Apply for a U.S. Scholar Visa
Continuing UCSD international scholars who are traveling outside the U.S. and have expired visas, or have changed status while in the U.S. must apply for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad in order to reenter the U.S.
Visa Processing Time
All visa applications also require a face-to-face interview with a U.S. consular officer. The visa application process can take up to 6-8 weeks, so plan accordingly.
Important Notice:Effective immediately, U.S. embassies and consulates will adjudicate visa applications that are based on a same-sex marriage in the same way that they adjudicate applications for opposite gender spouses. Please reference the specific guidance on the visa category for which you are applying for more details on documentation required for derivative spouses. For further information, please see our FAQ’s.
Prior to your visa appointment, consult the website for the U.S. embassy or consulate that you will visit. Go to the Nonimmigrant Visa section and follow the instructions. Many people are denied visas when they are unprepared.
At the visa interview, you must present:
- Passport which is valid up to six months after date of entry into the U.S.
- Form DS-2019 (J-1 scholars) with valid travel signature or copy of your I-797 approval notice
- Form DS-7002 (required for Student Intern DS-2019 Category only)
- The Form DS-7002 is required only for the Student Intern J-1 category. If this category is indicated in box 4 of the Form DS-2019, then the Form DS-7002 must be completed and signed by the prospective Student Intern, the intern's supervisor, and a representative from the UC San Diego International Scholar Office, and brought to the visa application interview.
- Evidence of financial support
- Home country address and documentation of home ties (if available)
In some instances, you may be asked for additional documentation so we also recommend that you bring the following:
- Letter from your academic department verifying program start date, good standing, expected program completion, and brief description of the nature of your research
Based on information received from various consular officers, the following are recommendations to prepare for your visa interview:
- Listen carefully to what the consular officer asks you and then answer the question directly.
- Be prepared to show strong ties to your home country with official documentation. Ties to your country are ties that compel you to leave the U.S. after you finish your program of study.
- If your family owns a property, take the deeds of papers showing your ownership.
- If you and your family have had numerous past visits to the U.S., take along passports, even old ones – to show that you have many visas and many visits, but after every visit to U.S. you still returned to your home country.
- If you have membership in a professional organization in your home country, bring proof of this membership.
- If you have the prospect of a job offer, get a letter from the company saying that you will be considered for the job upon your return
- Answer every question truthfully.
Some factors that might work against you in the mind of the consular officer are:
- Someone in the U.S is promising to support you
- Lack of family ties
- Poor job prospect upon return
- Poor English language ability
The time it will take for the Consular Section to process your visa application can vary depending on:
- the completeness of your visa application
- the amount of verification your visa application requires can affect the amount of time it take to process your application
- Consular Section may find that you need to provide further information before a decision can be made on your application
If you wish to view the estimate on how long you will have to wait to get an interview appointment, please visit the U.S Department of State online tool at https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/wait-times.html. This online tool will also tell you how long it will take for your visa to be processed at the Consular Section, after a decision is made by a Consular Officer to issue the Visa. Please note that the processing time does not include any time required for administrative processing.
Visa application appointments:
U.S. consulates abroad have huge volumes of visa applications, and certain times of the year, particularly prior to school starting in the fall and during holidays, can be especially busy and result in longer wait times for visa appointments. See wait-times for visa appointments at consulates abroad.
U.S. Department of State screens all visa applicants; a wide variety of background checks exist, and visa applicants are selected for these various checks based on different reasons, including their planned activity in the U.S. (if their research might be considered of dual purpose), their country of origin, their recent travel destinations, or even their name (particularly common names). Once a background check has been instigated, the visa cannot be issued until the check has been completed. This can take a month or more, though federal agencies do try to resolve checks within 30 days.
Delays are not uncommon for scholars arriving from abroad, and usually stem from the visa application process. Scholars are advised to wait to make firm travel plans only after receiving their visa stamp.
If you are delayed, contact your sponsoring department immediately.
For J, B, and TN visas, scholars are required to show non-immigrant intent (that they plan to return to their home country at the end of their stay) to the visa-issuing consular official. To prove this, a scholar may show a deed to real-estate owned in the home country, or a letter from their current employer stating the expectation that they will return to employment there after their stay in the U.S. (see visa denials). If a scholar is not able to prove this to the satisifaction of the consular official, the visa may be denied. To reapply, the scholar will need to show additional evidence of ties to their home country. While there are other reasons for denial, immigrant intent is the most common one. The H-1B classification allows for immigrant intent, and denials thus are much more rare in this category.
If you are denied a visa, you will be informed of the reason for the denial and be given the opportunity to reappear if you can provide additional evidence to support your case.
Note: Nationals of certain countries, and all internationals whose area of research has been deemed sensitive by the US Department of Homeland Security, will have their names submitted for a special security clearance procedure that may take up to 4-6 weeks before a visa is issued. Disciplines such as nuclear technology, chemical and biotechnology engineering, and advanced computer or microelectronic technology, as well as a broad range of engineering and physical sciences are on the "Technology Alert List." Scholars in these fields should expect delays in obtaining visas at consulates abroad.
Before reapplying, be sure you understand the grounds for your denial so that you can appeal effectively. Contact the UCSD International Center if you need additional assistance.
We strongly encourage you to apply for a visa in your home country because you may have difficulty getting a visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a country other than your own. In general, the following individuals are eligible to apply for a visa renewal as Third Country Nationals:
- Applicants seeking to renew their C, D, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P and R visas, provided the initial visa was issued in the applicant's home country or at one of the border posts in the past few years.
- Applicants for visas that reflect a change of status (e.g. F-1 to J-1), provided the applicant originally entered the U.S. in other than B status and possesses an original change of status notice (I-797) from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The following individuals are strongly discouraged from applying for a visa renewal as Third Country Nationals because there may be a high risk of denial:
- Applicants who entered the U.S. with a B-1/B-2 visa issued in their home country that changed status to another visa category, e.g., F-1, J-1, H1B, but the visa did not have an annotation indicating intent to change status.
- Applicants who have been out of status in the U.S. having violated the terms of their visas or having overstayed the validity indicated on their I-94s.
- A, B, E, G and Q visa applications, including renewals are not accepted from Third Country Nationals that are not residents in the appropriate consular district.
- Citizens of Iran, Sudan, Cuba and Syria.
International scholars who are not citizens of Canada or Mexico, but who wish to apply for visas in Canada or Mexico should meet an advisor to discuss their plans. Scholars subject to special security clearances are not eligible for reentry into the U.S. until this process is complete. Please consider the delays that security checks may cause and plan accordingly.
To set an appointment in Canada, please:
- Visit ais.usvisa-info.com/
- Call (900) 443-3131 (fee required)
To set an appointment in Mexico, please:
- Visit ais.usvisa-info.com/
- Call 1-703-439-2313
- Skype (Skype name USVISAMEXICO)