Passports and visas
Before leaving home, you must obtain a passport from your government and a visa for travel in the U.S. You must present your certificate of eligibility (Form I-20 or DS-2019) to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in order to apply for a U.S. visa. What follows are descriptions of the most frequently granted visas for study and research in the U.S. and their requirements.
Student visa (F-1) obtained with Form I-20
This visa is issued to international students accepted for enrollment in a full-time course of study. F-1 students come to the U.S. for the specific purpose of pursuing an academic program. When you apply for an F-1 visa, you must demonstrate to the U.S. Consul that:
- You are a bona fide student.
- You have sufficient funds to cover all expenses in the U.S.
- You intend to enroll at the school to which you are admitted.
- You are committed to returning to your home country upon completion of your educational objectives.
If you obtain a student visa, you must enroll for a full-time course of study, which comprises a minimum of nine credit hours for graduate students and 12 credit hours for undergraduate students, in both the fall and spring semesters.
Exchange visitor visa (J-1) obtained with Form DS-2019
This visa is issued to scholars, professors, students, researchers and trainees for the purpose of educational exchange. To qualify as a J-1 student, you must have a sponsoring agency, which may or may not provide financial support and which may apply restrictions beyond immigration restrictions.
Financial aid may consist of scholarships, assistantships, stipends or salaries from the university, your government, the U.S. government or another organization. Upon completion of the program, you may be required to return to your home country for a period of two years if:
- Your study was funded by the U.S. or home government.
- Your home country needs the specific manpower or skills.
- You are a foreign medical school graduate.
Prior to enrolling for classes, VCU requires all international students to possess a current and valid visa that permits them to attend a university. If you obtain a visa other than the F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor visa, you must make sure that you understand the effect your visa will have on your status while in the U.S. It is difficult to change your visa status while in the U.S. VCU will not permit full-time enrollment with a visitor visa (B-1 and B-2).
If you have applied for admission to several universities and your primary goal is to become a student at VCU, you are advised to wait until you receive a letter of admission and certificate of eligibility (Form I-20 or DS-2019) from VCU before leaving home. You may not enroll at VCU if you enter the U.S. using an I-20 or DS-2019 issued by another university. You must attend the school or university that issued the immigration document (which you showed the immigration officer upon entry to the U.S.) for at least one semester before you are eligible to transfer to VCU.
You must observe all regulations of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you fail to do so, you may be deported from this country. You may obtain advice on immigration questions from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country or contact us.