Overview for Scholars

Scholar Immigration Definitions

Scholar Obtaining Your Visa (J-1)

Scholar Obtaining Your Visa (H-1B and O-1)

Scholar Transfer of Visa Supervision

Scholar Change of Status

Message for Canadian Scholars

Potential Delays in Visa Issuance

Scholar Tax Information

Health Insurance Overview for J-1 Scholars

Employment for J-1 Scholars

Employment Authorization for J-2

Employment for H-1B or O-1 Scholars

Scholar Maintaining Immigration Status (J-1)

Scholar Maintaining Immigration Status (H-1B and O-1)

J-1 Scholar Travel Information

H-1B Scholar Travel Information

O-1 Scholar Travel Information

Scholar Departure Information

Home Country Residency Requirement

Address Change Form

Potential Delays in Visa Issuance and at Ports of Entry


There are a number of factors that may contribute to delays in having a visa issued to study in the United States. Heightened security measures instituted since September 11, 2001 have resulted in delays in visa issuance abroad.

Security checks, interview requirements, and transfer of data in SEVIS are causing extended delays. The Department of State's (DOS) web information on non-immigrant visas and its link to individual consular posts may be good sources of current information. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also has a useful Information Sheet entitled "ARRIVING AT A U.S. PORT OF ENTRY … WHAT A STUDENT CAN EXPECT" highlighting the necessary steps and procedures you will face.

VISA INTERVIEW REQUIREMENT

On August 1, 2003, the Department of State introduced a new policy that requires almost all non-immigrant visa applicants to be interviewed before a visa is issued, with very few exceptions. This represents a big change in procedures for many consular posts, and is likely to slow down the process significantly.

SEVIS REQUIREMENTS

The I-20 form for F-1 visa applicants and the DS-2019 form for J-1 visa applicants are processed and issued through the internet-based Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS). Visa officers are required to verify your record—and that of any dependents—in the SEVIS system before a visa can be approved. There have been some SEVIS data transfer problems and delays between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. If the visa official is unable to access your record in SEVIS and you have a SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019, please contact the ISSO by email, phone or fax to alert us to the problem so we can follow up on it.

TECHNOLOGIES ALERT LIST AND SENSITIVE AREAS OF STUDY

Students, faculty and researchers who are considered to be studying, researching or teaching "sensitive areas" as determined by the U.S. government may also be required to undergo security clearances before a visa can be issued. There is a document called the "Technology Alert List" that visa officers consult for this purpose. China, India, Israel, Pakistan and Russia have received special mention by the U.S. State Department in the context of this list because these countries are considered to possess nuclear capability that is of concern to U.S. national security. However, even if you are not a citizen of one of the countries listed above, your field of study (especially if it is in the sciences, technology or engineering) might require your visa application to undergo a security clearance REGARDLESS of the country you are from. Such clearances can add weeks to the amount of time needed for visa approval. There is a document called the "Technology Alert List" that visa officers consult for this purpose. China, India, Israel, Pakistan and Russia have received special mention by the U.S. State Department in the context of this list because these countries are considered to possess nuclear capability that is of concern to U.S. national security.

FORM DS-157: SUPPLEMENTAL NONIMMIGRANT VISA APPLICATION

This Department of State form supplements the DS-156 application for a non-immigrant visa. It is required of all males (except those with diplomatic status) between the ages of 16 and 45, and may be requested of any visa applicant, regardless of age, gender, or nationality. In addition to completion of this form, the DOS continues to require a further security check for men from countries with large Muslim populations.

NAME CHECK BY DOS AND DHS

The "name check lookup" is conducted by the State Department at the time of visa application and by the Department of Homeland Security at the port of entry—irrespective of whether the visitor holds a valid visa. This name check has recently resulted in unexpected and severe problems for non-immigrants—some arising from previous overstay(s), others from discovery of a record of illegal activity in the United States, and others because of mistaken name matches with listings in the database.

Last Reviewed: 13 February 2013 Last modified: 13 February 2013
International Students and Scholars Office
Columbia University