U.S. VISA Regulations

The following pages are an abbreviated introduction to the complicated regulations that govern student and exchange visitors to the United States; these regulations change frequently, therefore PLEASE see the Associate Director of OIIL with any questions that you might have.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has replaced the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deal with non-immigrant issues.

Visas and Appropriate Documentation

International students who have been offered admission to Carleton College and have accepted it receive a SEVIS* generated Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019 form) from the Designated School Official or Responsible Official. This document, together with documentary evidence of financial ability to attend Carleton College, and the student's passport (valid for at least six months beyond the date of a student's projected arrival date), should be submitted to the nearest United States consulate or embassy abroad for issuance of an entry visa (except Canadians; see below). The visa is affixed directly into the student's passport. This visa "stamp" is important only for entry into the U.S.

Please be advised that although visas may be applied for earlier than the 90 days prior to the program start date, the consulate will not issue you the visa any earlier than within the 90 day time frame.

Students may not enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days prior to the program start date.

* SEVIS is an internet-based system used by the U.S. government to track arrivals and departures, as well as continued enrollment, academic training and other important related activities.

Note to Citizens of Canada
Visa requirements for entry into the United States do not pertain to Canadian citizens entering the United States from Canada. Canadian students must apply directly to an immigration inspector at a port of entry for admission to the United States as an F-1 student by presenting the form I-20 with their passport.

Form I-20: Certificate of Eligibility for non-Immigration (F-1) Student Status
This is the basic document which F-1 students use to obtain student visas from U.S. consulates and embassies abroad, as well as to enter and exit the United States during the program of study, and to transfer from one school to another.

Form DS-2019: Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status
This is the basic document which J-1 sponsored students and visiting scholars must use to obtain entry visas from U.S. consulates and embassies abroad, as well as to enter and exit the United States during their program of study, and to transfer from one school to another.

Form I-94: Arrival/Departure Record

If you arrived in the U.S. prior to May 2013, you may still be in possession of the paper (a small white card) Arrival/Departure Record or I-94.  After May 2013, the paper I-94 card is only issued to those who cross into the U.S. by land.  Those who arrive by air or sea after May 2013 are no longer issued a paper I-94 as that form has been automated.  For further information about the I-94 and to retrieve your electronic copy, please visit.

If you are in possession of the paper I-94, DO NOT LOSE IT as it establishes your legal status in the U.S. and you will be required to surrender the I-94 when you depart the U.S. (except when traveling to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean, excluding Cuba).  The I-94 card is record important information: the entrant's name, birth date, country of citizenship, the arrival/departure number (very important), the date of entry into the U.S., and the type of entry visa used to enter the country.

Entry Visas and Entry Procedure

Please also review the U.S. government FAQ site on Entry and Re-Entry into the U.S.

 

 Note about Entry Visas

An entry visa is not a guarantee of entry into the U.S. The bearer of a visa is subject to inspection at the port of entry (POE) by U.S. Immigration officials, who have authority to deny admission. Therefore, the recipient of a visa should carry with him/her, for possible presentation to Immigration Inspectors, all the evidence submitted to the Consular Officer when the visa was obtained.

F-1 Student Entry Visa
Most students enter the United States on an F-1 student visa for the purpose of completing a degree program at an American educational institution. The F-1 visa is affixed to a page in a student's passport by a U.S. Consular Office abroad. It allows a person seeking F-1 Student Status to enter the U.S. To obtain this entry visa, the international student must present the following documents, in addition to the visa application forms, to the Consular section of a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad:

  • Certificate of Eligibility: Form I-20
  • Valid passport
  • Documentary evidence of financial support
  • Certified bank statement or statement of income
  • International Student Certification of Finances (endorsed by school official)
  • Scholarship award or financial aid award letter
  • Admissions letter from enrolling institution
  • High School diploma
  • TOEFL and/or SAT Scores
  • Receipt of paid SEVIS fee

Entry for F-1 Students
Upon entering the United States, the international student must present the same documents (see above) plus the entry visa to the U.S. Immigration official.

J-1 Student Entry Visa
The J-1 student visa is intended for both sponsored students and visiting scholars who come to teach, study, conduct research, observe, or receive training in an exchange visitor program designated by the U.S. Secretary of State. Nationals of some countries receiving U.S. or home-government funding are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirements. The two-year rule usually requires such students to return home upon completion of their degree program and after 18 to 36 months of academic training. The J-1 visa is affixed to a page in a student's passport by a U.S. Consular Office or embassy abroad. It allows a person seeking J-1 Student Status to enter the U.S. To obtain this entry visa, the International student must present the following documents to the Consular section of a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad:

  • Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status: Form DS-2019
  • Valid passport
  • Documentary evidence of financial support
  • Certified bank statement or statement of income
  • Scholarship award or financial aid award letter
  • Admissions letter from enrolling institution
  • High School diploma
  • TOEFL and/or SAT Scores
  • Receipt of SEVIS fee

SEVIS Fee for F and J Nonimmigrant Students and Exchange Visitors

As of September 1, 2004, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collects a fee to cover the costs of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).  International students and exchange visitors must submit a Form I-901 and pay the fee BEFORE your visa interview appointment.  You need to have your I-20 or DS-2019 with you before paying your SEVIS Fee.  To learn more about the SEVIS fee, how to pay it, and how to obtain a receipt letter please visit.

Citizens of Canada, Bermuda, and the Bahamas must pay SEVIS Fee BEFORE appearing at the Port of Entry.