Carnegie Mellon University

Applying for a Visa in a Third Country

Applying for a visa in a country that is not your home country (called a “third” country) can be more difficult than applying at home in your country of citizenship or one where you have legal residency. You may need to prove that you have continuously maintained lawful immigration status during your time in the U.S. or else you may be sent back home to your country to apply for the visa. Since refusal in a third country is more likely than at home, students and scholars should plan well in advance of their date of travel and consult with their OIE advisor.

In order to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa in a third country, you must:

  • Check to see if the embassy/consulate will accept applications from third-country applicants.
  • Have been continuously maintaining lawful non-immigrant status during your stay in the U.S.
  • Be currently enrolled or planning to enroll for the next academic semester at Carnegie Mellon or have received authorization to engage in Optional Practical Training (OPT) (for F-1 students) or Academic Training (for J-1 students). F-1 students on OPT will need an EAD card and J-1 students will need the Academic Training authorization letter. View details on traveling while on OPT or AT
  • Use an I-20 or DS-2019 from the school that you will attend when you return to the U.S. (for example, if you have finished at Carnegie Mellon and will be returning to the U.S. to study at another school, you should use the document for the school you will be attending when you return). The only exception is if you plan to attend summer classes at another institution, but you will return to Carnegie Mellon for the fall semester.
  • Have a “valid” reason for applying in the country where the consulate is located. You are likely to be denied if your only reason for applying in that country is to avoid your home country’s consulate. Examples of “valid” reasons include: attending a conference, visiting family or friends, etc.
  • Be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the visa officer, that you have enough funding to complete your program and that you plan to return to your home country. If you have relatives that are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, this will be more difficult to do.

STEP 1: Find out if you need a visa to enter all countries you are traveling through

Whether or not you need a visa to enter a specific country depends on your country of citizenship and legal permanent residence. Check with the embassy or consulate of each country you will visit to find out whether or not you need a visa. Applying for visas is costly and time-consuming, so plan ahead. If your plane is landing in another country, you may need a visa for that country, as well, even if you do not plan to exit the airport. This may be referred to as a "transit visa."

STEP 2: Contact the U.S. consulate in the "third" country to investigate procedures

Each consulate/embassy has different procedures and timelines for visa applications. Before you finalize your travel plans, consult for procedures at individual consulates to make sure they accept third-country visa applications and to see how long it will take to obtain a visa appointment.

STEP 3: Obtain & carry all the documents you may need to be granted the visa

  • A valid passport
  • A valid I-20 or DS-2019 from the school you are attending/will attend upon re-entry
  • A valid travel signature from an OIE foreign student advisor on page two of the I-20 that is less than 12 months old, or on the bottom right-hand corner of the DS-2019 that is less than 12 months old. If you are attending a new school upon re-entry with a new I-20/DS-2019, you do not need a travel signature on page 2 (I-20) or the bottom (DS-2019).
  • Expired visa (if available)
  • Verification of enrollment letter (from The HUB)
  • Letter of invitation from a person or organization in the third country that helps explain the reason you are traveling to that country (if available)
  • Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover all costs of tuition plus expenses. This can be either 1) a letter from your department stating the amount of funding you are receiving, or 2) a letter from another financial sponsor stating the amount they are giving you, plus supporting financial documents, such as bank statements or salary statements.

While all of this documentation may not be required, we recommend you have it just in case it is requested. You will also need to have the visa application fee, photos, and other standard visa application materials as specified by the consulate. Details can be found at