Applying for a Visa (Students)

Complete the following steps to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate

Applying

Before You Begin

You will need a COE

You will need a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from Columbia University (I-20 or DS-2019). 

  • Learn how to apply for an F or J COE here.

Not everyone needs a visa

You do not need to apply for a visa if you:

  • are a national of Canada or Bermuda. You are exempt from the requirement of obtaining a visa in your passport but you do need a COE.
     
  • already have an unexpired entry visa in the same classification that was issued when you attended another school. You may use your unexpired visa to enter the United States with a Columbia I-20 or DS-2019.
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How to Apply

Steps to apply for a visa for students
Step 1

Complete the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160)

Complete the State Department's  Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160) which is the first step in making your visa appointment. Read more about the DS-160 application here.

How to apply online for a visa
Step 2

Make your visa appointment

Go to the link for the embassy or consulate where you will apply for a visa to learn about scheduling a visa appointment, procedures and requirements specific to its location.

Step 3

Prepare and complete your required documents

Prepare your documents and pay any required fees.

  1. Passport (valid for at least six months beyond the date of travel to the U.S..)
  2. DS-160 confirmation page with your application ID number on it
  3. Valid I-20
  4. Columbia acceptance letter
  5. SEVIS Fee Receipt
  6. Financial documents

    Additional documents if your spouse or children will be applying for an F-2 visa
     
  7. Dependent's COE (F-2 form I-20)
  8. Dependent's proof of relationship (marriage or birth certificate)
  9. Copy of your visa page in passport, only if you're already in the U.S. before your dependent joins you
  10. Copy of your I-94 arrival/departure record, only if you're already in the U.S. before your dependent joins you
  1. Passport (valid for at least six months beyond the date of travel to the U.S..)
  2. DS-160 confirmation page with your application ID number on it
  3. Valid DS-2019
  4. Columbia acceptance letter
  5. SEVIS Fee Receipt
  6. Financial documents

    Additional documents if your spouse or children will be applying for a J-2 visa
     
  7. Dependent's COE (J-2 form DS-2019)
  8. Dependent's proof of relationship (marriage or birth certificate)
  9. Copy of your visa page in passport, only if you're already in the U.S. before your dependent joins you
  10. Copy of your I-94 arrival/departure record, only if you're already in the U.S. before your dependent joins you
Step 4

Learn what to expect at the visa appointment

Interviews are very short, so it’s important to use the limited time to clearly explain your purpose for going to the United States for a temporary time and your plans after you complete your program.

Most nonimmigrant visas require you to establish that you are going to the U.S. only for a temporary purpose, such as pursuing an academic degree or engaging in research, and do not intend to stay permanently. 

You need to show

  • that you will keep a residence abroad and expect to return there.
  • personal, professional, and financial ties to your home country.

Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.

After your visa interview, the consular officer will let you know if further processing is necessary for your application.

Review the Department of State's (DOS) web information on further administrative processing. If your visa processing is delayed, it is important to notify both your academic department and our office.

Step 5

Receive and review your entry visa

Check the entry visa in your passport to make sure that all the information on it is correct. It's much better to fix a problem while you are still home than to notice it when you arrive in the United States.

Your original I-20 or DS-2019 should be returned to you. You will need to show the form when you arrive at a U.S. port of entry in addition to your visa.