Visa Appointment & Interview

The information on this page is meant to help take some of the mystery out of the visa interview process. You can schedule your visa interview at any time.  However, you must have the I-20 or DS-2019 before the visa appointment.  Plan for enough time for the document to arrive.  Also, the actual visa cannot be issued more than 120 days before your program start date.   To apply for your visa, you will need to submit Form DS-160 and then schedule your visa interview.  Information and instructions are provided in the link.

We recommend you visit the "Helpful Links" below. The first one will take you to a website that lists U.S. Embassies and Consulates. You will want to find the one that has jurisdiction over your area of residence, as that is where you will go for your visa interview. Check the embassy or consulate website, as embassies and consulates can vary in their processes and requirements. The second link will direct you to wait times for your requested visa status at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The third link provides an overview of student visas. 

Please note that UAF issues the form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for students admitted into an academic degree program entering the U.S. in F-1 Student immigration status.  The form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for an Exchange Visitor  is issued for exchange and study abroad students who will be attending for a semester or a year.  These students enter in the J-1 Student immigration status.

You will need to apply for an F-1 (Non-Immigrant Student) visa, unless you are a Canadian citizen. Canadians are not required to obtain U.S. visas before entering the U.S. in any U..S. immigration status. A listing of U.S. embassies and consulates is included in the "Helpful Links" section below.

Please refer to the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply for your visa for the application process and current visa application fees as these may vary from office to office.

  • Currently, all visa applicants are required to have a personal appointment and interview. Depending on the embassy or consulate where you apply, you may be able to schedule this appointment in advance. You will need to complete and submit Form DS-160, which should be available from the embassy or consulate and online.
  • During the application process, you may be digitally photographed and fingerprinted.
  • Disregard all references to Form DS-7002 (Training/Internship Placement Plan) as it does not apply to you.

1. Ties to Your Home Country

Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas, are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. "Ties" to your home country are the things that bind you to your home town, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you are a prospective undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans, and career prospects in your home country.

Each person's situation is different, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter which can guarantee visa issuance. If you have applied for the U.S. Green Card Lottery, you may be asked if you are intending to immigrate. A simple answer would be that you applied for the lottery since it was available but not with a specific intent to immigrate. If you overstayed a previous authorized stay in the United States, be prepared to explain what happened clearly and concisely, with documentation, if available.

2. English

Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do NOT prepare speeches! If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.

3. Speak for Yourself

Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. They will not be allowed to accompany you through the interview process.

4. Know the Program and How It Fits Your Career Plans

If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the United States relates to your future professional career when you return home.

5. Be Brief

Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point.

6. Additional Documentation

It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you are lucky.

7. Not All Countries are Equal

Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the United States as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be intending immigrants. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the United States .

8. Employment

Your main purpose in coming to the United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the United States. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the United States.

9. Dependents Remaining at Home

If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support them, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family wishes to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.

10. Maintain a Positive Attitude

Do not engage the consular officer in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.

UAF has used this document with permission from NAFSA: Association of International Educators. NAFSA would like to credit Gerald A. Wunsch, Esq., 1997, then a member of the Consular Issues Working Group, and a former U.S. Consular Officer in Mexico, Suriname, and the Netherlands; and Martha Wailes of Indiana University for their contributions to this document. NAFSA also appreciates the input of the U.S. Department of State.

Note for Canadian Citizens!

Canadians are NOT currently required to have a U.S. visa to enter the U.S. as students. However, you are required to pay the $200 SEVIS fee at least three days before you enter the U.S. You will need to present your I-20 and your Canadian passport to the immigration inspector when you enter the U.S. You may also be requested to present original evidence that you are able to pay for your U.S. education and for your living expenses. Evidence of your financial ability might include: bank statements; affidavits of support, with documentation of your sponsor’s financial ability to support you; scholarship letters; or graduate assistantship offers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.


Helpful Links

Visa Wait Times - for Interview Appointments and Processing

U.S. Department of State - Embassy and Consulate Locations

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Study in the States

U.S. Department of State: Student Visas