Skip to content

Applying for a U.S. Visa

As an international student at MCPHS, you must apply for the most appropriate visa that will allow you to enter the U.S. to begin or resume your academic activities. The validity of the visa will vary depending on your country of citizenship and your visa classification. The visa must always be valid when entering the U.S., but is allowed to expire after you have entered the country. If you leave the U.S. during your academic program and plan to return to MCPHS in the same Immigration Status, you will need to make certain that your visa is still valid and, if it is not, renew it before you return to the U.S.

Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain a visa to enter the U.S., but are still required to follow the procedures below to enter the U.S. in the appropriate Immigration Status (for most, F-1).
  1. Make Sure Your Passport is Valid
    • In order to avoid possible problems in applying for a visa or entering the U.S., your Passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your expected entry date to the U.S.
  2. Make Sure Your Immigration Documents are Up-To-Date and Reflect Correct Information
    • The documents that you need to support your visa classification will vary—please see the visa classifications below for specific details. To avoid delays in visa issuance and entering the U.S., the spelling of your name must be exactly the same on your immigration documents as reflected in your Passport. The date of birth reflected on your documents must also match that which is reflected in your Passport. If your name or date of birth does not appear correctly on your immigration documents, please notify the Immigration Services Office immediately.
    • F-1 Students: Your Form I-20 indicates that we expect you to enroll in a specific program of study at MCPHS and that we have created a SEVIS Record to reflect your program details (you can find your unique SEVIS ID at the top of your I-20). Your Form I-20 includes information about your intended program of study, including expected attendance dates, education level, and expected financial requirements. If you have dependent family members (i.e. a spouse or children under the age of 21) who will be traveling to the U.S. with you, they too will receive an I-20 to assist with their application(s) for F-2 Visa(s). Please contact the Immigration Services Office if any information on your I-20 is incorrect or if you need to request immigration documents for F-2 Dependents.
    • You may be required to pay a SEVIS Fee. Please see below for information about scheduling a visa appointment.
  3. Contact the Nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for its Specific Visa Application Process
    • Citizens of all countries (except Canada) are required to be present a valid visa to enter the U.S. You must initiate the visa application process with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. It is strongly recommended that you review the website of that particular Consular Postto discern their specific visa application procedures, documentary requirements, and deadlines. Most Consular Posts will process an application a maximum of 120 days prior to the start date of your program start dates.
    • Citizens of Cuba, Syria, Sudan, and Iran should refer to the Websites of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions and contact the U.S. Embassy before applying to determine when and where it is best for them to submit their visa application.
    • Once you are comfortable with your Embassy or Consulate’s particular visa application process, you can complete your Form DS-160: Application for a Nonimmigrant Visa, following any specific instructions provided to you.
  4. Schedule a Visa Appointment
    • Generally, all initial visa applicants are required to schedule a personal interview after completing the Form DS-160 so that a Consular Officer can take your fingerprints. Please keep in mind that it may take a few weeks to schedule an appointment, so you should initiate your visa application as early as possible. Before your interview, practice answering questions in English about your visa application, your plans in the U.S., and your plans after you return home. If your spouse and children will remain in your country, be prepared to explain how they will support themselves without you sending them money from the U.S. Be positive and respond to questions with clear, concise answers.
    • If you are traveling during a holiday period, please be reminded that U.S. Embassies and Consulates are often closed for extended periods. Be certain to check schedules for local holiday hours.
    • If you are traveling during your program of study, you may need to renew your visa to return to the U.S. and resume study. The visa application procedures are generally the same but there are some limited exemptions to the visa interview requirement. Consular Posts in many countries have drop-off or mail-in visa application procedures for students renewing their F-1 Visas, as long as they have already been fingerprinted for a previous visa application. You will need to contact your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to see if they have special visa renewal instructions You should also confirm you have all additional documentation needed to verify that you are maintaining valid Immigration Status and demonstrate your continued study (such as transcripts or certificates of enrollment).
    • You may also refer to the U.S. Visas section of DOS’ official website for more information regarding visa appointment wait times at specific Embassies and Consulates, as well as any additional fees required. Fees and wait times may vary based on country of citizenship and your requested visa classification.
  5. Prepare Documentation to Present at Your Interview
    • ​​You will need to bring the following documents with you to your visa interview, as you may be required to present them to a Consular Officer:
      • Form DS-160: Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application from the DOS website
      • DS-160 application fee. If you are not sure about the fee or how to pay it, you can consult the Fees for Visa Services section of DOS’official website
      • One photograph that meets the DOS Photo Requirements.
      • Passport valid for at least six months beyond your expected date of entry into the U.S.
      • Additional documents, depending on your requested Visa Category:
        • If you are a F-1 Student should also bring your:
          • Your MCPHS-issued Form I-20
          • I-901 SEVIS Fee Receipt (if you have misplaced you original receipt, you can re-print it here)
          • Acceptance Letter from MCPHS Admissions
          • Original documents evidencing how you will cover your tuitions, fees, and expenses while in the U.S.
          • Additional documents as required by the specific Consular Post at which you will apply
    • Because F-1 is a temporary, nonimmigrant Visa Category, you will need to be able to demonstrate an established tie to your home country. In many cases, you will simply need to answer questions during your interview to explain your intention to return home. You may also wish to bring documents that help demonstrate ties to your home country that support your intent to return home—essentially, documents that reflect your “Non-Immigrant Intent.” You may refer to the Proving Non-Immigrant Intent section of our website for more information.
  6. Be Patient - You May Be Subject to a Security Clearance
    • The Consular Officer may decide that your application needs to be placed in Administrative Processing, a special “security clearance” process to vet you before granting the visa. Most Consular Officials place visa applications into Administrative Processing based on the national origin of the applicant or on a determined level of sensitivity in a prospective field of study. Once the application has placed into Administrative Processing, the applicant must simply wait until the Consular Post approves the visa.
    • DOS performs security checks at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates, particularly for male visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 45 from predominantly Muslim countries. Although DOS has not published an official list, it is likely that these procedures apply to citizens of the following countries: Afghanistan Algeria, Bahrain, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
    • In addition, many students studying subjects in areas considered to be sensitive technology and/or are listed on the Technology Alert List (“TAL”) are often subject to Administrative Processing by DOS when applying for a visa.
    • Administrative Processing can take anywhere from three business days to three months or more, but most are approved in three to four weeks. Citizens of the above-mentioned countries who plan to travel and apply for a new visa stamp must be aware of the potential for security clearances and plan for possible delays.
    • Even if you are not from one of the countries listed above, we recommend that you consult with an advisor in our office if you plan to travel and apply for a new visa. However, while the Immigration Services Office may be able to help you determine if you are at high risk of being subject to Administrative Processing, this process is not limited to citizens of these countries and are at the sole discretion of the Consular Officer. The decision to subject a person Administrative Processing may be based on a number of different factors including, but not limited to, information in your visa application forms, international travel patterns, or your field of study or research. Violations of U.S. Immigration Status and criminal arrests or misdemeanor infractions (including certain motor vehicle charges) may also subject a student Administrative Processing and affect visa eligibility.
    • Please recognize that potential delays in visa application processing may make it impossible for you to return to resume your studies on time. Therefore, if you need a new visa, please seriously consider your travel plans. Travel over Winter Intersession is of particular concern – U.S. Embassies and Consulates typically experience a high volume of visa applications during this period and many Consular Post close or reduce their hours during the holidays.
  7. In the Unlikely Event that Your VIsa is Denied, Contact Immigration Services Office
    • If a visa application is denied, it is difficult to get the Consular Post to change its decision. For this reason, it is important that you arrive at your appointment with the best and most complete supporting information. If your visa is denied, you may ask for a letter documenting the reason.
    • You should review the Visa Denials section of DOS’ official website. You should also contact the Immigration Services Office – we will try to provide you with suggestions that may strengthen your next application.
  8. Schedule Your Travel to the U.S.
    • Once you have obtained your visa, you can schedule your flight or plan your road trip to the U.S. Please be sure to review the Entering the U.S.section of our website before you enter the country.
    • Be sure to schedule your travel plans so you can arrive in the U.S. before your study begins or resumes – you will want some time to get settled before classes start. Immigration regulations determine the amount of time allowed in the U.S. before activities begin and vary by Visa Category. If you are unable to arrive in the U.S. prior to your expected start date, it is important that you contact the Immigration Services Office as soon as possible so that you can obtain new documentation and special authorization to enter the country.
    • Per U.S. immigration regulations, F-1 Students (and their F-2 Dependents) may enter the U.S. a maximum of 30 days prior to their Program Start date.