Visiting and Studying in the United States

Helping Applicants Navigate the Application Process:
Individuals who want to apply for any type of US Visa generally apply at a US Embassy or Consulate. Applicants must submit a myriad of documents and forms and go through an interview process. The Litvak Law Firm, PLLC is superbly adept to assisting individuals through the US Visas application process, the Firm will guide you every step of the way, helping you navigating the complex process by determining the right visa category for the purpose of your visit, organizing all the necessary paperwork and preparing you for the Consulate interview.    

Visa Waiver Program
Under Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), Section 217, citizens of 27 countries, mostly located in Western Europe, will not require a Visa to temporarily enter US under a program known as Visa Waiver Program. People admitted under this program are allowed to stay in US no more than 90 days and will not be allowed to adjust their status to Law Permanent Resident  (Green Card or LPR) unless the visitor is an immediate relative of a United States citizen (USC) or is adjusting to another non-immigrant status. See INA 245(c), 248(a)(4).          

United States Visas - General Overview
Visitors, who are not citizens of any of eligible countries in Visa Waiver Program,  must apply for a visa to enter United States. Before obtaining a visa, an applicant must submit an application to a United States consulate and undergo an in-person interview. Inappropriate behavior or attire during such interview is strongly discouraged since consular official have almost total discretion to deny a visa and such exercise of discretion is usually final and is not reviewable by US courts. In addition, visa applicants must overcome a presumption that he or she is an immigrant (see INA 214(b)) and meet the burden of eligibility for one of non-immigrant visa categories specified in 101(a)(15). Sometimes consular officials ask for additional documentation to substantiate applicant’s ties to their country of residence (see INA 222(D)), thus it would be prudent for applicants to start thinking about gathering such evidence prior to interview.        

Tourist and Business Visitors: B-1 & B-2 Visa
Anyone wishing to visit United States should strongly consider applying for a visa under Temporary Visitor category, this category is further divided into two subcategories: pleasure visitors (tourists) under B-2 and business visitors under B-1. Employment under B-1 is forbidden but conducting business is not. This means that a business visitor will not violate his or her status when conducting business as long as no profits are accrued while in US and as long as the visitor maintains a residence in a foreign country. See In Matter of Hira – BIA establishing criteria for B -1 eligibility. Most temporary visitors must present a valid passport (see INA 212(a)(7)(B)). Visitors are also required to demonstrate the intent and ability to leave prior to visa expiring, this requires obtaining permission or have the ability to enter another country when the visa expires and availability of sufficient funds for such purpose. See 21 CFR 41.31.

Exchange Visitor Program: J-1 Visa
he J-1 Visa was implemented in 1961 to promote the understanding of other cultures by the people of the United States and likewise the understanding of the America culture by people of other countries through educational and cultural exchanges. The US Department of State administers the J-1 exchange visitor program.

A J-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa available to aliens that fall under the designation of "Exchange Visitor". J-1 exchange visitors travel to the United States through a Department of State approved sponsor program to teach, study, receive training or demonstrate special skills. To obtain a J-1 Visa, your sponsor must be accredited through the Exchange Visitor Program designated by the Department of State.

Individuals who qualify for J-1 status include:

  • Au Pair
  • Camp Counselor
  • College or University Student
  • Government Visitor
  • Intern
  • International Visitor
  • Physician
  • Professor and Research Scholar
  • Secondary School Student
  • Short-Term Scholar
  • Specialist
  • Summer Work Travel
  • Teacher
  • Trainee

Certain types of J-1 exchange visitors require that the alien return to his or her country of citizenship or country of last permanent residence for a period of at least two years after the completion of the Exchange Visitor Program. However, under certain circumstances this requirement can be waived.

Recently the State Department launched an extremely informative and user friendly J-1 visa website for participants and sponsoring organizations. To visit the J-1 website, please click here.

The Department of State also maintains a complete and updated list of all sponsoring J-1 organizations on their J-1 website. To view the complete list of approved sponsoring organizations, please click here.

Student Visa: F-1 Visa
The primary US study visa is an F-1, its granted to foreign national wishing to come to US for the purpose of academic studies.

Student F1 Visa - Overview
The first step for a prospective foreign student is enrollment in an established American College or University which is part of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Once enrollment is achieved, the student must obtain Form I-20 from the DSO (Designated School Official) and pay the I-901 Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) receipt fee. This will allow the student to be registered on the SEVIS database with an individual ID number. The next step is to schedule the Initial Entry Visa Interview with a US Embassy or Consulate. Student F1 Visa interviews will require the following documentation:

  • Form I-20;
  • SEVIS I-901 receipt
  • Signed passport (must be valid for 6 months after entry into the US)
  • Transcripts or diplomas from current or previous institutions
  • Program of study description
  • Accommodation information
  • Evidence of funds to cover tuition and living expenses for either the length of your study or one year, whichever is shorter.
  • US Embassy/Consulate might require additional forms such as DS-156, DS-157A, DS 158A. They are available online or at your local embassy/consulate.

Once you are granted a US visa, notify school of your expected arrival date, if your arrival date changed you might need to obtain a new I-20. Also, be sure to confirm your transportation and housing accommodations as far as possible in advance of your arrival. Keep in mind that you can enter the US no more than 30 days before your program starts.

Upon arrival at a United States Port of Entry you must present;

  • Your Form I-20, signed by the DSO of the school you will attend;
  • Your I-94;
  • A valid visa containing your SEVIS identification number and the name of the school you will be attending (BIR);
  • Financial documentation;
  • A valid passport.

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspector will stamp your Passport and I-20 once your eligibility to enter US is established. These documents are proof that you entered the US legally, keep them safe throughout your stay in the country.

The Department of State maintains regularly updated webpage of all F-1 Visa instructions and regulations, to view it please click here.

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