International Student Advising

Preparing for Departure to the U.S.

Getting Your Visa

You will need a student visa to enter the United States. Apply for the visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, using the Form I-20 (F Visas) or Form DS-2019 (J Visas) that Evergreen sends you.

You will need various documents for your visa application, so prepare carefully for your visit. Please read all documents carefully, so you understand what you are agreeing to when you enter the U.S. with your particular visa.

Visa procedures vary from one consulate or embassy to another. Before you apply, check with the office where you plan to apply to learn what documents or procedures are required. Recognize the word “SEVIS”. Understand that all embassies, immigration officials, and college international offices use a computerized system called SEVIS to track all students and visitors to the U.S.

Some standard items required for visa applications:

  • A current, valid passport
  • An I-20 form for the F visa or a DS-2019 form for the J visa
  • Evidence of financial support for the period of time and amount listed on the I-20 or DS-2019
  • Proof that you have a permanent residence outside the U.S.
  • One or more passport type photos
  • A non-immigrant visa application
  • Any required SEVIS application fees

The visa officer may ask for other materials to prove you are eligible for a student visa. These may include:

  • Evidence of English proficiency
  • School records to verify your preparation
  • Extra evidence of strong ties to your country
  • Extra evidence of your ability to support yourself financially

If you are approved, the visa officer will attach a visa to your passport. If you receive a multiple-entry visa, you may use it to re-enter the U.S. many times, up to the expiration date and as long as you have a valid I-20 or DS-2019. If you have any problems getting your visa, please contact the Evergreen Admissions Office.

Planning Your Arrival

Your I-20 or DS-2019 shows the starting date for your academic study. There are rules about how early or late you can arrive regarding this date.

F Visas: Do not arrive more than 30 days before the program start date printed on your I-20. You may be refused entry to the U.S. if you arrive 31 or more days early, or if you arrive 1 day after your start date. In general, plan to arrive a few days before the scheduled International Student Orientation meetings. If you know you will arrive late, contact the Admissions Office beforehand.

J Visas: Do not arrive more than 30 days before the program start date printed in Item 3 on your DS-2019. For some J Visas, it may be an even shorter time than 30 days. If you have a special sponsor, ask them about arrival date rules.

Entry Papers: If you travel to the U.S. by plane, you will be given an I-94 form to complete shortly before you land. If you enter from Canada or Mexico by land, you will be given the form at the border. Complete the form with your name (exactly as it is in your passport), date of birth, destination in the U.S., reason for coming to the U.S., and some other questions. The number on your I-94 will be recorded on your I-20 or DS-2019 and this becomes your “Admission Number”, an ID number for your immigration records. You will also be asked to complete a Customs Form (CF-6059) with information about special items you are bringing into the U.S. I

IMPORTANT: When you arrive at the U.S. airport or border, also called a Port of Entry, you MUST have these items with you, NOT in your checked baggage:

  • Passport – valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of your stay.
  • F or J Visa – attached to passport page
  • I-20 (F visas) or DS-2019 (J visas)
  • Completed I-94 Form

Immigration officers sometimes ask to see other items, so we recommend that you also carry:

  • Proof of finances, such as a bank statement
  • The paper receipt for the SEVIS I-901 fee
  • Your letter of acceptance from Evergreen
  • Contact information for Evergreen’s Designated School Official (F visas) or Responsible Officer (J visas)

Michael Clifthorne

Coordinator, International Programs
360-867-6421 M-F 8:00-5:00
360-867-6140 24-hour Police Services
clifthom@evergreen.edu

At the Port of Entry, the immigration officer will ask to see your passport, visa, I-20 or DS-2019, and the I-94 form. The officer will review your documents and ask you about your plans. It is important that you tell the officer that you will be a student (F visas) or an exchange visitor (J visas).

After your inspection is completed, the officer will:

  • Stamp your SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019 for Duration of Status (D/S).
  • Stamp the I-94 and staple it into your passport, noting F or J as your visa type.
  • Return your I-20 or DS-2019 to you.

Be certain that those 3 things happen. If they do not, ask the officer about it.

Note: Your visa is necessary only for entry to the U.S. at the Port of Entry. It has no relation to how long you can stay in the U.S. If it expires while you are still studying in the U.S., this is not a problem.