Visa Stamp

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.

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.

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 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.
Additional Information:
  • Anyone admitted to multiple schools must decide which school to attend before applying for a visa stamp.
  • Visa processing may vary depending on the location of the U.S. consulate or embassy. For information specific to the consulate or embassy nearest to you, visit the U.S. Consulates and Embassies Abroad website.
  • Many consulates and embassies provide on-line appointment scheduling check the aforementioned website for more information.

Visa Resources:

Consular Resources:

Note: Canadian citizens do not need an F-1 or J-1 visa stamp to enter the United States.

Visa Delay

Applying for a non-immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad generally takes 2-4 weeks to obtain the visa. If the applicant is coming to the U.S. to study or engage in research in a sensitive area, he/she may be subject to a background check, which can further delay the process.

The average time for a background check is 67 days. If the delay is considerably longer, the IO has created a procedure to assist students and scholars.

The student/scholar or the department should contact the IO. Once the IO is notified, the following actions should be taken:

  • Request a current status report from the consulate or embassy.
  • If the IO receives no response from the consulate or embassy, the U.S. Department of State will be contacted.
  • If the IO receives no response from the Dept. of State and it has been over 3 months since the student/scholar's visa application, the FBI will be contacted regarding the status of the security check.
  • As a last resort, failing all other attempts to get a resolution, the International Office will ask for a congressional inquiry into the case. The student/scholar will have to complete a Privacy Release Form, available in the International Office, and it must be accompanied by a support letter from a faculty member or PI.

NOTE: Please contact the International Office first before taking any action. Embassy and Consulate Officials are not always responsive to department letters or faxes.