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Visa and Immigration Information

If you are a new international student and wish to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa stamp

Follow the steps below if you are applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa outside of the United States. Additional information can be found here. If you are currently inside the US, contact International Student & Scholar Services for a different set of instructions.

If you are planning to transfer to UMSL from a U.S. college or university

If you are transferring your SEVIS record from another U.S. institution, refer to the SEVIS Transfer Form for instructions. 

If you are in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa and wish to change to an F-1 visa

If you will not have an F-1 or J-1 visa, contact iss@umsl.edu to discuss your options.

1. Check your I-20 or DS-2019 to confirm that all information is correct

All of the biographical information in your documents must match, and your passport must be up-to-date. If there is a mistake on your I-20 or DS-2019, please contact UMSL Global immediately. Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your arrival date.

2. Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee

This one-time fee is non-refundable and costs $350 for a F-1 visa ($220 for a J-1 visa). You can pay this fee online at http://www.fmjfee.com. Print the confirmation page once you have finished the application.

3. Make an Appointment for Your Visa Interview

You can schedule an appointment at a local U.S. consulate up to 120 prior to the start date of your program. To find the closes consulate or embassy, go to: US embassy 

Visa appointments are usually scheduled 30-45 days in advance. If you cannot find a visa appointment in this timeframe, you are welcome to e-mail the consulate to ask for expedited processing.

4. Complete the Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application

The DS-160 can be accessed at here. Pay special attention to the photo requirements listed on the website. Print the confirmation page once you have finished the application. As part of the process, you will pay a $160 NIV processing fee.  Follow the directions as provided.

5. Documents to Bring to your Visa Interview

You should bring your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, the DS-160, and the I-901 SEVIS fee receipt. You should also take proof of the financial support for your program (e.g. bank statements, financial guarantees, etc.). Read the visa interview tab for tips to help you prepare for the interview.

6. Pick-up your passsport and visa

Your visa will take a few days to process. When it is ready, your passport and I-20 (or DS-2019) will be returned to you. Keep these items together and present them when you enter the United States.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a federal database that schools use to issue I-20 and DS-2019 forms. In addition to the visa application fee, you must pay an I-901 SEVIS fee prior to applying for a visa.

You can pay the I-901 fee online at www.fmjfee.com. In some cases, students are required to pay through Western Union. The I-901 fee will provide more information on how to pay the fee.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the SEVIS fee, you can reach the I-901 Help Desk at +1-703-603-3400 or fmjfee.SEVIS@ice.dhs.gov.

When applying for a visa at a US embassy or consulate, you will attend a brief interview with a consular official. This meeting usually lasts three or four minutes and is a conversation—not merely a review of documents—between you and the officer. Applicants must demonstrate that they (1) can understand and respond appropriately to the officer’s questions; (2) have knowledge of the university and program in which they plan to enroll; (3) can explain how they will use their degrees after graduation; (4) have ties to their home countries and plan to return; and (5) are able to fund their studies. Remember that the consular official must be convinced that you intend to depart the US upon the completion of your program.

Use the tips and suggestions below to prepare for the interview:

  • Think about what you will do after leaving the United States. Do you plan to work or complete another degree?

  • Know the job situation in your home country. How will your UMSL degree help you when you return home? What kind of job would you like to have?

  • Be prepared to explain anything unusual (for example, if you are older than a traditional first-time freshman, be able to explain why you are beginning your academic career at this time).

  • Learn basic information about UMSL and your degree program.

  • Write down a short statement of purpose explaining why you want to attend the University.

  • Bring proof of financial support to the interview. These documents should be the same as what you submitted to UMSL.

  • Practice for the interview with friends or family. Be ready to answer questions like: “Where did you hear about the University of Missouri-St. Louis? Why do you want to study in the US? Why St. Louis in particular?”

  • Be honest with the consular official at all times. For example, applicants in some countries may try to provide false financial information because they attempt to avoid local income taxes. US consular officials, however, will appreciate honesty and be more likely to grant a visa if they know your actual circumstances.


Visa Processing Times

Applicants for F-1 visas cannot apply more than 120 days before the start of their programs. Exchange visitors can apply for the J-1 at any time, but the visa cannot be issued more than 90 days before the program begins.

F-1 and J-1 visas are processed quickly in most cases; however, you should plan to apply 45-60 days prior to your departure for the US. Depending on your program of study, your application may require security checks that take longer to complete.

If your application for a visa is denied, the consulate is required to give you written information about the basis for the decision. This will likely be a pre-formulated response that does not include the specifics of your case. Know, however, that most denials occur when consular officials suspect that applicants intend to violate the conditions of a student visa or remain inside the United States indefinitely.

As most denials are not permanent, it may be possible to re-apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa. You must, however, present new evidence with your second application, especially information that demonstrates strong ties to your home country.

If you are denied under INA Section 214(b), you may reapply by completing a new application form, paying the application fee, and scheduling an appointment for a new interview (you would not need to pay the SEVIS fee again). If, however, your denial was based on a different section of the INA, other restrictions may exist. Refer to your denial letter for accurate information.