High Tech with a Human Touch
Obtaining Your Visa
It is important to remember that you must obtain a visa that is appropriate to your purpose for entering the United States, usually an F-1 or J-1 student/scholar visa. In other words, if you are coming to the United States to attend Florida Tech, you should not enter the United States with a tourist visa (B-1/B-2) or via any other visa waiver program between your country and the United States. You will not be permitted to attend Florida Tech if you do not hold a student/scholar visa.
The first step in obtaining a visa is to make an appointment with the U.S. embassy or consulate responsible for issuing nonimmigrant visas for your home country, which may and should be done as soon as you receive your I-20 or DS-2019. Visa applications may be issued up to 90 days before your program start date. Visit http://usembassy.state.gov for a list of consular post Web sites.
If for some reason you are unable to schedule an interview with a consular officer until after the start date for your program (notated in section 5 on the I-20 or section 3 on the DS-2019), you should contact the Office of Admission. Depending on the circumstances, the university may have to issue you a new I-20 or DS-2019 or defer your attendance until the following semester.
After scheduling your appointment, you should:
- Complete a visa application and, when applicable, forms DS-156, DS-157 and DS-158, which can be found at
- Obtain valid passport (must be valid at least six months from your date of entry into the United States)
- Compile evidence of ties to your home country that demonstrates your intent to return home (i.e., assured employment, ownership of property, etc.)
- Pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee and keep receipt. This fee must be paid at least three days before your appointment with the embassy. Visit the SEVIS fee webpage for more information.
- Obtain I-20 or DS-2019 for spouse or dependent(s) who will accompany you to the United States
During your appointment, you will be asked to provide evidence (receipts, photos, passport, documentation, etc.) that you have completed all of the above. In addition, you will need to provide:
- Applicable visa fees
- Your I-20 or DS-2019 form
- Proof of funding
- Evidence of spouse’s and/or dependent’s relationship to you and evidence of sufficient financial resources to support them.
While each embassy or consular post has their own visa application procedures and processing times, the requirements above are standard. It is a good idea, however, to consult the office where you will apply for specific details regarding documentation and procedures.
When it comes time for your interview, make sure to arrive at the consular post prepared. You should
- Dress professionally
- Bring translated copies of your academic records with you
- Be ready to talk about your academic plans and aspirations in detail
- Be knowledgeable about Florida Tech, the academic department you are entering and the professors with whom you hope to study
- Be prepared to talk about your career goals (which should indicate your intent to return home)
- Have all required documents with you and have them organized
Once you have been issued your visa, check to be sure that you have been issued the correct visa (an F-1 if you have an I-20; a J-1 if you have a DS-2019) and that your visa indicates your school of choice: Florida Institute of Technology. You will receive a sealed envelope containing your I-20 or DS-2019—DO NOT OPEN IT. The officer at the port of entry (POE) will open this envelope when you enter the United States.
Immigration laws limit your arrival into the United States to no more than 30 days prior to the report date listed on the Form I-20 or DS-2019.
If you are a citizen of Canada, you do not need a visa to enter the United States. However, you still need to present your I-20 or DS-2019 form and a valid passport at the U.S. Immigration border crossing or port of entry. You must also present proof of payment of the SEVIS fee. You should receive an I-94 card marked F-1 or J-1, D/S upon entry.