Obtaining a Visa
In order to study at SRJC as an international student, you must apply for an F-1 student visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. SRJC has issued you a Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status for this purpose. Your visa interview must be scheduled at least ten days before the Program Start Date listed on your Form I-20. Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa as early as possible. Each embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas.
June, July and August are the busiest months and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period. You can apply for the visa up to 365 days before the report date listed on the SEVIS I-20 form. Consulates are able to issue your visa no more than 90 days prior to the report date on the SEVIS I-20. New students can enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the Program Start Date on your Form I-20. Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to the U.S.
Tips for the Visa Interview
1) COMMUNICATION: The interview may only last 1-3 minutes! The officer will try to judge you quickly. Be conversational, but make eye contact and be direct. Speak in English. Be honest.
2) BE PROACTIVE: The officer might only ask you 1 question. Do not give them a one-word answer. Provide a thoughtful response that answers 10 of their questions.
3) HOME COUNTRY: What will bring you home after graduation? Do you have family members you care for? Financial investments? A job lined up? Remember, it’s a nonimmigrant visa.
4) FINANCIAL SPONSOR: If they are not an immediate family member, explain why they would pay so much for your education. How close is your relationship?
5) PROGRAM OF STUDY: Understand your program of study and explain how it will help you reach your goals. Focus on the transfer pathway from Santa Rosa Junior College to a four-year university.
6) SCHOOL CHOICE: Explain why you chose SRJC. Do you have friends or family who are alumni? Is it more affordable? Were you ineligible for direct admission to a university?
7) WAIT TIMES: If the wait times at the nearest U.S. Embassy are too long, you might consider traveling to a third country. Be sure to explain this during your interview.
8) TAKE IT SERIOUSLY: Visa application records last forever. The first interview is the most important. If denied, it's unlikely that you will be able to succeed on another attempt. Be prepared and take it seriously!
After you receive your Form I-20 from SRJC, you must pay the $350 I-901 SEVIS fee online using a credit or debit card. Enter your name exactly as it appears on your Form I-20. Print a copy of the online receipt and bring it to your visa interview.
Next you must submit a Form DS-160 Non-Immigrant Visa Application and pay the $185 visa application processing fee online.
Finally you can make an appointment for your F-1 visa interview. You can contact your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for further instructions.
Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:
- Valid Passport: Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the U.S. (unless exempt by country-specific agreements).
- SEVIS Form I-20: Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status
- Form DS-160: Confirmation page and application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview
- Photo: You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the photograph requirements.
Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply. Additional documents may be requested to establish that you are qualified. For example, additional requested documents may include evidence of:
- How you will pay all educational, living and travel costs.
- Your academic preparation, such as transcripts, diplomas, degrees, or certificates from schools you attended, and scores from tests that your U.S. school required, such as the TOEFL or IELTS.
- Your intent to depart the U.S. upon completion of the course of study.
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. Read NAFSA's 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Student Visa for some helpful tips.
Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this may vary based on location.
After your visa interview, your application may require further administrative processing. You will be informed by the consular officer if further processing is necessary for your application. Administrative processing may take several months to complete, so it is important to start the application process as early as possible.
When the visa is approved, you may pay a visa issuance fee if applicable to your nationality, and will be informed how your passport with visa will be returned to you. Review the visa processing time, to learn how soon your passport with visa will generally be ready for pick-up or delivery by the courier.
If your visa is denied, please review the travel.state.gov website for more information. We encourage you to re-apply for the F-1 visa until you are successful. If you want any changes made on your Form I-20 (financial sponsor, program of study, etc.) please let us know before you re-apply. If you have a local sponsor in Northern California, they can inquire with Congressman Mike Thompson's office to request a letter of support for your visa application.