Menu Side Navigation Close

Once OISS has reviewed your Pre-Arrival Checklist documentation and has determined that you meet the criteria to receive your immigration document, we will create that document and send it to you in an email with additional details about your next steps. Please read this information carefully.

In most cases, the next thing you will do is apply for your visa. Students who are issued a Form I-20 will apply for an F-1 visa. Students who are issued a Form DS-2019 will apply for a J-1 visa. Students who are citizens of Canada or Bermuda are visa exempt and are not required to apply for a visa stamp. Visa exempt individuals still must pay the SEVIS (I-901) Fee. 


You will apply for your visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country/country of citizenship. If you are not able to apply in your home country/country of citizenship, you should review the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you wish to apply to make sure that they will accept a visa application for a “third country national.” Most U.S. Embassies and Consulates do accept third country national visa applications, but some have a slightly different process you must follow. The Department of State maintains a complete list of U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the world.  

How to Apply for Your Visa

Step 1

Pay the SEVIS (I-901) fee

The SEVIS fee is a one-time fee* that you must pay online at least three (3) days before your visa interview. You can learn more about the SEVIS fee on Study in the States. You will pay the SEVIS fee online on the FMJ Fee website. To learn about other payment options, visit the ICE I-901 fee page.

Once you complete the payment online, you should print the payment receipt. We also recommend that you save an electronic copy of the receipt for your records. You will need to bring the printed receipt with you to your visa appointment. If you lose the receipt or pay by mail and need to print the receipt, you can do this on the FMJ Fee website by selecting the “Check I-901 Status” button and entering the information on your I-20 or DS-2019. 

* One-time per SEVIS record. If you currently hold an F-1 visa and are transferring your SEVIS record to Lehigh, you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again. If you are entering the U.S. on a new SEVIS record due to a status violation or extended time outside of the United States, you will need to pay the SEVIS fee again.

Step 2

Find your U.S. Embassy or Consulate

Locate the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you wish to apply for your visa.

Each U.S. Embassy or Consulate may have a slightly different process for applying for the visa. It’s very important to review the non-immigrant visa information on the website of the Embassy or Consulate where you will apply. The Department of State maintains a webpage with a list of approximate wait times for appointments at all Embassies or Consulates.

Step 3

Complete your visa application and schedule your interview appointment

Fill out the DS-160 visa application online.

The DS-160 is completed fully online via the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply for your visa. Once you have completed the DS-160, you will be able to select from available appointment dates. You will pay the visa application fee per the instructions in the online system. 

In the rare case that a visa appointment is not available before the program start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019, schedule the first available appointment. Once that is scheduled, log back into the visa application system to request an emergency/expedited appointment. Each Embassy or Consulate has its own criteria for reviewing and approving emergency/expedited appointment requests. OISS is not able to make these requests on your behalf.

Step 4

Attend the visa interview

Bring the appropriate documents to your scheduled visa interview. Review the information provided in your appointment confirmation and the website of the Embassy or Consulate where you will apply. These tips from NAFSA may be helpful as you prepare for your visa interview.  At minimum, you should bring the following documents:

  • Lehigh’s admissions letter
  • I-20 issued by Lehigh University (print all three pages in color and sign the Student Attestation section on page 1)
  • Passport
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt (proof of SEVIS I-901 Fee payment)
  • Proof of financial support

Step 5

Upload your visa stamp to iHome

Once your visa is approved, log in to iHome and upload your visa stamp to the Visa Stamp and Travel Plans e-form in your Pre-Arrival Checklist.

Many students receive a positive result from their visa interview on the day they visit the Embassy or Consulate. Other students may be told that their application requires additional processing or is refused for “221(g)”. If this happens to you, do not panic. This generally means that the visa officer must collect additional information or documentation and the Department of State needs more time to process your application. It is very important for you to follow any instructions you receive from the visa officer during your appointment and any written instructions you receive after the appointment. Failing to follow instructions provided by the visa officer can further delay your visa application. If this happens to your visa application, please notify OISS via email as soon as possible. 

If your visa application is denied outright, you should ask the visa officer to provide you with a written reason for the denial and contact OISS via email as soon as possible.


If you have dependents accompanying you, you do not need to pay another SEVIS fee for them, but each dependent must complete a DS-160. Additionally, they will need a copy of your SEVIS fee receipt, your I-20, proof of financial support and documentation verifying their relationship to you. Depending on age, some children may not need to attend a visa interview, but this is at the discretion of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

Traveling to the United States

Once your visa is approved, you should book your travel to the United States. Please remember that you can enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before your program start date. 

For F-1 students, the earliest date on which you can enter the U.S. is printed on page 1 of your I-20 – see EARLIEST ADMISSION DATE under Program of Study.

For J-1 students, pay careful attention to the program start date in Section 3 on page 1 of your DS-2019.