If you are not currently in F-1 or J-1 status, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee (pdf) in order to obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa and enter the US in F-1 or J-1 status or change to student status. You will also need to pay the SEVIS fee if you choose to file a “Change of Status (COS)” inside the US, or are returning to Carnegie Mellon after a leave of absence. Information on the SEVIS fee payment will also be included when OIE mails your document and general information can be found at SEVIS Fee FAQs page.
Applying for a US Visa
If you are a new non-immigrant (student or scholar in F or J status) coming to Carnegie Mellon University from overseas, then you will use the I-20 or DS-2019 to apply for a non-imigrant entry visa at a United States Embassy or Consulate nearest your place of residence.
You will also need to be prepared to present proof of finances and to talk about your future intent to return to your home country (e.g. proof of property, family and/or job or job opportunity in your home country) after your program completion, both at the Embassy/Consulate and at the US Port of Entry into the US.
Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not require entry visas to enter the US, but must present an I-20 or DS-2019, financial and program information when going through the US Port of Entry. Permanent Residents of Canada must travel with a passport and obtain a US visa in order to enter the US.
Comprehensive information on applying for a US visa is available on the US Department of State website. In particular, you may wish to consult the visa wait times or the individual consular websites for specific visa application procedures.
In case of a denial, make sure to ask the consular officer the reason for the denial and make sure this denial is given to you in writing before you leave the Embassy/Consulate. This way you can address the US Embassy/Consulate's concern(s) if and when you return for a second visa interview. Additionally, in case of a denial, contact Office of International Education for advice and new forms, if necessary, before returning to the US Embassy/Consulate.
Some visa applicants may be subject to security clearance checks, often called "administrative processing". These checks often take 4 to 8 weeks to be processed. If you are notified that your visa application will be delayed because of administrative processing or security clearance, please email the Office of International Education with:
- Copy of the paper notice given to you by the Embassy/Consulate
- Copy of your passport data (photo) page
- The Embassy/Consulate where you applied for the visa
- The date you applied
Security Clearances and Visa Delays
Some fields of study and/or research are considered "sensitive" fields, which require additional security checks by US officials. To understand the information related to these “sensitive” fields, please review the Technology Alert List ("TAL") handout. When applying for a visa at a US Embassy/Consulate overseas, keep in mind that your visa application will be subject to security checks. Some of these checks (but not all) can delay the visa process.
Planning for Your Travel
DO NOT purchase airline tickets or make other travel arrangements UNTIL you have secured your US visa sticker.
Students and scholars in F-1 or J-1 status may enter the US NO MORE THAN 30 DAYS prior to the program start date listed on the I-20 or DS-2019.
When traveling to the US, make sure you carry ALL original documents (passport, I-20/DS-2019, evidence of admission and financial resources) with you in your carry-on luggage.