What Is a Visa?
The F-1 visa stamp in your passport is permission to apply to enter the United States in that visa category. Although your passport and I-20 must remain valid while you are in the U.S., it is okay to remain in the U.S. with an expired student visa. The visa expiration date is separate from your length of authorized stay in the U.S. If your visa expires while you are in the U.S. and/or its number of entries has been used, or if you have changed your nonimmigrant status while in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must apply for a new F-1 visa in order to return to the U.S. Visas can only be obtained outside of the U.S. at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. (Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa stamp to enter the U.S.)
Visa Validity After a Break In Studies
If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than five months and were not registered full time while abroad, your F-1 visa will be considered invalid, even if it has not yet expired. If you are returning to resume study, you must obtain a visa and pay the SEVIS fee ($200 for F-1 students).
Study Abroad Students
If you plan to study abroad during your Coe degree program, carefully review the entry visa requirements for the country where you will study. You might need a valid F-1 U.S. visa to apply for an entry visa to another country while you are a Coe student. It is not possible to apply for a new F-1 visa inside the U.S. If your current U.S. student visa is expired, you might need to travel outside of the U.S. to obtain a new F-1 visa before you can apply for a visa to another country. Allow enough time for the required visa applications when planning to study abroad. You should also consult the DSO regarding study abroad plans to see if and how they will affect your F-1 status.
Visa Renewal Information
General Visa Information
Be sure the visa in your passport (1) will still be valid on the date you plan to re-enter the U.S., and (2) still has entries remaining (either has an “M” for unlimited multiple entries or at least “1” entry left). If you must renew your visa while out of the U.S., see the information below on renewing a visa. If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or a country in the Caribbean and your visa has expired, please also read the information below on Automatic Visa Revalidation.
What documents do I need to renew my visa?
It depends on your immigration status. Check the website of the U.S. consulate you will visit to see exactly what documents, including forms and photos and fees, you will need to present. You will need to fill out application forms, which may be downloaded from the Department of State website.
F-1 students should take:
- Current I-20 - I-20 for those in F-1 status from Coe College, with a recent travel signature from the DSO.
- Old I-20s - Any I-20s previously issued by Coe College and any other U.S. school previously attended.
- Transcript - Request a formal transcript from the Registrar’s Office.
- Proof of Enrollment - If your transcript does not yet show the current/most recent semester, you will also need a Proof of Enrollment letter showing your current enrollment (available from the Registrar’s Office).
- Financial Documentation - Evidence of recent financial support as shown on the I-20 (bank statement, scholarship or financial aid award letter, family bank statement, etc.)
- Only for Students on OPT or Academic Training - If F-1 engaged in OPT, also take current EAD and a letter from OPT employer stating you are working there under the terms of Optional Practical Training.
Suggested Background Documentation
In addition to the documentation required by the Consulate/Embassy Visa Processing section, you should prepare and have available information to share in the interview (verbally or in documentation when appropriate).
- Description of your academic or research program objectives.
- Complete resume and an official transcript if you are enrolled as a student in the U.S.
- Proof of funding for your student or scholarly activity.
- Proof of "binding ties" to your home country. F visas are non-immigrant intent visas. You will need to prove to the visa officer plan to return home country after graduation.
- Receipt of SEVIS fee. If you need to re-print please visit fmjfee.com.
- If you are a student authorized for post graduation OPT, it is best to bring the EAD work permit and information about the employment or training you will engage in during the OPT. The signature on the I-20 is valid ONLY for 6 months during a period of OPT.
How long will it take to get a new U.S. visa?
It depends on your situation. Students are advised to go to the consulate to renew their visas at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid possible delays. Do not wait until the end of your stay abroad. If you know you will be required to appear in person at the consulate, try to make an appointment with the consulate even before you leave the U.S. Many embassies have websites with information about their visa application procedures. View a listing of U.S. embassies and consulates. Please be wary, though, of security background checks.
Automatic Revalidation - Re-Entering the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean on an Expired Visa
Individuals in F status can re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Islands* on an expired visa if:
- they are returning from a visit of less than 30 days, and
- they did not apply for a new visa while outside the U.S., and
- they have with them:
- a valid passport,
- an unexpired I-94 (white card in passport marked as “D/S”) – do NOT give up the I-94 when you exit the U.S. if you are planning to utilize Automatic Revalidation,
- appropriate financial documentation, and
- a valid I-20 signed for re-entry.
NOTE: The automatic revalidation option is NOT available to:
- Nationals of a country designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. You would be required to obtain a new U.S. visa before being allowed to re-enter the U.S., and in all probability could only get a new visa from the U.S. consulate in your home country or the consulate that services your home country
- Canadian “landed immigrants” who have never had an F visa. You would be required to obtain a U.S. visa before being allowed to re-enter the U.S. You may be able to obtain the visa from a U.S. consulate in Canada, unless you are a citizen of one of the seven countries listed above or one of the countries likely to be subject to the Security Advisory Opinion.
For more information visit the Department of State.
* The Code of Federal Regulations at 8 CFR 286.1(a) defines "adjacent islands" to include Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Marie-Galante, Martinique, Miquelon, Montserrat, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Christopher, Saint Eustatius, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions bordering on the Caribbean Sea. Note that Cuba is NOT considered an adjacent island for the purpose of travel into the United States.
Third-Country Nationals and Visa Renewal
“Third-country national” means that you are not a citizen of the country in which the U.S. consulate where you will attempt to renew your visa is located. For example, citizens of China who try to renew their visas in Mexico are “third country nationals.”
In general, it has become riskier to try to renew your visa in a country that is not your own. The United States Department of State says, “Individuals seeking appointments should be aware that applicants may be more likely to encounter difficulties at the time of interview when they apply for a visa outside of their home district. Consular officers...will deny visas whenever they believe there are fraud indicators present, or their lack of knowledge of local conditions and familiarity with documents in the applicant's home country prevents them from properly adjudicating the case.” This means that you could attempt to renew your visa in a country that is not your own, be denied, and then be unable to re-enter the U.S. until you travel directly to your home country and get a new visa there. You could also experience significant delays due to security processing.
Getting a U.S. Visa in Canada or Mexico
If you plan to get a U.S. visa at a consulate in Canada or Mexico, you must make an advance appointment with the U.S. consulate you plan to visit. Please note that only individuals who meet specific requirements will be allowed to do this if Canada or Mexico is not your country of citizenship. If your visa is expired and you apply for and are denied a new visa in Canada or Mexico, you cannot re-enter the U.S. under the terms of automatic revalidation. Instead you will be required to return directly to your home country to apply for a new visa in the U.S. consulate there.
Visas for Other Countries
Be sure that you have any visas needed to enter countries other than your own that you plan to visit. Go to the embassy website of the country you would like to visit to see if you might need a visa to enter the country to which you are traveling.
Delays to Visa Renewal
Security Advisory Options - the “Background Security Clearance”
Some visa applicants may be subject to additional screening. These security checks are performed by the U.S. Department of State, and can take several weeks or months to complete. There are at least three ways a student or scholar can be subject to a security check: (1) country of citizenship: generally for citizens of Middle Eastern or predominantly Islamic countries, although citizens of any country can be subject; or (2) the area of study/research is highly technical or viewed as “sensitive:” citizens of any country (particularly those listed above as well as China and India) have been selected for security checks for this reason. The “Sensitive Majors” list includes most engineering disciplines, chemical and biochemical/biomedical sciences, computer science, genetics, certain branches of physics, nuclear and laser technologies, actuarial science, and even urban planning! Finally, people can be subject to a security check if (3) a preliminary check at the consulate reveals potential criminal history or other “security concerns.”
When a security check occurs, there is absolutely nothing the DSO, Coe College, or any political liaison can do to speed up the process. It is strongly suggested that you contact the DSO so that the DSO may assess your situation BEFORE making travel plans.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of State have suggested that students and scholars who believe they could be subject to a security advisory opinion based on the “sensitive” areas of study/research should take a letter from their academic adviser or employing department that briefly describes – in very elementary language – the type of research you are doing or the focus of your studies. The point is to try to illustrate that your work is not a “threat” to U.S. national security. It is still possible you may be subject to the security clearance, but this letter could help speed things up.
How Likely Is It That My Visa Application will be denied?
There are never any guarantees that a visa will be renewed. However, in general it is still very unlikely that a visa will be denied to a student who is in the midst of a course of study. But as noted above, delays may be more likely to occur.
What If My Application for a New Visa Is Denied?
Ask the consular officer to give you a written explanation for the denial. Contact the DSO immediately and supply details about your visa interview, what you were asked and what you replied. Give the DSO the date and place of the denial and, if possible, the name of the consular officer who issued it. If you have any reason to think your situation might place your visa application in unusual jeopardy, you may want to discuss it with the DSO before traveling (and preferably before purchasing tickets). Please note that the DSO cannot reverse denial decisions.
Do I Need to Do Anything Upon Re-entry to the U.S. on a New Visa?
While you are still at the Port of Entry, make sure the information on your I-94 is CORRECT (for example, that it is marked as “D/S” for Duration of Status rather than given a specific end date, and that the appropriate category – F-1, J-1, etc. – is marked on it). If it is not, bring it to the attention of the officer at the Port of Entry. It will be much more difficult and time-consuming to attempt to get it corrected later. You should also certainly keep a photocopy of your new visa and I-94 (front and back) in a safe place.
U.S. law generally requires visa applicants to be interviewed by a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. After relevant information is reviewed, the application is approved or denied, based on standards established in U.S. law.
While the vast majority of visa applications are approved, U.S. law sets out many standards under which a visa application may be denied. An application may be denied because the consular officer does not have all of the information required to determine if the applicant is eligible to receive a visa, because the applicant does not qualify for the visa category for which he or she applied, or because the information reviewed indicates the applicant falls within the scope of one of the inadmissibility or ineligibility grounds of the law. An applicant’s current and/or past actions, such as drug or criminal activities, as examples, may make the applicant ineligible for a visa.
If denied a visa, in most cases the applicant is notified of the section of law which applies. Visa applicants are also advised by the consular officer if they may apply for a waiver of their ineligibility. Several of the most common reasons for visa ineligibilities are explained below. For more information, review the visa ineligibilities in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
How does a visa applicant qualify for a visa?
You, as a visa applicant, qualify for a visa by being eligible under all applicable U.S. laws for the visa category for which you are applying. During your visa interview, the consular officer at the U.S Embassy or Consulate will determine if you are qualified for the type of visa for which you are applying.
The sole authority to approve or deny (called adjudicate) visa applications, under U.S. immigration law section 104(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, is given to consular officers at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
What does being found ineligible mean?
If a consular officer finds you are not eligible to receive a visa under U.S. law, your visa application will be denied (refused), and you will be provided a reason for the denial. There are many reasons a visa applicant could be found ineligible for a visa. These reasons, called ineligibilities, are listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and other immigration laws. Some ineligibilities can be overcome, either by you, the visa applicant, or the U.S. petitioner, in certain immigrant visa cases. Other ineligibilities are permanent. This means that every time you apply for a visa, you will be found ineligible under the same section of law, unless a waiver of that ineligibility is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security. Learn about waivers of ineligibility.
Here are some examples of visa ineligibilities, with INA references, which are explained further below.
The visa applicant:
- Did not fully complete the visa application and/or provide all required supporting documentation - INA section 221(g)
- Did not establish eligibility for the visa category being applied for or overcome the presumption of being an intending immigrant - INA section 214(b)
- Was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude - INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)
- Was convicted of a drug violation - INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II)
- Has two or more criminal convictions for which the total sentence of confinement was 5 years or more - INA section 212(a)(2)(B)
- Did not demonstrate proof of adequate financial support in the United States; therefore denied under public charge - INA section 212(a)(4)
- Misrepresented a material fact or committed fraud to attempt to receive a visa – INA section 212(a)(6)(C)(i)
- Previously remained longer than authorized in the United States - INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)
For a complete list of all visa ineligibilities contained in the Immigration and Nationality Act, see Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws.
I was found ineligible for a visa. Can I get my money back?
No. The fee that you paid is a non-refundable application processing fee.
Can I reapply for a visa?
After being found ineligible for a visa, you may reapply in the future. If you reapply for a visa after being found ineligible, with the exception of 221(g) refusals, you must submit a new visa application and pay the visa application fee again. If you were found ineligible under section 214(b) of the INA, you should be able to present evidence of significant changes in circumstances since your last application. See more information below under INA section 214(b).
Can a friend or relative inquire about my denied visa application?
Department of State visa case records are confidential under INA section 222(f), so information can only be provided to visa applicants, with some exceptions. Certain information can be provided to U.S. sponsors, attorneys representing visa applicants, members of Congress, or other persons acting on behalf of and with the permission of applicants.
INA Section 221(g) - Incomplete Application or Supporting Documentation
What does a visa denial under INA section 221(g) mean?
A visa denial under section 221(g) of the INA means that the consular officer did not have all of the information required to determine if you are eligible to receive a visa. This means you are not eligible for the visa now, but your case is pending further action for one of the following reasons:
- Your application is incomplete and/or further documentation is required - Applicants whose application forms or other documentation are incomplete are refused. If further documents are required to complete your case, you will be informed what is needed and how to provide it to the embassy or consulate. You will also be given a letter stating your application has been denied under 221(g) and listing which documents you need to provide.
- Administrative processing - Further administrative processing of your application is required before a decision can be made regarding your eligibility for a visa. You will be given a letter stating this and next-step instructions after the administrative processing is complete.
Is there something I can do about a refusal under section 221(g)?
If your application was denied because documentation or information is missing, you can provide the missing documents or information as soon as possible. After submitting the documentation, your visa application can then be processed to conclusion to determine whether you qualify for a visa. You have one year from the date you were refused a visa to submit the additional information. Otherwise, if you do not provide the required additional information within one year, you must reapply for the visa and pay another application fee.
If your application requires further administrative processing, this takes additional time after your interview. Processing times can vary based on individual circumstances. For more information, review Administrative Processing.
INA Section 214(b) - Visa Qualifications and Immigrant Intent
What does a visa denial under INA section 214(b) mean?
This law applies only to nonimmigrant visa categories. If you are refused a visa under section 214(b), it means that you:
- Did not sufficiently demonstrate to the consular officer that you qualify for the nonimmigrant visa category you applied for; and/or
- Did not overcome the presumption of immigrant intent, required by law, by sufficiently demonstrating that you have strong ties to your home country that will compel you to leave the United States at the end of your temporary stay. (H-1B and L visa applicants, along with their spouse and any minor children, are excluded from this requirement.)
What are considered strong ties to my home country?
Ties are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your home country. Strong ties vary from country to country, city to city, and person to person, but examples include:
- Your job;
- Your home; and/or
- Your relationships with family and friends.
While conducting visa interviews, consular officers look at each application individually and consider the applicant's circumstances, travel plans, financial resources, and ties outside of the United States that will ensure the applicant’s departure after a temporary visit.
Is a refusal under section 214(b) permanent?
No. A refusal, or ineligibility, under section 214(b) is for that specific application, so once a case is closed, the consular section cannot take any further action. There is no appeal process. If you feel there is additional information that should be considered related to the visa decision, or there are significant changes in your circumstances since your last application, you may reapply for a visa. To reapply, you must complete a new application form, pay the application fee, and schedule an appointment for a new interview. Review the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you plan to reapply to learn about any reapplication procedures.
INA Section 212(a)(4) - Public Charge
Why was I refused under INA section 212(a)(4)? What is meant by “public charge”?
Visa applicants need to satisfy this provision of law by demonstrating proof of adequate financial support in the United States. A visa refusal, or ineligibility, under section 212(a)(4) of the INA means that the consular officer determined that you are likely to become a public charge in the United States. Public charge means that the consular officer determined that you are likely to become primarily dependent on the U.S. government for your existence and financial support in the United States.
Is a refusal under section 212(a)(4) permanent?
A refusal, or ineligibility, under section 212(a)(4) can be overcome in certain circumstances, as explained below.
Immigrants - Most immigrant visa applicants are required to submit an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864, I-864A, I-864W, or I-864EZ, as applicable) from the U.S. sponsors who filed petitions for them. If your U.S. sponsor does not meet the requirements of the Affidavit of Support, you may present a second Affidavit of Support from a qualifying joint sponsor. Learn more about the Affidavit of Support.
Some categories of immigrant visa applicants are not required to have Affidavits of Support. These are categories where no U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative filed a petition on your behalf, including most employment-based immigrants and diversity visa (DV) applicants.
If you are applying for an immigrant visa category where the Affidavit of Support Form is not required, the following are examples of how you could demonstrate to the consular officer that you will have financial support in the United States:
- Your own personal funds;
- A job offer in the United States; and/or
- Sponsorship from a U.S. resident.
Examples of sponsorship from a U.S. resident include:
- A letter from the U.S. resident stating financial support of you while in the United States;
- Documents showing that the U.S. resident can financially support you, such as bank statements or pay stubs; and/or
- An Affidavit of Support (Form I-134).
The consular officer will review the additional evidence of financial support you submit to determine whether it is sufficient to overcome your ineligibility under section 212(a)(4).
Nonimmigrants - You must demonstrate sufficient financial support during your temporary stay in the United States. Public charge denials are less frequent for nonimmigrant visa applications, but can occur, for example, in the case of a visa applicant seeking medical treatment in the United States without adequate funds to pay for treatment. Learn more about applying for a visitor visa for medical treatment.
In order to overcome a denial for public charge reasons, you must demonstrate you will have sufficient financial support in the United States. The consular officer will review the additional evidence you submit to determine whether it is sufficient to overcome your ineligibility under section 212(a)(4).
INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) - Fraud and Misrepresentation
What does a denial under INA section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) mean?
You were refused, or found ineligible, for a visa under section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) because you attempted to receive a visa or enter the United States by willfully misrepresenting a material fact or committing fraud. This is a permanent ineligibility, so every time you apply for a visa, you will be found ineligible for this reason.
You will be advised by the consular officer if you can apply for a waiver of this ineligibility. Review Waivers of Ineligibility for more information.
What is meant by misrepresentation of a material fact?
Misrepresentation means that you falsely presented facts and were not truthful in an attempt to receive a visa or enter the United States. A fact is considered material, as it pertains to this section of the INA, when, had the truth been known, you would not have been eligible to receive a visa or enter the United States.
INA Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) - Unlawful Presence in the United States
What does a denial under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) mean?
You were refused, or found ineligible for, a visa under section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) because you were considered to have been unlawfully present in the United States, if:
- You stayed in the United States after the expiration date for the period of stay authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for you, without the required authorization to extend your stay; or
- You entered and were present in the United States without receiving the required authorization from CBP.
When denied a visa for unlawful presence, you are ineligible for a visa for the following length of time:
- When unlawfully present in the United States for 180 days or longer but less than one year, you are ineligible for a visa for 3 years after departure from the United States; or
- When unlawfully present in the United States for one year or longer, you are ineligible for a visa for 10 years after departure from the United States.
You will be advised by the consular officer if you can apply for a waiver of this ineligibility. Review Waivers of Ineligibility for more information.
List of Ineligibilities
This webpage discusses some of the more common visa ineligibilities. For a complete list of visa ineligibilities and more information from the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and amended laws, review Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws on this site.
Waivers of Ineligibility
What is a waiver?
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) contains provisions that may allow a visa applicant who was denied a visa for a particular ineligibility to apply for a waiver of that ineligibility. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) adjudicates all waivers of ineligibility. Waivers are discretionary, meaning that there are no guarantees that DHS will approve a waiver for you. If the waiver is approved, you may be issued a visa.
Can every applicant who is ineligible apply for a waiver?
No. If you are found ineligible for a visa, the consular officer will inform you if can apply for a waiver of ineligibility. The following factors will determine if you may apply for a waiver:
- Whether a waiver of ineligibility is available for the particular section of law you are ineligible under;
- You must be fully qualified for the visa you applied for, except for that specific ineligibility, in order to be able to apply for the waiver;
- If you are applying for a nonimmigrant visa, generally whether the consular officer who found you ineligible recommends to DHS that you receive a waiver; and
- If you are applying for an immigrant visa, whether a waiver is available for your particular situation. (For example, for certain visa ineligibilities when applying for an immigrant visa, you can only apply for a waiver if you have a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent who would endure extreme hardship if you were not able to immigrate.)
How do I apply for a waiver?
If you can apply for a waiver, the consular officer at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you applied will inform you how to apply.
Immigrant Visa and K Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants - If you can apply for a waiver, you must mail Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, directly to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Lockbox facility, with few exceptions. Learn more on the USCIS website.
I was found ineligible for a visa, and I have further questions. Who should I contact?
You should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you applied.
Revised: Mon, 7Dec15