Visa and Immigration Information
Important Visa Information for New International Students
The visa and immigration process for studying in the U.S. can feel overwhelming. This page is designed to walk you through the process and highlight important steps. When in doubt, please contact Godlove Fonjweng in the Office of Global Education at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applying for your U.S. Visa
When to Apply
What to Take to the Visa Interview
Strategies for the Visa Interview
Visa Denial or Delay
Special Note for Citizens of Canada
If You Are Currently in the United States
All Other Non-Immigrant Visa classifications
Port of Entry Procedures
Immigration and Customs
Review of Important Information
You should have received your Certificate of Eligibility, the I-20 form, in your acceptance packet. This form is necessary to apply for the F-1 visa for entry into the United States. (If you are coming to Hartwick as an exchange student or as a degree student on home-country government sponsorship (other than personal or family funds), your Certificate of Eligibility is Form DS-2019, necessary for acquiring a J-1 visa. If you have been awarded a fellowship or scholarship from an international organization or the U.S. government, you will receive a Certificate of Eligibility DS-2019 from your sponsoring agency.)
In order to obtain the visa, you are required to pay the Federal SEVIS fee of $200 and have a printed receipt that proves payment prior to your visa interview. Your Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) indicates the latest date by which you should report to Hartwick College. This date is generally the first day of classes on campus. Students may enter the country up to 30 days before that date.
Important Note: If your plans change, and you decide not to attend Hartwick College, you should RETURN the Certificate of Eligibility to the Office of Global Education and notify the Admissions Office of your decision. If you wish to defer your admission to a subsequent semester, you will need to put the request in writing when you contact these offices.
Unless you are a Canadian citizen, you must obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa before you will be permitted to enter the United States. (More information for Canadian citizens below.)
You must have a passport with a validity date of at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States.
When to Apply
If you are currently outside the U.S. and do not yet have a valid U.S. student visa, you need to apply for one at the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. It is not always possible to obtain the visa outside the country of citizenship or the country of permanent residence.
You should apply for your student visa well in advance of the date you would like to depart for Hartwick College. Remember that you are required to show proof of having paid the Federal SEVIS Fee when you appear for your visa interview.
Holiday and vacation periods are very busy times at the U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide, so make sure you get an appointment well in advance of your arrival date. Some U.S. embassies and consulates require that appointments be made at least four to eight weeks in advance. The actual visa interview may be as early as 120 days prior to your planned arrival date in the United States. All U.S. embassies and consulates have a website where you can read the latest information on visa procedures. Visit the U.S. Embassy locator website to find the embassy or consulate near you. This link has information on waiting times for student visa appointments.
- Required photos
- Federal SEVIS Fee payment receipt
- U.S. non-immigrant visa application forms (unless you are completing the form at the consulate or embassy)
- Hartwick College admission letter
- Hartwick College I-20 or DS-2019
- Test scores and academic records
- Proof of English proficiency
- Proof of financial support
- Evidence of ties to your home country
- Any other documents required by the embassy or consulate
Remember, you must present the visa officer with an I-20 issued by Hartwick College or the DSO 2019 issued by your sponsor. You cannot apply for a U.S. visa using another school's I-20 or DS-2019, and then try to attend Hartwick College. That is considered to be a fraudulent entry by the U.S. Immigration authorities.
Do not take family members or friends with you to the visa interview. The consular official will want to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf. Please be well advised to consider the following matters prior to your visa appointment, as you may be asked about each item.
1. Academics: Be definite and clear about your educational plans. You should be able to explain precisely what you wish to study and why you chose Hartwick College for your education. Be especially prepared to explain reasons for studying in the United States rather than your country.
2. English: Anticipate that the visa interview will be conducted in English.
3. Ties to Your Home Country: Demonstrate convincing reasons for consular officials to believe that you intend to return home after your studies in the United States. Emphasize ties to your home country such as employment, family obligations, bank accounts, family members at home, property or investments that you own or will inherit, and clear explanations of how you plan to use your education to help your country or pursue a career when you return home.
4. Financial Documentation: Be prepared to prove financial ability to pay for your education and living expenses. Do not expect that you will be able to work part time on-campus to help finance a large portion of your studies; such employment is incidental to the main purpose of completing your education. You must show the consular officer that you have the annual amount in United States dollars listed on your I-20 or DS-2019 form. Your financial evidence should be in the form of bank statements, affidavits of support, scholarship award letters, etc.
5. Be concise: Because of the volume of visa applications, all consular officials are under considerable pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impression they form during the first minute or two of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers short and to the point.
6. Be prepared for challenging questions: 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. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities in the United States.
7. Dependents remaining at home: If you have a spouse and/or children remaining behind in your home 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 official gains the impression that your family members will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support them, your student visa will almost surely be denied.
Most Hartwick College students will be successful in obtaining their student visas. Despite this, a small number of students may have their visa applications denied. The most common reasons for visa denial are failure to provide sufficient evidence of financial support or failure to prove sufficient ties to your home country
Other reasons for visa denials include health-related issues such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, etc., criminal background, security risk, previous illegal entrance to the United States, immigration status violators previously removed from the United States, and unlawful voters.
The visa officer must verbally inform you of the reason for the visa denial. If your visa is denied, please contact Godlove Fonjweng at 1-607-431-4079 or 1-607-431-4414 or send an e-mail and provide the date and location of your visa interview, and details regarding the reason given by the visa officer for the denial.
Much more common than a visa denial is a visa delay. This is why it is so important to apply for your visa EARLY. Here are some of the most common reasons for visa delays:
• Closing or reduced hours at U.S. visa-issuing posts abroad due to large numbers of visa applicants, security concerns or political instability in the host country.
• Student or scholar's record does not appear in the SEVIS system at the U.S. embassy or consulate, even though the student or scholar presents a SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019. If you are told that your record does not appear in the visa officer's SEVIS system, immediately contact Godlove Fonjweng at 1-607-431-4079 and provide the date and location of your visa interview. We will contact the appropriate authority to have your SEVIS record re-submitted directly to the visa post.
• Student or scholar not presenting proof of Federal SEVIS Fee payment.
• A finding based on Section 221(g), which means that the visa officer found that the information provided at the visa interview was insufficient to support approval or denial of a visa. The applicant will be asked to return with additional information.
• The need for a security advisory opinion prior to visa issuance if the visa applicant is determined to be pursuing a "sensitive area of study" as indicated on the State Department's Technology Alert List. The fields usually include the sciences and engineering.
• The need for a security clearance prior to visa issuance if the visa applicant has ever been arrested in the United States, or if the applicant has a name identical to or similar to a person with a previous arrest record.
• The need for a security clearance prior to visa issuance if the visa applicant is male, between the age of 16-46 and a citizen of or born in one of the designated countries requiring security clearances (Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen) or is a male or female, age 16 or older who is a national of or permanently residing in Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan or Syria. Such individuals will not be issued visas unless the applicant can show evidence that he or she is not a threat to U.S. national security.
Similar to a visa denial, the visa officer must verbally inform you of the reason for the visa delay. If your visa is delayed, please contact Godlove Fonjweng at 1-607-431-4079. Provide the date and location of your visa interview, and details regarding the reason given by the visa officer for the delay.
Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain a U.S. visa to enter the United States. However, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will inspect your papers, either at a pre-inspection site in Canada or upon entry to the United States. You must have with you:
• Canadian passport
• Admission letter to Hartwick College
• Proof of Federal SEVIS Fee Payment
• Your Hartwick Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019)
• Proof of financial support that corresponds to the information on your I-20 or DS-2019
It is essential that you enter the United States in the appropriate status, so be sure to have complete documentation with you.
F-1 and J-1 Students
If you already have valid F-1 student or J-1 student status by being enrolled at another school, college or university in the United States, by now you have already completed the required Transfer Verification Form and requested that the International Student Advisor at your current school release your SEVIS record to Hartwick College. Your new Hartwick College I-20 or DS-2019, endorsed for pending transfer, is mailed to you as soon as the release date for your SEVIS record (as determined by your previous school) is reached. Once you are enrolled at Hartwick College and we have confirmed your registration, the transfer process will be completed. If you are in F-1 status, a new I-20 will be issued to you. Be sure to report to the Office of Global Education as soon as you arrive on campus.
If you are currently in the U.S. in a visa classification other than F-1 or J-1, you should contact the Office of Global Education for further information.
Port of Entry Procedures
Once you have obtained your U.S. student visa, you are ready to finalize your travel plans. Be sure to have your I-20 form (for F-1 visas) or DS-2019 (for J-1 visas) and your proof of Federal SEVIS fee payment with your passport when you go through your immigration inspection at the U.S. port of entry. Remember that if you plan to attend Hartwick, you must present a certificate of eligibility endorsed for study at Hartwick College.
• DO NOT enter on anther school's certificate of eligibility (I-20), as that is considered to be a fraudulent entry by the U.S. Immigration authorities.
• DO NOT attempt to enter the United States on a visitor/tourist visa (B-2) unless it is designated "Prospective Student" by a consular officer. The U.S. Immigration Service rarely authorizes a change of status from B-2 to F-1, and you will be prevented from enrolling in school until your change of status application is approved, which could take several months.
• DO NOT attempt to enter the United States under the visa waiver program, available to citizens from nearly 30 countries throughout the world. The waiver program is designed for tourists only, and attending school under the waiver program is a clear violation of U.S. immigration law.
Immigration and Customs
Expect to go through both immigration and customs inspection at the U.S. port of entry. If you enter by land, make sure you go through both procedures before continuing into the United States. You may also be required to go through a pre-inspection procedure at certain airports abroad. At the immigration booth, present: your passport, your I-20 or DS-2019, your proof of Federal SEVIS fee payment, and your completed I-94 arrival/departure card (usually this is distributed on the airplane). Expect to have your index fingers scanned for fingerprint purposes and a digital photograph taken, as required by U.S. federal regulations.
In the majority of cases, there will be no difficulty. In certain cases, if there is some problem with your documents, you may be issued a 30-day entry on your I-94 card and issued a form I-515, usually with instructions to see your international student advisor. Examine your I-94 card and I-20 or DS-2019 carefully as you leave the immigration booth. F-1 students and J-1 students should have their I-94s marked "D/S" which means Duration of Status, along with a stamp indicating the date you entered the United States. The same stamp and "D/S" notation should also be on the I-20 or DS-2019. If an expiration date is written on the I-94 instead of "D/S," and you are in F or J status, come to the Office of Global Education at Hartwick as soon as possible.
Note: Anyone who is denied admission at a U.S. port of entry should be very cautious about arguing with the immigration official. You may risk being issued "expedited removal," which now entails a five-year ban on admission to the United States. If you are denied admission, first try to contact the Office of Global Education for assistance, but also make it known to the immigration official that you are willing to withdraw your application for admission to the country rather than be subject to expedited removal.
We hope this information is helpful to you as you arrange for your new educational experience. You are encouraged to re-read it and carefully note the items that pertain to your situation. Please pay careful attention to your requirements and obligations.
Key Points to Remember:
1. Make sure your travel documents are in order. Do not finalize your travel arrangements until you have your passport, Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019), SEVIS Fee receipt and visa stamp. You may enter the United States only if your Certificate of Eligibility is endorsed by Hartwick College.
2. Take care of your financial obligations and arrange for proper monetary transfer. Carefully review requirements for obtaining foreign exchange. Make sure you have adequate funds.
3. Plan to arrive on campus on the date designated.
4. Be prepared to discuss your academic plans and interests with your department or program. Do not rely on others to plan your program for you, but at the same time do not register for classes without seeing an advisor during the orientation program.
5. If you do not plan to enroll at Hartwick College in the semester for which you have been admitted, return the Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) to the Global Education Office within the Center for Professional, Service and Global Engagement and notify the Admissions Office of your decision.
We wish you a warm welcome to Hartwick College. If you arrive on campus after working hours (after 5 p.m.) or on a Saturday or Sunday, and need emergency assistance, please go to the security office in the third floor of Dewar Student Union.