Applying for student/ scholar visa at a U.S. Embassy

After being accepted to Rollins College and submitting statements of financial support, students will receive or may have already received a Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 to apply for a student visa. Scholars need the form DS-2019 to apply for a J-1 scholar visa.


Please take a few minutes to review your I-20 or DS-2019. Make sure all information printed about you and your program of study is correctly noted. Read the printed instructions on the back of your form and sign it as required. Finally, note that you have been given a reporting date. This is the date by which you should enter the U.S. with your I-20 or DS-2019, although you are allowed to enter up to 30 days prior to this date.


If you discover an error on the form, first contact the Office of International Student & Scholar Services to discuss the situation.


Although not required, it is best to apply for your student or scholar visa in your home country whenever possible. In addition to your I-20 or DS-2019, you will need to take your passport, your Rollins College acceptance or appointment letter and financial documentation to the American Embassy or Consulate. Once there, you will complete Form DS-156 (Application for Nonimmigrant Visa) and be charged a processing fee. Taiwanese citizens apply through the American Institute in Taiwan; Canadian students are not required to obtain a visa. The amount of time needed to obtain a visa varies. All questions related to processing a visa should be directed to the embassy or consulate.


Remember, if you have a Form I-20, you will apply for an F-1 visa. If you have a Form DS-2019, you will apply for a J-1 visa. Also, even though you may be entering the U.S. before your spouse and/or children, they may apply for the F-2 or J-2 dependent visa at the same time.


The consular officer may ask you:
Why do you want to study in the U.S.?
Why do you want to study ______________?
Why did you choose Rollins?
How will your degree be used in your home country?
What are your employment prospects?


Before issuing the visa, the U.S. consular official must be convinced that you have a residence outside the United States that you have not abandoned and that you have not decided to seek permanent residence in the U.S. It is important to show the officer that you have strong ties to your country of residence, such as family, community or social ties, documents showing membership in professional organizations and religious groups, a family business, ownership of property, bank accounts, a job offer, or evidence that people with the kind of education you are seeking are needed. Government officials like documents. Do not emphasize any ties or close relatives that you have to the U.S. and do not talk about working in the U.S. unless you have been awarded a graduate assistantship or are a scholar with employment at Rollins.


You must be truthful and willing to answer direct questions. If the consular official thinks you are not telling the truth, you may not get a visa. Rehearse what you plan to say to the consular officer and try to be clear in your presentation. Practice your English! It is important that you always be courteous and never demanding. Just in case a problem develops, you should make copies of any documents submitted. Applications should be made as early as possible.


If you are denied a visa, you have probably not sufficiently proven to the consular officer that you are entitled to student or scholar status. In most cases the denial will be based on failure to prove permanent residence or strong ties to your home country. A visa denial is not permanent and may be reconsidered if you can show further convincing evidence. We strongly suggest that you contact the Office of International Student & Scholar Services if you are denied a visa so that we can assist you in your second application.


If you have been accepted to Rollins College but have not yet received your Form I-20 or DS-2019 and there is little time left before school starts, do not enter the U.S. with a regular B-1/B-2 visitor visa, as there is no guarantee that tourist status can be changed to student or scholar status once in the U.S. However, if you are already in the U.S. with a visitor's visa, the Office of International Student & Scholar Services can assist you in trying to change your status.


Citizens of certain countries are permitted to visit the U.S. without applying for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas. This is the Visa Waiver Program and individuals are issued a green I-94 card usually marked WT. Entry with a visa waiver restricts you to staying in the U.S. as a tourist for only 90 days. If you enter with a visa waiver, you will not be able to extend your stay in legal status in the U.S. for more than 90 days, and you will not be able to change to student status in the U.S. If you are a citizen of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, you should not enter the U.S. with this status if you intend to become a student!


Keep in mind the following:

  • Do NOT enter the U.S. on a visitor visa or under the Visa Waiver Program.
  • Only use the I-20 or DS-2019 issued by the school you plan to attend!
  • The I-20 or DS-2019 is very important - DO NOT lose it!