Montana State University
International Programs > Visas & Arrival

Information about visas

Visa Application

International students must appear before a United States consulate in order to secure an F-1 student visa. In order to set a visa appointment, the SEVIS fee must first be paid. The following items must be presented: Form I-20 (certificate of eligibility issued by Montana State University), a valid passport, and proof of sufficient financial support. Form I-20 is also used to obtain F-2 visas for dependents and proof of marriage is necessary in order to obtain a visa for the dependent spouse. Students are encouraged to apply for a visa as early as possible in the 90 day period prior to the study program start date. 

Exchange Visitor Program participants entering the United States on the J-1 visa should follow the above procedures, but must submit the Form DS-2019, issued by the sponsor, instead of the Form I-20.

Students with F-1 status who are transferring from an educational institution in the United States should consult with the international student adviser at their present school for instructions on the Immigration Service's transfer process. This should be done as early as possible to avoid any difficulties. 

10 Points to Remember

When Applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa

1. TIES TO HOME COUNTRY.
Under U.S. law, all applicants for non-immigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. "Ties" to your home country include the following: family, job, financial assets that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you are a prospective undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask about your plans for future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, long-term plans in general, and career prospects in your home country. Each person's situation is different, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter, which can guarantee visa issuance.

2. ENGLISH.
Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive English be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.

3. SPEAK FOR YOURSELF.
Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf.

4. KNOW THE PROGRAM AND HOW IT FITS YOUR CAREER PLANS.
If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the United States relates to you future professional career when you return home. 

5. BE CONCISE.
Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute or two of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point. 

6. SUPPLEMENTAL DOCUMENTATION.
It should be clear at a glance to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you're lucky.

7. NOT ALL COUNTRIES ARE EQUAL.
Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many people have stayed in the United States as immigrants will have more difficulty getting visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the United States. 

8. EMPLOYMENT.
Your main purpose of coming to the United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware, that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the United States. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the United States. Volunteer work and attending school part-time are permitted activities. 

9. DEPENDENTS REMAINING AT HOME.
If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular general officer gains the impression that your family members will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support themselves, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a late time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for you visa.

10. MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE.
Do not engage the consular officer in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.

NAFSA would like to credit Gerald A. Wunsch, Esq., 1997, then a member of the Consular Issues Working Group, and a former U.S. Consular Officer in Mexico, Suriname, and the Netherlands and Martha Wails of Indiana University for their contributions to this document. NAFSA also appreciates the input of the U.S. Department of State. 

11. IMPORTANT ADDITIONAL POINT: BE FAMILIAR WITH MSU AND MONTANA.
Spend time on MSU's website so that you can speak intelligently about the university, Bozeman and Montana. It is common to be asked about why you chose a specific university and about its location in the U.S.


The VISA TIPS page is available to download and print in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.