Immigration and Visa

Applying for a Non-Immigrant
U.S. Visa

Information for International Students, Scholars & Employees

What is a non-immigrant U.S. visa?

A non-immigrant U.S. visa is an entry permit to the U.S. It is issued by the U.S. Department of State and is stamped in your passport.

Non-immigrant visas are for international visitors coming to the U.S. temporarily for a specific purpose such as study or work. This U.S. visa stamp allows you to to request permission of the border inspector at a U.S. port-of-entry to enter the U.S

A visa alone does not guarantee entry into the U.S. You must also carry your other documents, including valid passport, and valid I-20, DS-2019 or I-797 Approval Notice.

Where do I get a U.S. visa?

You must obtain a U.S. visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S. Please consult the website of the U.S. Consulate / Embassy where you will apply for your visa to find out about application procedures.

Can I apply for a U.S. visa in Canada?

While it is always recommended that you apply for a U.S. visa in your home country, some people apply for their U.S. visas in Canada. For information on applying for a U.S. visa at a U.S. Consulate in Canada, please see our handout on Applying for a U.S. Visa in Canada.

If you decide to apply for your U.S. Visa in Canada, please note that you may have to wait in Canada while your visa application is pending. In addition, if your application is denied, you will not be able to return to the U.S.

How long will it take to get a U.S. visa?

June, July, and August are the busiest months in most U.S. Consulates so interview appointments may be difficult to obtain during that period. To see the wait times for visas at particular U.S. Consulates, please check:

Due to background checks, mandatory visa interviews and increased scrutiny of individuals studying or doing research in “sensitive fields,” you should be prepared for the possibility of delays in the processing of your visa application. If your field of study or research is on the Technology Alert List (available at www.bu.edu/isso/forms/tal.pdf, you should obtain a letter from your professor explaining in detail the nature of your studies or research. This letter should be written in simple language so it can be easily understood by non-specialists.

In addition, applicants from certain countries may have additional processing requirements, which may delay the issuance of their U.S. visa stamp. Please check the following sites to see if you will need to satisfy additional requirements:

Also, if you have applied for Lawful Permanent Residence in the U.S., have a criminal record or violated your previous immigration status, your application for a new visa may be subject to additional scrutiny or denial. If you have concerns about your ability to obtain a U.S. visa due to one of these issues, please contact International Student & Scholar Services, Talbert Hall 210, North Campus (E-mail: isss@buffalo.edu, Tel. 716-645-2258) for assistance.

What is non-immigrant intent?

All applicants for F or J visas are required to demonstrate their intent to return to their home country following the completion of their studies or scholarly activities. There are several ways you can demonstrate your intent to return home:

  • Be ready to explain clearly how you intend to utilize your degree or research experience at home after you finish your program
  • Bring proof of ownership of any property (e.g. land, house, apartment) in your home country
  • Bring bank statements for accounts you maintain in your home country
  • Bring proof of a job offer or continuing employment in your home country
  • Bring proof of your family's ties to your home country (e.g. property, business ownership, bank accounts or other assets)

For additional information about applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa, we encourage you to visit the Department of State website:

What do I need to apply for an F-1 student visa or J-1 student / scholar visa?

The U.S. Department of State website lists detailed instructions regarding the forms, documents, etc. which are required for the visa application. It is important that you bring everything to your visa interview to avoid needless delays in the processing of your application.

How do I apply for an F-1 student or J-1 student / scholar visa?

What should I bring to my visa interview?

  • Valid passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended duration of your visit to the U.S.)
  • SEVIS Form I-20 or SEVIS Form DS-2019
  • Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160) confirmation page
  • (If you could not upload it when you completed the online visa application) One photograph which meets the Photograph Requirements
  • Receipt to show payment of the Visa Application (MRV) Fee
  • Visa issuance fee (if required)
  • (If required) Proof of payment of SEVIS Fee (Form I-901)
  • Transcripts and diplomas from current and/or previous institutions
  • Original score reports of standardized tests required by the school (e.g. TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT) (students only)
  • Financial evidence showing sufficient funds to cover educational and living expenses
  • Documents showing your “non-immigrant intent” (i.e. documents which help to prove your ties to your home country and verify that you have no intentions of immigrating to the U.S. )
  • Other requirements as determined by your U.S. Consulate

What do continuing / returning students need in order to renew their U.S. student visa?

Please refer to the list of documents above for visa applications. In addition to these documents, you should bring your UB transcripts with you. We also recommend that you print out an Enrollment Verification Certificate from the HUB Student Center for additonal verification of your full-time student status.

If you have been out of the U.S. for more than 5 months, you may need to pay the SEVIS fee again. Please check SEVIS I-901 Fee or SEVIS Fee (for F-1 students) or SEVIS Fee (for J-1 students and scholars) to determine whether or not you are required to pay the SEVIS fee:

What do I need to apply for an H-1B Temporary Worker visa?

Please refer to the list of documents above for visa applications. In addition to these documents, you should bring the folllowing:

  • Your original Form I-797 (H-1B Approval Notice)
  • Copy of Form ETA-9035 Labor Condition Application (LCA)
  • Copy of H-1B petition submitted by the University to the USCIS on your behalf (including Form I-129)
  • Original waiver of the 2-year home residency requirement (if you were previously in J-1 status and received a waiver)


For more information on applying for an H-1B visa, please visit:


Please contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where you will apply for additional requirements.

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