Apply for a Visa Stamp

Once the SEVIS fee has been paid, you will apply for a U.S. visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S. The only exception is for Canadian citizens, who do not need an F-1 or J-1 stamp to enter the United States.

Scheduling your appointment

For information on scheduling your visa appointment and to find the consulate or embassy nearest to you, visit the U.S. Consulates and Embassies Abroad website. Many consulates and embassies provide online appointment scheduling.

Visa processing times vary widely depending on the country and time of year, and some applications may undergo a rigid and time-consuming background check. If you are subject to a background check, there is little Northwestern can do to speed up the process. Therefore, we suggest scheduling your appointment as soon as you receive your I-20 or DS-2019, no sooner. Learn more about visa delay.

U.S. consulates and embassies will issue F-1 and J-1 visa stamps no earlier than 120 days prior to the start date listed on the I-20 or DS-2019. Once you receive your visa, you may enter the US no earlier than 30 days prior to the program start date.

Required documents

The following items are required in support of your application for an F-1 or J-1 visa:

  • Non-Immigrant visa application DS-160
  • Valid I-20 or DS-2019 from Northwestern
  • Valid passport
  • At least two passport-style photographs, taken recently (See the embassy web site for specifications)
  • Proof that you have permanent residence outside the U.S.
  • Current and original financial documentation.
  • A copy of the marriage certificate and/or birth certificate if your spouse and/or child are applying for the F-2/J-2 separately.

Please note that students admitted to multiple schools must decide which school to attend before applying for a visa stamp.