Visas and Consular Information

Consular and Student Visas

It is necessary for international students and exchange visitors to make appointments with the U.S. embassy or consulate in their country in a timely fashion in order to receive a visa. The Interim Director of the Office of Intercultural & International Life at Carleton College (Brisa Zubia, will be happy to give advice and support but the final source of information on all visa issues is the U.S. Government's Department of State

You should contact the U.S. embassy or consular office located in the country you live for information on the visa process and requirements.  For a list of the U.S. embassy or consular office in your country, please visit the State Department's US Embassy site

U. S. Government Regulations

 This page is 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 International Student Adviser with any questions that you might have.

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


Visas and Appropriate Documentation

International students and exchange visitors 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 International Student Adviser. SEVIS is an internet-based system used by the U.S. government to track the arrivals, departures as well as continued enrollment, academic training and other important related activities of students and exchange visitors.

The I-20 or DS-2019 document, together with documentary evidence of financial ability to attend Carleton College The Certification of Finances, 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 (09/05/2014), 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.


Note to Citizens of Canada

Canadian citizens who will enter the United States to study are subject to the same visa requirements.  However, Canadians are not required to apply for an ENTRY visa, e.g., F or J.  To enter the U.S., Canadians are required to present to an immigration inspector at their port of entry the following: proof of SEVIS fee payment, valid passport and I-20, and financial documentation.


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

Prior to spring 2013, every international visitor to the U.S. received the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure card. It is a record of 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. This is an important document used to establish legal status while in the U.S. If you still hold the paper Form I-94, do not lose it and you should surrender next time you depart the U.S. (except when traveling to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean, excluding Cuba).  Do not lose the card! The Form I-94 currently costs $330 to replace (link is

If you arrived in the U.S. after spring 2013, the U.S. government has automated the I-94 process for all international visitors coming into the U.S. by air or sea. More information about the I-94 can be found here ( If you enter the U.S. by land crossing via Canada or Mexico, you will still need to complete the paper I-94. If you need a copy of your I-94 (record of admission) for verification of alien registration, immigration status, employment authorization or to apply for Social Security Number (SSN), copy of I-94 can be obtained from here (


Entry Visas and Entry Procedure

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 the 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

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collects a fee to cover the costs of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The SEVIS fee must be paid before going to the U.S. embassy or consulate for a visa interview. The fee may be paid online, through Western Union or by a third party such as a sponsor.  Please see this link on how to pay the SEVIS fee.

The SEVIS fee is currently $200 for F-1 applicants, and $180 for J-1 applicants. The payment of the I-901 fees will be recorded and tracked in SEVIS, the automated system for collecting, maintaining, and managing information about non-immigrant student and exchange visitors in the United States.

Citizens of Canada, Bermuda, and the Bahamas must pay this fee before appearing at the Port of Entry.


Time Considerations


Expiration Date of Entry Visa

The validity period shown in a non-immigrant visa relates only to the period during which it may be used in making application for admission into the United States; it does not indicate the length of time one may spend in the United States. Some visas are valid for several years others are valid only for a few months or weeks. The visa stamp in your passport allows you to enter the United States and may expire after your arrival in the country. Once you have entered the United States to begin your studies, you will be concerned with this particular expiration date only when you expect to travel outside the U.S. If you wish to re-enter the country and your visa has expired, you must apply for a new entry visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad (except when traveling to Canada. See note about Travel to Canada). Entry visas are issued only outside the U.S. You must consult with the Director of International Student Programs before traveling outside of the United States (see Travel Abroad).


D/S: Duration of Status notation

The F-1 or J-1 student or exchange visitor is admitted to the United States for "duration of status," noted as "D/S" on both Form I-94 and Form I-20 or DS-2019. Duration of status means the period during which the student is pursuing a full course of study in any educational program (e.g., B.A.) and any periods of authorized practical training, plus 60 days (F-1) or 30 days (J-1) within which to depart from the U.S. The Form I-94 should be kept in the student’s passport at all times, since it indicates the purpose of admission and the length of time for which his or her stay is authorized. Students should also always have with them their Form I-20 or DS-2019, particularly when they travel, even within the United States, since this is their personal identification and carries their computerized SEVIS# and barcode. A non-immigrant who remains in the U.S. beyond the period for which s/he has been granted permission to stay may become subject to deportation. The form I-94 will be taken by airline personnel when the student leaves the U.S. (except for travel to Canada, Mexico & the Caribbean). The student will complete a new I-94 card upon reentry to the U.S.


Extension of Stay

All international students should pay attention to their approved length of stay in the U.S. The length of authorized stay for F-1 and J-1 individuals is indicated on the Form I-94 as D/S (duration of status), also refer to item 5 on the I-20 and to item 3 on the DS-2019. People who need additional time to complete their degree requirements must consult with the Director of International Student Programs at least 30 days prior to the expiration of their authorized length of stay. The completion date on forms I-20 and DS-2019 might differ by a few weeks from the actual end date of the study program (the last day of exams), please be advised that the actual end date is the legal date.


Transferring Schools within the U.S


Transfer Students in F-1 Status attending Carleton College

The student must first notify his or her current school of the intent to transfer and must indicate the school to which he or she intends to transfer. Transferring students must let the International Student Adviser know as soon as possible of their intent. Upon notification by the student, the current school will update the student’s record in SEVIS as a ‘transfer out’ and indicate the school to which the student intends to transfer, and a release date. The student is required to contact the Designated School Official (DSO) of the transfer school within 15 days of the program start date. If you are an international student currently in a U.S. high school, you must do this as well.


Transfer Students in J-1 Status Attending Carleton College

In general, an exchange visitor may transfer from one program sponsor to Carleton College sponsorship if the purpose of the transfer is to complete the objective for which the J-1 student was admitted into the United States. The original sponsor must be in agreement with the transfer.

J-1 students must inform the Director of International Student Programs of their plans at least 60 days prior to transfer.


Immigration Status


Maintaining Proper Immigration Status

Forms I-20 and DS-2019 indicate the type of status, length of authorized stay, and name of the authorized institution or school, which the student will attend. Students are required to maintain lawful immigration status at all times. It is the student’s responsibility to keep track of immigration matters. In order to maintain proper Immigration status, F-1 or J-1, students must:

  • Register for a full-time course load every semester. A full course load is 12 credits at Carleton. Failure to register for a full-time complement of courses is an automatic breach of lawful status.
  • F-1 and J-1 students may not study part-time.
  • Remain at Carleton College for the complete duration of the program of study (Bachelor of Arts). Students wishing to transfer to another institution before completion of this course of study will need to receive proper authorization from both Carleton College and the transfer institution.
  • Not perform any unauthorized employment, either on or off-campus, while in F-1 or J-1 status.
  • Apply for an "Extension of Stay" if studies will take longer than the prescribed duration of status, well in advance of the completion date on Forms I-20 or DS-2019.
  • Notify the International Student Adviser within 10 days if your address changes.

"Out of Status"


Failure to comply with immigration regulations will retroactively place you "out of status" and in violation of U.S. immigration laws. Students who fall out of status must apply for reinstatement and will likely be asked to leave the country and re-enter with new documentation. They also may be barred from re-entry for a period of three years or longer if an immigration judge or DHS finds them in violation.


Immigration Problems

If an international student has not maintained lawful immigration status, s/he may face difficulties with and possible legal action from ICE. Some immigration problems can be resolved simply, others can be complicated and require months of effort by many offices to resolve.


It is imperative that F-1 and J-1 students and exchange visitors contact the International Student Adviser  immediately if there appear to be any problems related to immigration status.

In some instances the student may be required to exit and re-enter the United States in order to rectify a problem related to lawful status. Sometimes students have problems which are complicated enough to require the services of an immigration attorney. Students are urged to consult the International Student Adviser before contacting an immigration lawyer, lest they be required to pay for expensive legal services unnecessarily.


Travel Abroad


Travel Outside the United States

Whenever a student plans to leave the U.S., s/he must consult with the International Student Adviser and either obtain new documents or have the current ones endorsed (signed) for travel at least two weeks before the travel date.  Once signed by a Carleton official, the I-20 or DS-2019 is valid for one year from the date of the signature.  Without these endorsed and signed documents by authorized Carleton official, a student may not be allowed to return to the United States.

Students should also remember that for re-entry they must have a valid visa, a passport valid for at least six months, and proof of financial support from the school, their family, or both.  A student or exchange visitor should apply for a new passport or extension at least 6 months before the expiration date.  Please also review this link from the U.S. government on FAQ regarding Entry and Re-Entry to the U.S. and what is needed.

For travel and visa information to countries other than the United States refer to US Department of State Foreign Consular Offices in the US. If you need to apply for visa to travel to another country, please plan ahead and check the requirement.

Proper Documents for Travel: F-1 & J-1

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 or J-1entry visa affixed in the passport
  • Complete Form I-20 or DS-2019, signed by the authorized Carleton official
  • Evidence of financial support

If the entry visa stamped in your passport has expired, then you must visit a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad and obtain a new entry visa before your return to the U.S.



When you arrive at the port of entry to the United States, present your travel documents for inspection. The immigration inspector will staple a new Form I-94 into your passport, noting your original admission number from your Form I-20 and your SEVIS number.


Travel to and from Canada, Mexico and Neighboring Islands

Travel to these destinations is handled a bit differently than travel to other countries. Airline officials do not take the passenger’s I-94 card before departure from the U.S. (as is done for departure to other countries.) but you must have the I-94 with you. In fact, you cannot enter Canada from the U.S. without a valid I-94 card and I-20 or DS-2019.


Students from certain countries may need a Canadian or Mexican entry visa to enter either country and should check with the Canadian Embassy in Washington, Canadian Consulate General in Chicago, Mexican Consulate in St. Paul, MN  or the Mexican Consulate in Chicago

If you are taking a trip of fewer than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, or neighboring islands (Bermuda, Bahamas, and all Caribbean islands except Cuba), you may reenter the U.S. even if the F-1 or J-1 Entry Visa in your passport has expired. Please check with the International Student Adviser before departure.


Special Registration

The Special Registration program is not currently active but be aware that it does exist. It is a system that lets the government keep track of non-immigrants that come to the U.S. every year. Some of the approximately 35 million non-immigrants will be required to register with immigration authorities either at a port of entry or a designated immigration office in accordance with special registration procedures, such as personal interviews and fingerprinting.

Males between the ages of 16 and 45 from the following countries are affected by special registration:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.  However, anyone can be required to "special register" by the Port of Entry official.


Special registrants also have to register their departure from the U.S. Anyone who fails to do so may be denied reentry into the U.S. There are also specially designated "Ports of departure & entry."

Please consult with the Assistant Director of Intercultural & International Life if you are leaving the U.S.