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EIU Office of International Students and Scholars

Applying for a U.S. Visa Stamp

Welcome to EIU!

Congratulations on your acceptance to Eastern Illinois University (EIU)! We are thrilled to welcome you to our diverse community in Charleston, Illinois. As you prepare for your journey, it’s essential to understand the U.S. visa application process to ensure a smooth transition. This guide provides detailed instructions for obtaining your U.S. visa stamp, essential for entry into the United States.

Why Do You Need a Visa Stamp?

To gain entry into the United States, individuals from foreign countries usually must acquire a U.S. visa, which is then affixed to their passport. Nevertheless, there are situations in which international travelers may be exempted from the visa requirement if they fulfill specific criteria for visa-free travel. The Visa section of the website for the U.S. Department of State offers comprehensive information regarding visa exemption. For further details, please visit

What is a US Visa?
According to the US Department of State, an individual from another country wishing to enter the United States typically needs to secure a U.S. visa, which is stamped in their passport, or a travel document provided by their home country. Having a U.S. visa enables you to travel to a US port of entry, airport, or land border crossing, and seek approval from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Inspector or Officer to enter the United States.

While having a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States, it does indicate that a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad has determined your eligibility to seek entry for that specific purpose. CBP inspectors, guardians of the United States borders, are responsible for the admission of travelers to the United States, for a specified status and period. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has responsibility for immigration matters while you are present in the United States.

Does a visa guarantee entry to the United States?

According to the US Department of State rules, having a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. Instead, it enables foreign citizens to travel to a U.S. port of entry, such as an airport or land border, and seek permission to enter. The determination to admit an individual in the United States is made by officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the port of entry. While having a valid visa and meeting the entry criteria increases the likelihood of being granted entry, it does not provide an absolute assurance.

For Prospective Students

Step 1: Receive Your Form I-20 or DS-2019

  1. Admission to EIU:

    • After acceptance to EIU, you will receive Form I-20 (F-1 visa) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 visa). Review these forms carefully for accuracy and sign them in the designated areas.
  2. Keep Your Forms Safe:

    • These documents are vital for your visa application and travel. Store them securely and bring them to your visa interview.

Step 2: Pay the SEVIS Fee

  1. Locate Your SEVIS ID:

    • Found on the top right corner of your I-20 or DS-2019, this ID is necessary for the SEVIS fee payment.
  2. Pay the SEVIS Fee:

    • Website: SEVIS Fee Payment
    • The fee is $350 for F-1 and $220 for J-1 applicants. Pay online and print the payment receipt for your records.

* Please Note: A prospective student from Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria or Gambia must pay by money order, Western Union Quick Pay, or certified check drawn from a U.S. bank. All other applicants can make a credit card payment on

Step 3: Complete the DS-160 Form

  1. Access the DS-160 Form:

  2. Fill Out the Form:

  3. Submit the Form:

    • After submission, print the DS-160 confirmation page with the barcode. This is required for your visa interview.

Step 4: Schedule Your Visa Interview

  1. Find Your Nearest Embassy or Consulate:

  2. Create an Account and Schedule an Appointment:

    • Website: Visa Appointment Services
    • Register for an account, pay the visa application fee ($160 for F-1/J-1 visas), and book your visa interview.
  3. Prepare for the Interview:

    • Be ready to present all required documents and answer questions about your study plans, financial status, and intent to return home.

Step 5: Prepare for the Visa Interview

  1. Gather Required Documents:

    • Passport: Valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay.
    • Form I-20 or DS-2019: Signed and issued by EIU.
    • DS-160 Confirmation Page: With the barcode.
    • Visa Application Fee Receipt: Proof of payment.
    • SEVIS Fee Payment Receipt: Proof of payment.
    • Acceptance Letter from EIU: To show your admission to EIU.
    • Financial Evidence: Bank statements, scholarship letters, or financial affidavits.
    • Academic Transcripts and Certificates: Proof of your previous education.
    • Additional Documents: If applicable, include property deeds, employment letters, or any other documents proving ties to your home country.
  2. Non-Immigrant Intent:

    • Demonstrate your intent to return home after your studies. Prepare statements and documents that illustrate strong ties to your home country, such as property ownership, employment offers, or close family connections.
  3. Security Clearances:

    • If your field of study or country of origin is on the U.S. government’s watch list, additional security checks may delay your visa approval. Be prepared with supporting letters and documents to expedite this process.
  4. Contact the Consulate:

    • Verify any additional document requirements and confirm the consulate’s hours and processing times. Be aware that security clearances may cause delays, so apply early.

Step 6: Attend the Visa Interview

  1. Arrive at the Embassy/Consulate:

    • Arrive early and follow all security protocols. Dress professionally and bring all required documents in an organized manner.
  2. Participate in the Interview:

    • Answer questions clearly and honestly. Be ready to explain your study plans, financial status, and how your education will be used upon returning home.
  3. Biometric Screening:

    • You may be required to provide fingerprints and a photograph. Follow the instructions provided by the consular staff.

Step 7: Visa Approval and Passport Return

  1. Visa Issuance:

    • If approved, your visa will be placed in your passport. Check the details for accuracy.
  2. Receive Your Passport:

    • Collect your passport with the visa from the consulate or a designated location, or have it mailed to you.
  3. Check Visa Details:

    • Ensure your visa type, duration, and personal information are correct.

Step 8: Prepare for Your Arrival in the U.S.

  1. Book Your Travel:

    • Plan your travel to the U.S. considering the start date of your program and the earliest entry date allowed (typically 30 days before the program start date for F-1 students).
  2. Prepare Arrival Documents:

    • Have your passport with the visa, Form I-20 or DS-2019, SEVIS fee receipt, and EIU acceptance letter ready for inspection upon arrival.
  3. Understand Port of Entry Procedures:

Current Students: Applying for a New Visa

If you are already studying in the U.S. and plan to travel abroad, you may need to renew your visa before re-entering. Here’s what you need to know:

Documents Required for Visa Application

  1. Valid Passport: Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended return to the U.S.
  2. Form I-20 or DS-2019: Signed and valid for your current status.
  3. OPT Documents: If you are on Optional Practical Training (OPT), bring your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and job offer letter.
  4. SEVIS Fee: Required if you are applying for a new visa after a status change.
  5. Financial Support Documents: Recent evidence of financial support.
  6. Proof of Enrollment: Certificate of enrollment or transcripts to verify your student status.
  7. Visa Application Materials: As required by the specific U.S. consulate where you will apply.

Contact the U.S. Consulate

Before applying, contact the U.S. consulate where you will submit your application to confirm:

  • Required documents.
  • Operating hours and application procedures.
  • Any potential need for a security clearance.

Additional Considerations

  1. Security Clearances:

    • If your field of study or country of origin is subject to additional security checks, apply early to accommodate possible delays.
  2. SEVIS and CCD:

    • Your SEVIS record should be visible to consular officers through the Consolidated Consular Database (CCD). If your record is not found, contact EIU’s OISS for assistance.
  3. Travel Exceptions:

    • Short trips (less than 30 days) to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands may not require a valid U.S. visa for re-entry. Check with OISS for details.

Resources and Contacts

Related Pages

Contact Information

Office of International Students and Scholars

2170 Blair Hall
600 Lincoln Avenue
Charleston, Illinois
61920-3099 USA

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