Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

On this page:

FAQ - General Visa Information

  1. How long does my passport have to be valid in order to apply for a U.S. visa?
  2. Do I qualify for the Visa Waiver Program?
  3. What is the fee for ESTA and who has to pay it?
  4. If I travel to the United States without ESTA, what happens?
  5. If I am a third-country national living in the Saudi Arabia can I apply for a nonimmigrant visa in Saudi Arabia?
  6. Do all nonimmigrant visa applicants have to come to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General for an interview?
  7. I have a nonimmigrant visa that will expire soon and I would like to renew it. Do I need to go through the whole visa application process again?
  8. My passport has expired, but the U.S. visa in it is still valid. Do I need to apply for a new visa?
  9. I have dual citizenship. Which passport should I use to travel to the United States?
  10. How can I extend my visa?
  11. Must I submit my visa application form electronically?
  12. What is "administrative processing?"
  13. How do I read and understand my visa?
  14. My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?
  15. What will happen when I enter the United States?
  16. I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the United States. What should I do?
  17. I have questions on submitting my DS-160 and printing the confirmation page. Where can I go for more information?
  18. I received a B1/B2 visa to travel for business. Can I take a second trip for tourism?
  19. Is is O.K. to have two visas at the same time?
  20. Do I need a visa even if I’m only transiting through the U.S.? I’m only spending a couple of hours at the airport.
  21. I would like to bring a personal domestic employee with me when I travel to the U.S. How does this work?
  22. Can a U.S. citizen sponsor my application for a visitor’s visa?
  23. Is there any way to obtain a visa for my American citizen child?
  24. What do adequate ties mean?
  25. Can you transfer my existing visa into my new passport?

Q.1 How long does my passport have to be valid in order to apply for a U.S. visa?

You must possess a passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).

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Q.2 Do I qualify for the Visa Waiver Program?

You qualify for the Visa Waiver Program if you are a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country, possess a machine-readable passport, are traveling for temporary business or a visit of less than 90 days, meet other program requirements, and have obtained an authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

You must be a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program-eligible country in order to use this program. Permanent residents of VWP-eligible countries do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program unless they are also citizens of VWP-eligible countries. We recommend you visit the Visa Waiver Program website before any travel to the United States to determine if you are eligible for the VWP.

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Q.3 What is the fee for ESTA and who has to pay it?

ESTA registration is required for all travelers to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. There is a US$14 fee for ESTA registration. The fee can be paid online using a debit card or any of the following credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. Third parties (travel agents, family members, etc.) can pay your ESTA fee for you if you do not have the correct type of credit card. If the ESTA registration is denied, the fee is only US$4.

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Q.4 If I travel to the United States without ESTA, what happens?

Visa Waiver Program travelers who have not obtained approval through ESTA should expect to be denied boarding on any air carrier bound for the United States. If you are allowed to board, you can expect to encounter significant delays and possible denial of admission at the U.S. port of entry (i.e., arrival airport). ESTA registration usually only takes a few minutes to complete, authorization often arrives in seconds, and it is valid for two years, unless the traveler’s passport expires within that two-year period. In those cases, ESTA validity is limited to the passport’s validity.

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Q.5 If I am a third-country national living in the Saudi Arabia, can I apply for a nonimmigrant visa in Saudi Arabia?

Applicants are generally advised to apply in their country of nationality or residence. Any person who is legally present in Saudi Arabia may apply for a visa in Saudi Arabia. However, applicants should decide where to apply based on more than just convenience or delay in getting an appointment in their home district. One thing to consider, for example, is in which consular district the applicant can demonstrate the strongest ties.

There is no guarantee that a visa will be issued, nor is there a guarantee of processing time. If refused, there is no refund of the application fee.

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Q.6 Do all nonimmigrant visa applicants have to come to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General for an interview?

Yes, for most applicants. There are only a few exceptions to the interview requirement. The following applicants generally do not have to appear in person:

  • Applicants for A-1, A-2 (official travelers on central government business), C-2, C-3 (central government officials in transit on central government business) or G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4 (central government officials traveling in connection with an international organization, or employees of an international organization)
  • Children under the age of 14 do not need to come in person for their interview as we don’t take electronic fingerprints for children under age 14. However, depending on their citizenship, if their parents have a valid nonimmigrant visa, their parents may need to schedule an interview. Please visit http://riyadh.usembassy.gov/visas/b1b2/children-under-14.html for the application procedures for children under the age of 14.

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Q.7 I have a nonimmigrant visa that will expire soon and I would like to renew it. Do I need to go through the whole visa application process again?

Each nonimmigrant visa application is a separate process. You must apply in the normal manner, even if you had a visa before and even if your current nonimmigrant visa is still valid.

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Q.8 My passport has expired, but the U.S. visa in it is still valid. Do I need to apply for a new visa?

No.  If your visa is still valid you can travel to the United States with your two passports (old and new), as long as the visa is valid, not damaged, and is the appropriate type of visa required for your principal purpose of travel.  (Example: tourist visa, when your principal purpose of travel is tourism).  Also, the name and other personal data should be the same in both passports. Your nationality, as indicated in the new passport, must be the same as that shown in the passport bearing the visa. If there are significant differences in the name and other personal data between the old and the new passport, for instance as the result of inconsistent rendering of Arabic names into Latin script, it is a good idea to apply for a new visa.

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Q.9 I have dual citizenship. Which passport should I use to travel to the United States?

If one of your nationalities is not American, you can apply using whichever nationality you prefer, but you must disclose all nationalities to the U.S. Embassy on your application form. U.S. citizens, even dual citizens/nationals, must enter and depart the United States using a U.S. passport.

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Q.10 How can I extend my visa?

The validity of a visa cannot be extended regardless of its type. You must apply for a new visa.

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Q.11 Must I submit my visa application form electronically?

Yes, you must complete the DS-160 and bring a printed copy of the DS-160 confirmation page with you when you go for your interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

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Q.12 What is "administrative processing?"

Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after your interview with a consular officer. You are advised of this possibility when you apply. Most administrative processing is resolved within 120 days of the visa interview. This web page on the Consular Affairs website has more information about administrative processing.

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Q.13 How do I read and understand my visa?

As soon as you receive your visa, check to make sure all your personal information printed on the visa is correct. If any of the information on your visa does not match the information in your passport or is otherwise incorrect, please contact the issuing authority (i.e. the) immediately.

The expiration date of your visa is the last day you may use the visa to enter the United States. It does not indicate how long you may stay in the United States. Your stay is determined by the Department of Homeland Security at your port of entry. As long as you comply with the Department of Homeland Security decision on the conditions of your stay, you should have no problem.

Further information about interpreting your visa can be found at the Department of State's Consular Affairs website.

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Q.14 My visa will expire while I am in the United States. Is there a problem with that?

No. You may stay in the United States for the period of time and conditions authorized by the Department of Homeland Security officer when you arrived in the United States, which will be noted on the I-94, even if your visa expires during your stay. You can find more information here.

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Q.15 What will happen when I enter the United States?

Your airline should give you a blank I-94 (or I-94W for Visa Waiver Program travelers) and a Customs Declaration form 6059B. Each traveler must complete the I-94; only one Customs Declaration is required for a family traveling together.

A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States, but allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request permission to enter the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States, and determine how long a traveler may stay. At the port of entry, upon granting entry to the United States, the Customs and Border Protection officer will determine the length of stay permitted. Previously, travelers received a paper I-94 (record of admission) with this information. This process is now automated, with some exceptions. The traveler will be provided with a CBP admission stamp on their travel document that shows the date of admission, class of admission, and admitted-until date. Learn more on the CBP Website.  If a traveler needs a copy of their I-94 for verification of alien registration, immigration status or employment authorization, it can be obtained from www.cbp.gov/I94. You can review information about admission on the CBP Website

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Q.16 I did not turn in my I-94 when I left the United States. What should I do?

Previously, foreign travelers granted entry by CBP officials received a paper Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record). This process is now automated, with some exceptions.  If you received a paper Form I-94 or I-94W and failed to turn in your paper Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record to the commercial airline or CBP when you departed the U.S., see the CBP Website for instructions. Do not send your paper Form I-94 or I-94W to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General.

If you received an admissions stamp in your passport instead of a paper Form I-94 when granted entry, the I-94 record was created electronically, and a paper copy was not provided to you. CBP will record your departure from the U.S. electronically. Learn more on the CBP Website.

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Q.17 I have questions on submitting my DS-160 and printing the confirmation page. Where can I go for more information?

Our call center is unable to provide assistance on the application form. Any inquiries on completing the DS-160 can be addressed on the following website.

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Q. 18 I received a B1/B2 visa to travel for business. Can I take a second trip for tourism?

Yes. All B1/B2 visas are valid for both tourism and business travel, regardless of the original purpose of travel. As long as the visa has not expired, you can travel to the U.S. for either business or pleasure without requiring a new visa. 

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Q. 19 Is is O.K. to have two visas at the same time?

Yes, as long as the visas are for different purposes.  For example it is OK to have a B1/B2 (tourist/business) and F1 (student) together, but not OK to have two valid F1 visas.

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Q. 20 Do I need a visa even if I’m only transiting through the U.S.? I’m only spending a couple of hours at the airport.

Yes. All international air passengers who travel through the United States for transit purposes require a visa.

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Q. 21 I would like to bring a personal domestic employee with me when I travel to the U.S. How does this work?

Under certain circumstances, domestic employees may be issued B-1 (business) visas to accompany their employer on a trip to the U.S. for a limited period of time.

The domestic employee must qualify for a visa in all respects, I.e. have worked as a domestic employee for the employer for a good amount of time and overcome the presumption of being an intending immigrant.

Only persons residing in Saudi Arabia going for a limited time to the U.S. may bring a domestic employee. U.S. citizens and/or Legal Permanent Residents residing in the U.S. cannot bring a domestic employee to the U.S. on a B-1 visa. F-1 students and their families generally should not expect to be able to bring domestic employees on B-1 visitor visas.

Domestic employees or other attendants who intend to accompany their employers to the U.S. must schedule an appointment and come in person for the interview. They must bring with them an employment contract compliant with the Wilberforce law, signed by both parties and translated into both English and the employee’s native language. For more information on contract requirements, please click here.

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Q. 22 Can a U.S. citizen sponsor my application for a visitor’s visa?

No, US Citizens may not sponsor a visitor’s application – a visitor must qualify individually for a U.S. visa, regardless of a concerned U.S. citizen’s interest in the case.

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Q. 23 Is there any way to obtain a visa for my American citizen child?

No. American citizens by law cannot be issued visas. If you believe that your child is an American, please go to the webpage "Citizen Services" to learn how to apply for a passport.

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Q. 24 What do adequate ties mean?

A consular officer considers factors such as employment, family ties, financial circumstances and real estate holdings. These factors can show that an applicant will return home after a brief stay in the United States.  An officer may also evaluate the applicant's specific intentions, educational status, academic achievement and future prospects.  Every situation is unique, and there are no set criteria for establishing adequate ties.

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Q. 25 Can you transfer my existing visa into my new passport?

We cannot transfer your visa, but as long as the passport authority does not punch holes through your existing U.S. visa, you may use it to travel to the U.S.  You should carry both your new, valid passport as well as your old passport that contains your U.S. visa.

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FAQ - Application and Interview

  1. How long before my planned travel date should I apply for a visa?
  2. What is the DS-160 and where can I find it?
  3. Should I appear in person at the consular section?
  4. How long should I plan to be at the Embassy/Consulate? How long does the entire process take from beginning to end?
  5. Can I come early for my appointment?
  6. Can I reschedule my appointment?
  7. I have made my appointment in Jeddah, but would like to switch to Riyadh. How can I do this?
  8. My family is applying together. Will they interview us as a family or individually?
  9. Do I bring my entire application with me to the interview of do I just bring the confirmation sheet (barcode sheet)?
  10. My appointment date is not soon enough for me to make my trip. What can I do?
  11. If I’m renewing my expired visa, do I need to bring supporting documents to the interview?
  12. Can I renew my visa before it expires?
  13. What additional documents do I need to bring if I’m going for medical treatment in the United States?

Q. 1 How long before my planned travel date should I apply for a visa?

We recommend that you apply at least three months in advance of your intended travel date. For current wait times for visa appointments, please visit: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/wait-times.html.

Your visa may also be delayed after the interview due to processing. When processing is required, timing will vary, but usually takes between one and three months.

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Q. 2 What is the DS-160 and where can I find it?

The DS-160 is the worldwide application form for non-immigrant visas and can be found at: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/. Complete and accurate visa applications are more likely to be approved in a shorter period of time. Incomplete and inaccurate DS-160s can lead to delays in and/or refusals of a visa application. The U.S. Embassy/Consulate does not endorse or cooperate with any visa processing company or “maktab.” Payment to a private company is no guarantee of a successful visa application

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Q. 3 Should I appear in person at the Consular Section?

All applicants who don’t meet one of the interview waiver criteria must go personally to the Embassy or Consulate where they have made their interview appointment. Consular officers speak Arabic and English.

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Q. 4 How long should I plan to be at the Embassy/Consulate? How long does the entire process take from beginning to end?

On average, we make every effort to get applicants in and out of the consular section in one hour. During peak seasons that may not consistently be possible, so you should plan to be up to 2 hours at the Embassy/Consulate. Please arrive no more than 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment. If you arrive after the last appointment slot, you may not be able to enter the Embassy/Consulate.

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Q. 5 Can I come early for my appointment?

On the day of your appointment, please come to the Embassy/Consulate no earlier than 15 minutes prior to your appointment time. Applicants are generally only allowed into the consular section according to their appointment time. Applicants who arrive after the last appointment slot of the day may not be able to enter the Embassy/Consulate and may need to re-schedule.

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Q. 6 Can I re-schedule my appointment?

Yes. If you need to change your appointment date you can do so on the appointment website the day before your interview.

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Q. 7 I have made my appointment in Jeddah, but would like to switch to Riyadh. How can I do this?

If you need to change your interview location, you will need to cancel your scheduled interview and select the correct location when you reschedule.

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Q. 8 My family is applying together. Will they interview us as a family or individually?

Consular officers usually interview families together.

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Q. 9 Do I bring my entire application with me to the interview or do I just bring the confirmation page (barcode sheet)?

You only need your confirmation page. Please do not bring the application. The confirmation page is the small sheet with the bar code that you print out after completing, saving, and submitting your application.

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Q. 10 My appointment date is not soon enough for me to make my trip. What can I do?

In order to request an expedited appointment, please follow the expedited appointment process on the following page.

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Q. 11 If I’m renewing my expired visa, do I need to bring supporting documents to the interview?

Yes. You are also encouraged to bring your previous passports and visas.

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Q. 12 Can I renew my visa before it expires?

Yes, but please note that the previous visa will no longer be valid once we issue the new visa.

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Q. 13 What additional documents do I need to bring if I’m going for medical treatment in the United States?

A letter from a doctor in the U.S. authorizing treatment and specifying all costs of the medical care. Proof of your ability to pay for all medical care and hospital records. If the Ministry of Health will pay for your medical treatment, please bring the appropriate documents with you.

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FAQ – After the Interview/Travel

  1. After the interview the consular officer told me my application would take three weeks. It has been longer and I still have not received my visa. Why?
  2. I need to travel a few days after my interview. Can I take my passport with me at the end of the interview?
  3. How can I check the status of my visa?
  4. Can you transfer my existing visa into my new passport
  5. When I received my visa, I discovered that it had an error. What should I do?
  6. What do I do if my visa was lost or stolen?
  7. How long can I stay in the United States?
  8. I want to book my travel as far in advance as possible. When should I book my travel tickets for?
  9. What procedures need I go through upon arrival at the U.S. port of entry?
  10. I have had trouble at the port of entry, but I believe it was due to some error. Is there any way I can address this situation?
  11. Is the expiration date of my visa the last day I can stay in the United States?

Q. 1 After the interview, the consular officer told me my application would take three weeks. It has been longer and I still have not received a visa. Why?

While the interviewing officer may give you an estimate for when your visa will be ready, please note that the timeframe is only an estimate and that processing can indeed take longer. If the Embassy or Consulate needs information from you we will contact you. Otherwise, our visa is still processing and we will send the passport as soon as it is ready.

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Q. 2 I need to travel a few days after my interview. Can I take my passport with me at the end of the interview?

Yes. After you return from your travels, you should send your passport back to the embassy through a courier. We will then continue to process and print your visa. All visa applicants should decide before the interview whether they can leave their passports with the consular officer. If you think you will travel during the period of time required to process the visa, please tell the consular officer during your interview.

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Q. 3 How can I check the status of my visa?

E-mail the consular section where you applied for your visa: RiyadhNIV@state.gov (U.S. Embassy Riyadh); DhahranNIV@state.gov (U.S. Consulate-General Dhahran); jeddahvisas@state.gov (U.S. Consulate-General Jeddah).  Please allow 4 weeks for visa processing before contacting us.  Provide your full name, date of birth, and passport number.

You may also check on the status of your visa application by clicking on this link: 

https://ceac.state.gov/CEACStatTracker/Status.aspx?eQs=WwjqOlbeRYzCYubaSQI+RA==

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Q. 4 Can you transfer my existing visa into my new passport?

We cannot transfer your visa, but as long as the passport authority does not punch holes through your existing U.S. visa, you may use it to travel to the U.S.  You should carry both your new, valid passport as well as your old passport that contains your U.S. visa.

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Q. 5 When I received my visa, I discovered that it had an error. What should I do?

We make every effort to ensure that visas include the applicant’s full name, date of birth, nationality, gender, visa type and class, passport number, and expiration date, all accurately printed on the visa. Fortunately, errors are extremely rare. However, should you discover an error, then it is very important for you to send your passport (with the incorrect visa) to the post where it was issued for the visa to be corrected.

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Q. 6 What do I do if my visa was lost or stolen?

Unfortunately, lost, stolen, or damaged United States visas cannot be replaced. You will need to apply for a new visa. Along with the other required documentation, bring a copy of the police report and a copy of your lost/stolen visa and passport (if you have it) to the interview.

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Q. 7 How long can I stay in the United States?

If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 is proof of your authorized stay in the U.S., it's very important to keep it with your passport. It is important that you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip. Failure to depart the U.S. could affect your eligibility to obtain visas in the future.

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Q. 8 I want to book my travel as far in advance as possible. When should I book my travel tickets for?

Applicants are strongly advised not to book their travel until after they receive their passport and new visa. The best way to avoid the unpleasant circumstance of having bought an airplane ticket only to find out that the visa was refused, or that you will need to go through the costly process of changing your tickets to another travel date, is to wait until after your visa arrives.

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Q. 9 What procedures need I go through upon arrival at the U.S. port of entry?

To see what procedures you need to go through upon arrival at the U.S. port of entry, click here.

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Q. 10 I have had trouble at the port of entry, but I believe it was due to some error. Is there any way I can address this situation?

The Department of Homeland Security launched a website designed as a one-stop shop for people with general questions about travel as well as those who believe they have experienced screening, boarding or port-of-entry problems in error. Please visit this link.

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Q. 11 Is the expiration date of my visa the last day I can stay in the United States?

The date of expiration on your visa does NOT represent the last day that you can be in the United States. The validity period on the visa represents the time during which you may apply for admission into the United States. Therefore, the date of expiration is the last day that you may arrive at a U.S. port of entry to request permission to enter the country. For example, your visa may expire on May 13, 2008, so you can travel to the U.S. and request admission at a port of entry until midnight on May 13, 2008. The immigration inspector at passport control will decide how long you are authorized to stay. You might be authorized to stay until Nov 12, 2008 (6 months) and choose to leave May 27, 2008, even though your actual visa expires on May 13, 2008.

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FAQ - Visa Refusals

  1. What is Section 214(b)?
  2. How can an applicant prove "strong ties?"
  3. Is a denial under Section 214(b) permanent?
  4. Who can influence the consular officer to reverse a decision?
  5. I presented all the documents I was told to bring, but my application was still refused. What else should I bring?

The United States is an open society. Unlike many other countries, the United States does not impose internal controls on most visitors, such as registration with local authorities. Our immigration law requires consular officers to view every visa applicant as an intending immigrant until the applicant proves otherwise. In order to enjoy the privilege of unencumbered travel in the United States, you have a responsibility to prove you are going to return abroad before a visitor or student visa is issued.

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Q.1 What Is Section 214(b)?

Section 214(b) is part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It states:

Every alien shall be presumed to be an immigrant until he establishes to the satisfaction of the consular officer, at the time of application for admission, that he is entitled to a nonimmigrant status.

Our consular officers have a difficult job. They must decide in a very short time if someone is qualified to receive a temporary visa. Most cases are decided after a brief interview and review of whatever evidence of ties an applicant presents. To qualify for a visitor or student visa, an applicant must meet the requirements of sections 101(a)(15)(B) or (F) of the INA respectively. Failure to do so will result in a refusal of a visa under INA 214(b). The most frequent basis for such a refusal concerns the requirement that the prospective visitor or student possess a residence abroad he or she has no intention of abandoning. Applicants prove the existence of such residence by demonstrating that they have ties abroad that would compel them to leave the United States at the end of the temporary stay. The law places this burden of proof on the applicant.

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Q.2 How can an applicant prove "strong ties?"

Strong ties differ from country to country, city to city, and individual to individual. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, a bank account. "Ties" are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence: your possessions, employment, social and family relationships.

Imagine your own ties in the country where you live. Would a consular office of another country consider that you have a residence there that you do not intend to abandon? It is likely that the answer would be "yes" if you have a job, a family, if you own or rent a house or apartment, or if you have other commitments that would require you to return to your country at the conclusion of a visit abroad. Each person's situation is different.

U.S. consular officers are aware of this diversity. During the visa interview they look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors. In cases of younger applicants who may not have had an opportunity to form many ties, consular officers may look at the applicants specific intentions, family situations, and long-range plans and prospects within his or her country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.

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Q.3 Is a denial under Section 214(b) permanent?

No. The consular officer will reconsider a case if an applicant can show further convincing evidence of ties outside the United States. Unfortunately, some applicants will not qualify for a nonimmigrant visa, regardless of how many times they reapply, until their personal, professional, and financial circumstances change considerably.

An applicant refused under Section 214(b) should review carefully their situation and realistically evaluate their ties. They may write down on paper what qualifying ties they think they have which may not have been evaluated at the time of their interview with the consular officer. Also, if they have been refused, they should review what documents were submitted for the consul to consider. Applicants refused visas under section 214(b) may reapply for a visa. When they do, they will have to show further evidence of their ties or how their circumstances have changed since the time of the original application. It may help to answer the following questions before reapplying: (1) Did I explain my situation accurately? (2) Did the consular officer overlook something? (3) Is there any additional information I can present to establish my residence and strong ties abroad?

Applicants should also bear in mind that they will be charged a nonrefundable application fee each time they apply for a visa, regardless of whether a visa is issued.

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Q.4 Who can influence the consular officer to reverse a decision?

Immigration law delegates the responsibility for issuance or refusal of visas to consular officers overseas. They have the final say on all visa cases. By regulation, the U.S. Department of State has authority to review consular decisions, but this authority is limited to the interpretation of law, as contrasted to determinations of facts. The question at issue in such denials, whether an applicant possesses the required residence abroad, is a factual one. Therefore, it falls exclusively within the authority of consular officers at our Foreign Service posts to resolve. An applicant can influence the post to change a prior visa denial only through the presentation of new convincing evidence of strong ties.

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Q. 5 I presented all the documents I was told to bring, but my application was still refused. What else should I bring?

Documents can be helpful in evaluating an applicant's overall situation, but they do not guarantee visa approval. Ultimately, applicants are evaluated based on the totality of their circumstances, regardless of the documents they bring. Alternatively, if you are missing key documentation, your visa may be refused as well.

For information about visa ineligibilities other than 214(b), please visit the Department of State's Consular Affairs website.

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FAQ - Business/Tourist Visa

  1. How long can I stay in the United States on a tourist or business visa?
  2. My visitor visa (B-1/B-2) expires after my intended date of arrival in the United States. Do I need to get a new visa before departure?
  3. My U.S. visa will expire in the next 6 months. Do I need to apply for a new visa after my current visa expires or can I apply in advance?
  4. I currently hold a valid B-1/B-2 visa, which is in my maiden name, in my old passport. I wish to transfer this visa to my new passport, which is in my married name. What is the procedure?
  5. My current U.S. visa was issued to me when I was working in my previous job. Now I have changed to a new job at a new company and my new employer wants me to attend a conference in the United States scheduled for next month. Can I use the same visa or do I have to apply for a new visa?
  6. My child is studying in the United States. Can I go live with him?

Q.1 How long can I stay in the United States on a tourist or business visa?

A U.S. nonimmigrant visa grants you permission to travel to a Port of Entry (airport/seaport) in the United States. When you arrive at your destination Port of Entry, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who processes your entry will determine the length of time that you may remain in the country. You may travel to the Port of Entry during the validity of your nonimmigrant visa up to and including the last day the visa is valid. The visa duration does not determine the length of time that you may legally remain in the United States; only the Customs and Border Protection officer can decide this upon your arrival in the United States.

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Q.2 My visitor visa (B-1/B-2) expires after my intended date of arrival in the United States. Do I need to get a new visa before departure?

You can arrive in the United States right up to the last date of validity indicated on the visa. The Customs and Border Protection officer on arrival determines the duration of your stay in the United States. Your visa can expire while you are still in the United States – just be sure that you do not overstay the period of time the officer grants.

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Q.3 My U.S. visa will expire in the next 6 months. Do I need to apply for a new visa after my current visa expires or can I apply in advance?

You do not have to wait until your current visa expires. You can apply for a new visa even if your current visa is valid.

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Q.4 I currently hold a valid B-1/B-2 visa, which is in my maiden name, in my old passport. I wish to transfer this visa to my new passport, which is in my married name. What is the procedure?

U.S. visas cannot be transferred from one passport to another. You can travel to the United States with both passports as well as your marriage certificate, or you can apply for a new visa.

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Q.5 My current U.S. visa was issued to me when I was working in my previous job. Now I have changed to a new job at a new company and my new employer wants me to attend a conference in the United States scheduled for next month. Can I use the same visa or do I have to apply for a new visa?

You can travel to the United States on the same visa as long as your visa is valid for business or pleasure.

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Q.6 My child is studying in the United States. Can I go live with him?

While you can use your own B-1/B-2 visa (or travel under the Visa Waiver Program, if eligible) to visit your child, you may not live with your child unless you have your own immigrant, work, or student visa.

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FAQ - Work Visa

  1. What is a petition?
  2. Can I get a visa to do casual work?
  3. Is there an age limit for applying for a temporary work visa?
  4. Can my U.S.-based relative sponsor me for a work visa?
  5. When can I enter the United States?
  6. Who pays the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee and when do they pay it?

Q.1 What is a petition?

Before applying for a temporary worker visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate you must have an approved Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, from USCIS. This petition must be submitted by your prospective employer no earlier than 6 months prior to your proposed employment start date. Your employer should file the petition as soon as possible within the 6-month period to allow adequate time for processing. Once approved, your employer will be sent Form I-797, Notice of Action. For more information, visit the USCIS Temporary Workers webpage.

Note: To verify your petition's approval the U.S. Embassy or Consulate needs your I-129 petition receipt number, along with your approved Form I-797. Please bring both of these to your interview.

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Q.2 Can I get a visa to do casual work?

No. There is no visa that covers casual work. All applicants who plan to work in the United States must have an approved petition prior to their visa appointment.

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Q.3 Is there an age limit for applying for a temporary work visa?

No.

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Q.4 Can my U.S.-based relative sponsor me for a work visa?

No. Only your employer can sponsor you.

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Q.5 When can I enter the United States?

You may not enter the United States until 10 days prior to your initial employment start date, as noted on your Form I-797 or on your offer of employment letter.

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Q.6 Who pays the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee and when do they pay it?

An applicant for an L-1 visa traveling on a blanket petition must pay the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee. On individual L, H-1B and H-2B petitions, the U.S. petitioner pays the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee to USCIS when the petition is filed.

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FAQ - Student Visa

  1. What is an I-20 and how do I get it?
  2. How early should I apply for my student visa?
  3. I received my visa, when should I travel?
  4. Can a person on a visitor visa change his or her status to student while in the United States if he or she gains admission to a school and gets a Form I-20?
  5. What if I receive an I-20 to a different school?
  6. I was working as an H-1B and have now been admitted to a university as an F-1. Do I need to return to my country to apply for a student visa?
  7. Can an F-1 student work in the United States?
  8. What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?
  9. If I previously studied on a student visa in the United States (and that visa is still valid), do I need a new F-1 visa to return to the United States to attend a different school?
  10. When should I apply for student visa renewal?
  11. Can I renew my student visa in the United States?
  12. Can my brother/sister/mother/father accompany me to the United States as a dependent?
  13. I’m also a U.S. citizen. Can I get a F-1 student visa and/or can my husband/wife and children receive a F-2 dependent visa?
  14. Can I bring my maid on a visa with me to the United States if I’m going on a student visa?
  15. What if my F-1 visa expires while I’m in the United States?
  16. When must I renew my F-1 visa?
  17. How long can I remain in the United States on my student visa after I complete my studies?
  18. Can I enter the United States on my F-1 visa after the date of study listed on my I-20?
  19. What if the Embassy/Consulate keeps my passport, but I don’t hear anything for weeks? Is the visa still being processed?
  20. Can I go on vacation to Mexico and return to the United States to study on my F-1 student visa?
  21. If I change schools, do I need to get a new visa?
  22. My academic program is starting very soon but there are no more appointments available this month. What should I do?
  23. It is three days before the start date on my I-20 and my visa is still being processed. What should I do?
  24. I am already in the United States studying but my spouse would like to apply for a visa and join me here. What does she/he need to bring to the interview?
  25. I am an umarried female student going to study in the United States. Can my father (or my brother) receive a student visa to accompany me to the United States?
  26. How long will the student visa be valid for?
  27. Will my student visa still be valid if I do not travel when I originally intended to?
  28. If I want to go earlier than 30 days prior to the start date of my I-20, can I go on my tourist visa (B1/B2), leave the United States by crossing an international border, then come back into the United States on my student visa?
  29. If I transfer to another school or from English Language Study (ELS) to my university, how to I change the visa?
  30. My dependent spouse on an F-2 visa is thinking about studying in the United States. Does he/she need a different visa?
  31. Should I still come in for the visa interview if I don’t have my I-20 or SEVIS fee receipt?
  32. I want to switch schools. What should I do?
  33. My spouse and son/daughter are going with me. Will they have to pay the SEVIS fee too?
  34. I am on the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP). Do I have to bring in a financial guarantee or do you already have my name and number on a list?

Q.1 What is an I-20 and how do I get it?

The Form I-20 is an official U.S. Government form, issued by a certified school, which a prospective nonimmigrant student must have in order to get an F-1 or M-1 visa. Form I-20 acts as proof-of-acceptance and contains the information necessary to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee, apply for a visa or change visa status, and be admitted into the United States. The Form I-20 has the student's SEVIS identification number, which starts with the letter N and is followed by nine digits, on the upper right side directly above the barcode.

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Q.2 How early should I apply for my student visa?

You are encouraged to apply for your nonimmigrant student visa as soon as you have your I-20. To ensure you get an early and timely date you may apply at any time. However, a student visa may be issued no more than 120 days prior to the start date mentioned on your I-20.

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Q.3 I received my visa, when should I travel?

For your initial entry, you may only enter the United States within 30 days of the beginning of the course of study stated on your I-20, regardless of when your visa was issued.

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Q.4 Can a person on a visitor visa change his or her status to student while in the United States if he or she gains admission to a school and gets a Form I-20?

Yes. In general, you may apply to change your nonimmigrant visa status if you were lawfully admitted to the United States with a nonimmigrant visa, if your nonimmigrant status remains valid, if you have not violated the conditions of your status, and you have not committed any actions that would make you ineligible. For more details, please visit the USCIS website.

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Q.5 What if I receive an I-20 to a different school?

If you received an I-20 after scheduling your appointment, then you can inform the U.S. consular officer of the new I-20 at the time of the interview.

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Q.6 I was working as an H-1B and have now been admitted to a university as an F-1. Do I need to return to my country to apply for a student visa?

No. Once you are in the United States, you do not need to apply for a new visa because the visa is only for entry into the United States. Check with USCIS to determine if you need to adjust status. If you leave the country, however, you'll need to apply for the student visa in order to re-enter the United States.

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Q.7 Can an F-1 student work in the United States?

Full-time students on F visas may seek on-campus employment not to exceed 20 hours per week. After the first year in student status, an applicant may apply for employment off campus with authorization from USCIS. Please contact your student advisor for further information.

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Q.8 What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) program requires schools and exchange programs to verify the enrollment status of all new and continuing foreign students and exchange visitors. Student visa applicants are required to pay a SEVIS fee before a visa can be issued. Applicants are then required to provide the SEVIS I-901 fee receipt as proof of payment. The SEVIS website has more details.

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Q. 9 If I previously studied on a student visa in the United States (and that visa is still valid), do I need a new F-1 visa to return to the United States to attend a different school?

If more than five months have elapsed between the time you left fulltime student status and/or the United States, and the time you intend to re-enter the United States, you must apply for a new student visa.  If it has been or will be less than 5 months, you can enter on your current, facially valid F-1 visa, even if the visa is annotated for a different school than is listed on your I-20.  Be sure to present a valid I-20 for the new school in combination with your F-1 visa annotated for the previous school.

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Q. 10 When should I apply for student visa renewal?

As soon as possible, but the earliest we can issue a student visa is 120 days before the start of your studies as listed on your I-20.  You may not need a new visa (see question 1).  If you do, it’s never too early to schedule an appointment.  You can even schedule your appointment while you’re still in the United States.  You do not have to wait until you return to Saudi Arabia to schedule your visa interview.

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Q. 11 Can I renew my student visa in the United States?

No. Visas can only be obtained at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad.

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Q. 12 Can my brother/sister/mother/father accompany me to the United States as a dependent?

Only your spouse and children (unmarried, under the age of 21) can accompany you to the United States as dependents, usually on F-2 visas.  If qualified, your close family members who don’t qualify for F-2 visas may be able to accompany you on a B1/B2 business/tourism visa.  However, their stay is generally restricted to six months and they would need to apply for an extension with the immigration service (USCIS) in the United States if they wish to stay longer.

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Q. 13 I’m also a U.S. citizen. Can I get a F-1 student visa and/or can my husband/wife and children receive a F-2 dependent visa?

No, a U.S. citizen cannot receive a visa to the United States.  U.S. citizens must enter and depart the United States using their U.S. passports.  The spouse and children of a U.S. citizen may not receive F-2 visas.  As a U.S. citizen you may file a petition to begin the immigration process of acquiring permanent residency for your spouse and children.

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Q. 14 Can I bring my maid on a visa with me to the United States if I’m going on a student visa?

No, we strongly discourage it.

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Q. 15 What if my F-1 visa expires while I’m in the United States?

You are free to remain in the United States for the period of time indicated on your I-94.  For students, this is typically indicated as “duration of status” which means that you may remain in the United States for the length of your studies.  However, if you depart the United States after your visa expires, or if your visa expires while you are abroad, then you will need to apply for a new visa to re-enter the United States.

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Q. 16 When must I renew my F-1 visa?

You must renew your F-1 visa if you decide to travel outside the U.S. and your current F-1 visa will expire before you re-enter the United States to continue your program. If this is the case, you will need to apply for another F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

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Q. 17 How long can I remain in the United States on my student visa after I complete my studies?

If you have completed your academic program and have not applied for another academic program, or post-graduation training, you can remain in the United States up to 60 days after your studies have ended.  During this time, you may travel around the United States, but you may not re-enter on your student visa once you have departed, even if it is within 60 days of completing your academic program.

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Q. 18 Can I enter the United States on my F-1 visa after the date of study listed on my I-20?

For your initial entry, you cannot enter after the date of study listed on your I-20.  If the start date on your I-20 has already passed, you will need to get a new I-20 with a start date in the future.

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Q. 19 What if the Embassy/Consulate keeps my passport, but I don’t hear anything for weeks? Is the visa still being processed?

While the majority of visas are processed within a few weeks, occasionally a visa will take longer to be issued.  While the processing is ongoing, you may take back your passport by sending an email, along with your passport number, to RiyadhNIV@state.gov, or DhahranNIV@state.gov or JeddahVisas@state.gov (depending on where you had your interview).  When the processing is complete, we will contact you to send in your passport so that the visa may be printed

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Q. 20 Can I go on vacation to Mexico and return to the United States to study on my F-1 student visa?

If you travel to a contiguous territory (including Canada and Mexico) and are there for less than 30 days, you do not need to have a valid F-1 visa to re-enter the United States. You must be in valid F-1 status, have a valid I-20, an unexpired passport and a valid I-94. Please contact the Mexican Embassy and Canadian Embassy for information on visa requirements for those countries for Saudi citizens.

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Q. 21 If I change schools, do I need to get a new visa?

If you change schools after you received your F-1 student visa, but before you make your first trip to the United States as a student, you will need to apply for a new visa. However, if you are changing schools after you have started your studies in the United States, you do not need to get a new visa, unless you have been outside of the United States for more than five months. Please be sure to contact your student advisor at the ‘old’ school to transfer your SEVIS registration to the ‘new’ school. Before traveling to the United States to start a new school, please contact your student advisor to ensure that your SEVIS status is in "initial" or "active" status at the new school.

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Q. 22 My academic program is starting very soon but there are no more appointments available this month. What should I do?

Please make an appointment for the earliest available date on the appointment website, even if it is after the date you need to be in the U.S. At the end of this process you will be able to request and submit an emergency appointment. You must explain briefly what your emergency is, give your SEVIS number and I-20 start-date, and give two or three dates that are convenient for your to come in for an interview.

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Q. 23 It is three days before the start date on my I-20 and my visa is still being processed. What should I do?

Please contact your school and request an extension letter or a new I-20. Inform them that your visa is still being processed. When you receive your extension letter or new I-20, please send a copy to the Embassy/Consulate immediately. Please remember, visa processing cannot be expedited.

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Q. 24 I am already in the United States studying but my spouse would like to apply for a visa and join me here. What does she/he need to bring to the interview?

In addition to the standard required documents, your spouse should bring an I-20 (for dependents), a copy of your F-1 student visa and a copy of your marriage certificate.

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Q. 25 I am an umarried female student going to study in the United States. Can my father (or my brother) receive a student visa to accompany me to the United States?

For F-1 students studying in the United States only children under 21 and spouses qualify for accompanying F-2 status.  Other family members who wish to accompany the student must apply for a Business and Tourism (B1/B2) visa. This means that the family member will not be able to live in the United States for the full term of your F-1 visa, and must exit the country within the time given by the Customs and Border Protection officer. Most visitors on a B1/B2 visa are admitted for six months, after which they must depart or seek an extension from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

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Q. 26 How long will the student visa be valid for?

For citizens of Saudi Arabia, the visa is valid for five years, but you must remain in status as a fulltime student.

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Q. 27 Will my student visa still be valid if I do not travel when I originally intended to?

You must be in the United States by the start date on your I-20 for your visa to be valid.  If it is close enough to your start date you may show a letter of extension from your school at the Port of Entry or a new I-20 with a new start date.  You will need a new visa if the new I-20 has a different SEVIS number, or if you have missed the original start date by more than 4 months.

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Q. 28 If I want to go earlier than 30 days prior to the start date of my I-20, can I go on my tourist visa (B1/B2), leave the United States by crossing an international border, then come back into the United States on my student visa?

Yes.

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Q. 29.If I transfer to another school or from English Language Study (ELS) to my university, how to I change the visa?

You usually do not need to change the visa.  Make sure you have an updated and correct I-20 and that your designated school officials in both schools keep the SEVIS system updated. You will need a new visa if you have finished your course of study and will have been out of class or outside of the United States for more than five months.

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Q.30. My dependent spouse on an F-2 visa is thinking about studying in the United States. Does he/she need a different visa?

If they are studying fewer than 18 hours a week, they do not need to change status. If they are studying full time or more than 18 hours, they will need an I-20 and a change of status to F-1 by filing form I-539 with USCIS. This can be done in the United States.  However, if they leave the United States they will need a new visa to re-enter and should apply through standard procedures.

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Q.31 Should I still come in for the visa interview if I don’t have my I-20 or SEVIS fee receipt?

Yes, but doing so is likely to cause delays as it’s harder to conduct the visa interview without the I-20/SEVIS fee receipt.  Both are necessary for the visa to be issued.  Be prepared to answer questions about possible schools you'd like to attend and what your long term educational plans are.  Once you obtain your I-20 and SEVIS fee receipt, send them in as soon as possible the visa cannot be printed without them.

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Q.32 I want to switch schools. What should I do?

Before the interview: either bring in the I-20 for your new school, or inform the consular officer about the change during the interview.

After the interview: If the visa is not printed, inform the consular office and send the I-20 to us. If the visa is printed: check the SEVIS number. If it is the same, you do not need a new visa. If the SEVIS number is different, you will need a new visa and must reapply.

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Q.33 My spouse and son/daughter are going with me. Will they have to pay the SEVIS fee too?

No, but they do need their own I-20 showing dependent status so they can get F-2 visas. Contact your school for this.

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Q.34 I am on the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP). Do I have to bring in a financial guarantee or do you already have my name and number on a list?

The Consular Section does receive a list of names from the Ministry of Higher Education. However if you have your KASP ID card or KASP number, please bring it with you to the interview. This is very helpful in finding your name on the list.

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FAQ - Exchange Visitor Visa

  1. I received my visa, when should I travel?
  2. What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?
  3. What is the "two-year rule?"
  4. Can the two-year rule be waived?

Q.1 I received my visa, when should I travel?

Exchange visitors may only enter the United States within 30 days of the beginning of the program, as stated on your Form DS-2019, regardless of when your visa was issued.

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Q.2 What is the SEVIS system and how does it affect me?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) program requires schools and exchange programs to verify the enrollment status of all new and continuing foreign students and exchange visitors. Exchange visitor visa applicants are required to pay a SEVIS fee before a visa can be issued. Applicants are required to provide the SEVIS I-901 fee receipt as proof of payment. The SEVIS website has more details.

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Q.3 What is the "two-year rule?"

The "two-year rule" is the common term used for a section of U.S. immigration law which requires many exchange visitors to return to their home countries and be physically present there for at least two years after the conclusion of their exchange visit before they can return to the U.S. under certain types of visas, specifically H-1, L-1, K-1 and immigrant visas. It is important to note that only a preliminary finding of whether the two-year rule applies to you is made on your DS-2019 when your J-1 visa is issued. The final decision will be made only if you later choose to apply for an H-1, L-1, K-1, or immigrant visa.

J-1 visa holders subject to the two-year rule are not permitted to remain in the United States and apply for an adjustment/change of status to a prohibited nonimmigrant status (for example, from a J-1 visa to an H-1 visa) or to apply for legal permanent resident status (Green Card) without first returning home for two years or obtaining an approved waiver. Whether you are subject to the two-year rule is determined by a number of factors, including your source of funding and your country's "Skills List." It is not determined by the amount of time you spend in the United States.

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Q.4 Can the two-year rule be waived?

Possibly. Only the Department of State's Visa Office can grant waivers of the two-year rule. The Visa Office is also the final authority on whether you are subject to the rule, regardless of what is annotated in your passport. If you are subject to the two-year rule, you may be able to obtain a waiver. Even if you are subject to the two-year rule, you may still qualify for a tourist visa or any other nonimmigrant visa except those noted above.

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FAQ - Transit/Ship Crew Visa

  1. I plan to stop in the United States for a day and take a flight to another country on the next day. Do I need to apply for C-1 visa or a B-1/B-2 visa?

Q.1 I plan to stop in the United States for a day and take a flight to another country on the next day. Do I need to apply for C-1 visa or a B-1/B-2 visa?

If you seek layover privileges for purposes other than transiting through the United States, such as to visit friends or for sightseeing, then you must qualify for and obtain the type of visa required for that purpose, such as a B-2 visa.

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FAQ - Religious Worker Visa

  1. I am applying for a religious worker visa, but do not have an approved petition. I have been to the United States previously with an R-1 visa and was not required to have the petition. Can I apply for an R-1 visa without the petition since I had an R-1 visa in the past?

Q.1 I am applying for a religious worker visa, but do not have an approved petition. I have been to the United States previously with an R-1 visa and was not required to have the petition. Can I apply for an R-1 visa without the petition since I had an R-1 visa in the past?

The requirement for an approved petition went into effect November 28, 2008. All applicants applying for an R-1 nonimmigrant visa are required to have an approved petition from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For more information, please visit the USCIS website.

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FAQ - Track My Passport

  1. Why only one passport per envelope? Why no family discounts?
  2. How will I get my passport back after the interview?
  3. What do I need to show to pick up the passport at the courier location?
  4. What types of ID are acceptable as proof-of-identity?
  5. Can someone besides me pick up or receive delivery of my passport?
  6. Do I have to pay any fees for courier services?

Q.1 Why only one passport per envelope? Why no family discounts?

There is no additional charge for the courier to return your passport to you. All costs are included in your visa application fee. The courier's security and safety rules require separate tracking of every passport.

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Q.2 How will I get my passport back after the interview?

You will receive your passport at the courier location you selected at the time you scheduled your interview. If you want to change this location you may do so until 11:59p.m. the day of your appointment. If you are planning urgent travel, the courier location closest to the location of your interview may result in a faster pick-up time. The cost of the courier service is included in the visa application fee.

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Q.3 What do I need to show to pick up the passport at the courier location?

In order to ensure that your passport and visa are not given to an unauthorized person, you must present a government-issued photo ID for identification when you collect your passport. You must also sign for all documents handed over to you by the courier.

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Q.4 What types of ID are acceptable as proof-of-identity?

You must present an original government-issued photo ID.

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Q.5 Can someone besides me pick up or receive delivery of my passport?

Yes. However, your representative - even in case of family members - must present the following in order to collect your passport:

If a representative is collecting your passport from the document collection office on your behalf - even in case of family members - the representative must present:

  • Their own original government-issued photo ID for identification
  • A photocopy of your government-issued photo ID
  • A letter of authority, signed by you, authorizing your representative to collect your passport. The letter of authority must contain the following information:
    • Your representative's full name as shown on their government-issued photo ID
    • Your name

If the applicant is under the age of 18, the following documents are required:

  • An original, signed letter of authority from either of the applicant's parents
  • A clear photocopy of the government-issued photo ID belonging to the parent who signed the applicant's letter of authority
  • The representative's original government-issued photo ID

Note: In case of a group/family, a single letter of authority with the required information for each of the applicants will be accepted.

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Q.6 Do I have to pay any fees for courier services?

No. The cost of courier services is included in your visa application or immigrant visa fee.

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