Before entering the United States, an international student or scholar must have a passport issued by their government. The person must also apply for a US entry visa at a US embassy or consulate to enter the United States. Canadian citizens are not required to have US visas inside their passports (see below). The visa application will require, among other things, a visa document (Form I-20 or DS-2019) issued by ISSS and documents showing financial support while at the University of Tennessee.
We recommend that students and scholars apply for a visa at the US consulate or embassy in their home country. Most consulates require a personal interview with a consular officer, as well as collection of biometric identifiers (fingerprints and digital photograph). Visa applicants are advised to check with the consulate or embassy where they are applying to determine current application and documentation requirements, as well as processing times.
After receiving the visa stamp, the student or scholar should check to make sure that all the information printed on the visa is correct. Visas with incorrect information, or visas that do not match the information in the passport are invalid. In this case, the student or scholar should immediately contact the issuing US embassy or consulate to amend the information.
Canadian citizens do not need US visas, and may obtain the appropriate visa status at the port of entry when they enter the United States by showing a Canadian passport, the visa document (Form I-20 or DS-2019), proof of financial support, and the receipt of SEVIS fee payment. An I-94 card upon entry to the US is still required for holding F or J status.
Download more information about the H-1B visa application procedures.
Background and security checks
Consulates and embassies are required to conduct background checks on individuals, resulting in possible delays in visa issuance. Background/security checks can be triggered by, but are not limited to, the field of study, certain courses that appear on academic transcripts, or prior arrests in the United States. Background/security checks normally take several weeks and sometimes take up to several months or possibly even longer.
Applying for a visa in a third country
Those who apply for a visa stamp in a country other than their own, including Canada and Mexico, will not be allowed to re-enter the US on an expired visa stamp if the new visa is not approved by that US consulate. If a visa application is denied, the person must depart directly to their home country and apply for a new visa to re-enter the US.
Returning students and scholars are strongly advised to talk to an advisor at CIE before making the decision to apply for a visa in a country other than their own.