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Visas and Travel

Your visa: the F1 and J1 Student Visas:
  The F-1 student visa allows non-immigrants to pursue a course of study in the U.S. The dependents of an F-1 visa holder are granted an F-2 visa. F-2 visa holders are not allowed to work, but may study part time. If you receive an I-20 document from GSU, you should apply for an F-1 visa.

  The J-1 student visa is more appropriate for students who are on exchange visits or sponsored programs. The dependents of a J-1 visa holder are granted J-2 visas. J-2 visa holders may enroll in school and apply for work authorization. If you receive a DS-2019 document, you should apply for a J-1 visa.

  Note: Individuals are not eligible to register for classes if their visa status is B1/B2 or WB/WT-Visa Waiver. If you have any questions about visa types, please email OIS.

Obtaining a visa for entry to the U.S:
  A visa is a stamp in your passport from the U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad that permits you to enter the U.S. at a Port of Entry. It only needs to be valid for your entry into the U.S. and does not need to remain valid while you are here as long as you maintain our status. This means that as long as you remain within U.S. borders, your visa is allowed to expire. However, your I-20 or DS-2019 must remain valid for the duration of your stay in the U.S.

  Once you are admitted to Governors State University, you will need to obtain a student visa for your initial entry to the U.S.

  The Office of International Services will send you an I-20 or DS-2019. Once you have this document, you should make sure the information is correct and sign the document. Please email OIS if you have any questions or concerns about your document.

The following are required steps to obtain your visa:
  1. Pay the SEVIS fee. Once you pay the fee, you will receive a receipt of payment that you must keep. You will need to present the receipt at your visa interview. You will also need this receipt notice for travel and future visa renewals.
  2. Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to schedule a visa appointment. To find the nearest embassy, please refer to the U.S. Department of State's website for U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions.
SEVIS stands for the "Student and Exchange Visitor Information System." It is a database maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. It is used to track F-1 and J-1 students during their stays in the United States.
You may have applied and been accepted to several universities. Before you apply for a visa, you must decide which institution you would like to attend. This is important because the name of the institution on your I-20 or DS-2019 must match the visa in your passport for your initial entry to the U.S.
To obtain a visa, you need to prepare the following documents for your visa interview:
  • Passport (Valid for at least 6 months into the future)
  • I-20 or DS-2019 from Governors State University
  • Your admission letter to GSU
  • One passport size photograph (2X2)
  • SEVIS fee payment receipt (I-901)
  • DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application
  • Proof of application fee payment
  • Visa Reciprocity Fee (if applicable) 
  • Other documentation, as necessary:
    • Evidence of financial ability to meet expenses
    • Evidence of English ability sufficient for course of study
    • Evidence of intent to depart the U.S. after completion of studies
    • Any other documents listed on the website of your Consulate or Embassy
 You should be prepared to show:
  • Transcripts and diplomas from previous institutions attended;
  • Scores from standardized tests required by the educational institution such as the TOEFL, IELTS, GRE, GMAT, etc.
Applicants with dependents must also provide:
  • Proof of the student's relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates.);
  • It is preferred that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder's passport and visa, along with all other required documents.
The visa interview is not a document review, but a conversation. If you are denied a visa, make sure to get the decision in writing. Please contact OIS if you are denied for a visa.
Importance of Name Consistency:
  To avoid problems or delays in obtaining your visa and entering the U.S., be sure that all of your immigration documents reflect the same name, exactly as it appears in your passport. Current federal policy guidance recommends that your I-20 or DS-2019 contain a family name (last name), even if you do not have one. For this reason, if you have only a first name, that name will be place in the family name position on the document and your first name may appear as "FNU" (first name unknown).

Visa Wait Times:
 Visa wait times vary from country to country. The U.S. Department of State offers average wait times. In general, it is important for students to apply for their visa as soon as they have all the necessary documents, ideally 120 days before the start of the semester.

  Certain nonimmigrant visa applicants are subject to additional administrative processing and/or security clearances before being issued a visa. This involves the U.S. Consulate or Embassy checking the visa applicant's name against information in various Department of State (DOS) databases or a security advisory opinion.

  At the initial visa interview, the applicant should provide clear and concise information about their past activities and future plans while in the U.S. In most cases, the visa is issued within 60 days.

Planning Your Arrival Date:
   F-1 Students:
  • Immigration regulations allow entry into the U.S. up to 30 days before the start date on the I-20. If you are unable to arrive by your start date, please consider deferring (or delaying) your admission to the next semester. You must notify OIS by the start date on your I-20 if you plan to defer.
   J-1 Students:
  • The DS-2019 has been prepared for the period of time indicated in Section 3 of the form. You may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the start date.
   For F-1 and J-1 students:
  • Plan your arrival date at GSU so you can:
    • Rest for a few days and recover from jet lag
    • Check-in with the Office of International Services (OIS)
    • Find housing
    • Attend International Student Orientation
    • Attend ROAR (for 1st year students) or the Graduate/Transfer Student orientation program
    • Register for classes - Keep in mind that if you start your program in Summer, then you must be registered for full-time in your first summer semester.

Entering the U.S.
  You may want to prepare for your entry into the U.S. by visiting the website of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Additionally, when you enter the U.S. at the port of entry, a CBP Immigration Officer will review your immigration documents (valid passport, valid visa & I-20/DS-2019).
  • The Form I-94 is an electronic arrival/departure record which indicates the length of your authorized stay in the U.S. For F-1 and J-1 students, this should indicate an authorized stay of D/S (Duration of Status), which allows you to stay in the U.S. as long as you maintain your student status. You I-94 can be accessed online here
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has developed a system called the U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT). This system records the entry and exit of all foreign visitors to the U.S. An immigration official scans each visitor's fingerprints, takes your photograph, and checks them against national security and law enforcement databases.
After you pass through customs, you have officially arrived. Welcome to the United States!
If you have any questions or issues entering the U.S., please contact OIS.
If you need assistance while at the Chicago O'Hare Airport, you may visit the Travelers Immigrant Aid Office located in Terminal 2 across from the Children's Playground. It is open Monday-Friday 8:30am-9pm and Saturday and Sunday 10am-9pm. In terminals 1, 2 and 3, there are information booths with multilingual personnel who provide assistance. The phone number is 1-773-894-2427.