Applying For an F-1 VISA - University of Houston
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Applying For an F-1 VISA

Visa Document Checklist

  • A new I-20 issued by ISSSO. It is also recommended you take copies of all of your previous I-20’s.
  • I-901 fee receipt. Who Pays – or Does Not Pay – the I-901 SEVIS Fee and When is it Paid?
  • A valid passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future).
  • Evidence of financial support. Examples:
    • RA's, TA's, & Fellowships:
      Complete an RA/TA Verification form in PDF format (also available at Front Desk)
    • Funds from a sponsor or personal account:
      Bring a current bank statement or a letter on official bank letterhead not older than 2 months. If your sponsor is not your parent and is either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, he/she will need to complete Form I-134 Affidavit of Support. (Also available at Front Desk).
    • Scholarships: Verified with a letter from your college or supplying agency. It should also state if you are eligible for resident tuition.
  • Proof of returning home. Student visa applicants must establish to the satisfaction of the visa officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country that they have no intention of abandoning.
  • All of your transcripts from U.S. schools attended. If any semester on the transcript shows less than full-time hours, discuss this with an ISSSO Counselor.
  • Application form DS-160.
  • Money: Application fee (nonrefundable), cost of the visa (varies), and miscellaneous expenses.

Preparation for the Visa Interview

  • 214 (b): Intention to immigrate to the U.S.
  • 221 (g): Insufficient documentation.
  • 212 (a)(4): Likely to become a public charge (insufficient funds).

The visa application process often includes an interview with a visa officer (only a couple of minutes in length). Visas are generally denied because of the following U.S. laws: The biggest barrier to obtaining a visa is 214 (b). The visa officer is required to assume you really want to immigrate. It is your responsibility to prove differently. The officer will try to determine if you and your documents are “believable.” The following questions are designed to be a general guide in helping you prepare for your interview. The questions may not actually be asked, but they will increase your understanding.

  1. Do you have any family members in the U.S.? What is their status?
    Issue: This question is on the visa application. If immediate family members are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, the officer may believe you also may plan to immigrate.
  2. Have you or anyone acting for you indicated to a visa or immigration officer a desire to immigrate to the U.S.? Have you applied for the visa lottery?
    Issue: These questions are also on the visa application. A “yes” answer is usually viewed negatively.
  3. How long has it been since you visited your home country? How many times have you returned home?
    Issue: If it has been a long time since you returned home, it may be interpreted to mean that you no longer have strong ties to home. Frequent visits (at least every 1-2 years) will be a positive factor.
  4. How many job opportunities with your major and degree level are available for you in your home country?
    Issue: If the visa officer believes that you are over-educated (e.g., that your major or degree level is not relevant for your country), he may assume you are planning a career in the U.S.
  5. Have you attended high school in the U.S.?
    Issue: It is often assumed that high school is "centers of acculturation” and you may be too American to want to return home.
  6. If you are married, are your spouse and children currently residing in your home country?
    Issue: If they are in the U.S., the officer knows it will be easier for you to remain in the U.S. If they are at home, you will return. This is why some students find it difficult to obtain visas for their families to join them in the U.S. This is sometimes referred to as the "hostage factor".
  7. Do you have documentation for any of the following items?
    • Job offer letter for future employment in your home country
    • Personal bank account in your home country with a substantial amount of money
    • Personal ownership of property or family properties you will inherit.
    • Family business in your home country that you will return to and/or inherit.
    • Other documents indicate strong ties to home.
    Note: Any of these documents may help the visa officer believe you have strong ties to your home country.
  8. Have you always maintained your legal status in the U.S.? Do your transcripts show any semester with less than full-time hours, even if you received permission to drop a course?
    Issue: If you have violated your legal status, it may be more difficult to obtain a visa. If your transcripts show any semester with less than full-time hours and it was authorized by ISSSO, ask us for a letter to be attached to your transcripts.
  9. What kind of relations does your country currently have with the U.S.?
    Issue: The policies governing the issuance of visas vary; for each country. U.S. Embassies and Consulates are designed to operate on a reciprocal basis. If U.S. citizens have difficulty obtaining visas to enter your country, you will probably have similar difficulty entering the U.S. If visas for U.S. visitors are for a limited time, your visa will probably be granted for a limited time. Changes in relationships between the U.S. and your country may also affect your application. Students from some countries may have to wait several days extra or return at a later time for a visa if the consular requires a security clearance first.
  10. Are you planning to apply for a visa in your home district or in a third country?
    Issue: Most visa officers prefer that students apply for a visa in their home district in their home country. U. S. Embassy or consulates in Mexico do not accept any visa applicants for change of status, nor new visa type even being approved change of status in the U.S., nor the same visa renewal if the original visa was not received in the person's own country or Mexico.
  11. Have you changed your status in the U.S. after your original entry into the U.S.?
    Issue: Visa officers may view students who change their status in the U.S. negatively. They see this as an attempt to bypass the routine visa application process. Some officers may even view it as proof that fraud was used in applying for the original visa. Changing your status in the U.S. from certain classifications (e.g., B-1/B-2 tourists changing to F-1) may affect your ability to obtain future visas.
  12. What was your initial experience in applying for a visa? What is the current situation like in your country?
    Issue: Every U.S. Embassy, Consulate, and visa officer is autonomous. They have complete authority to make their own decisions. Each decision is final and may not be appealed. A review of the decision may be requested, but this is usually limited to procedural issues only. If there is a history of applicants from your country using false documents (visa fraud) in applying for visas or remaining in the U.S., it may be more difficult for you to obtain a visa. Keep in mind that policies at embassies and consulates may change at any time, both positively and negatively. Past information may not be reliable for evaluating current or future circumstances.
  13. Helpful Information

What You Need To Reenter The United States

  • Valid F-1 visa
  • Valid passport
  • Form I-20 for the University of Houston endorsed by an International Student Counselor for reentry.
  • Proof of financial support may be required

If you have any questions about the procedures, required documents, or other issues, please make an appointment to see a counselor.