonrefundable visa application fees: $ 160 for F-1, J-1, M-1, B-1, B-2 (Student, Exchange, Business, Tourism, and Visit) nonimmigrant visas; $ 190 for H, L, O, P, Q, and R visas; and $ 270 for E visas.

Nonimmigrant Visas: Study & Exchange – Note: U.S. government sponsored exchange visitor (J visa) applicants and their dependents are not required to pay application processing fees if participating in a Department of State, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), or a Federally funded educational and cultural exchange program which has a program serial number beginning with G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-7 printed on Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. U.S. government sponsored exchange visitor (J visa) applicants and their dependents are also not required to pay applicable issuance fees.

Nonimmigrant Visas: Temporary Employment & Business – Other Fees:

  • L visa fraud prevention and detection fee – for visa applicant included in L blanket petition (principal applicant only): $500.00
  • The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (Public Law 114-113) increases fees for certain H-1B and L-1 petitioners. Consular sections collect this fee for blanket L-1 visa applications (principal applicant only) filed by petitioners who employ 50 or more individuals in the United States if more than 50 percent of those individuals are in H-1B or L-1 nonimmigrant status: $4,500.00.

Step Seven: Interview for your visa with the Consular Officer

During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the category of visa for which you are applying.

Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.

Step Eight: Pay the Visa Issuance Fee

If your visa is approved, you may also pay a visa issuance fee, depending on the type of visa issued.  If you are issued a B-2 Tourism & Visit visa, you will need to pay an additional fee of $32.00.