Obtaining a Visa

How to Apply for a U.S. Visa

Congratulations! You have been accepted to CWRU and can obtain an immigration form from the Office of International Student Services to apply for a U.S. visa. Learn about applying for a visa or visa “renewal” on the U.S. Department of State website.

The Department of State website includes information on:

  • Student visa categories
  • Visa application process and advice
  • Visa wait times and denials

The U.S. Embassy website also has links to all U.S. consulates. The consulate websites provide students with more specific information about any documentation and/or requirements unique to that location; we highly encourage students to check their local U.S. consulate’s website.

Advice for Applying

The procedures you must follow and the length of time required to process a visa application vary from consulate to consulate. Contact the nearest U.S. consulate as soon as possible to request information about visa application procedures and requirements. This information is generally available on their website.

An interview with a consular officer—which is now mandatory for all first-time visa applicants ages 14-79—will help determine the outcome of your application.

Keep in mind that:

  • Interviews are short, so you should be prepared and make efficient use of your time with the consular officer.
  • Proper preparation means providing as much documented proof as possible that you meet the criteria for a nonimmigrant visa.
  • Interested parties (such as sponsors) may provide written information to support your application but may not always be allowed to accompany you to the interview; consult the consulate for more information.
  • It is extremely difficult to obtain a visa after an initial rejection of a visa application. Consular officers will reconsider cases if visa applications are denied, but applicants must be able to show additional or new convincing evidence that their circumstances (personal, professional or financial) have changed considerably since the previous application. It’s in your best interest to prepare your first application carefully and to present your case as clearly as possible.

The information that follows has been compiled from websites prepared by the U.S. Department of State that are meant to provide guidance for student visa applicants. There are many suggestions given here, and it’s important to remember that each consulate and consular officer is different; it is at their discretion to follow different procedures in processing visa applications, require specific documentation to supplement applications, and give more attention to certain criteria than others when reviewing application materials.

It’s also crucial to remember that each applicant’s case is different and will be considered separately from any other applicant’s case; you may do everything suggested here and be denied a visa while another seemingly less prepared person is granted one.

Consular officers charged with reviewing student visa applications appear to focus on four main criteria:

  1. Objective
  2. Intent
  3. Funding
  4. Intent to Return to Home Country

We’ve provided some suggestions of ways to establish that you meet the criteria. While this is neither a checklist nor guarantee that you’ll be approved for a visa, it should help you be prepared and increase the likelihood of success.

In the event that your visa application is denied, please contact an international student advisor at ISS so we can best advise you about next steps.


Your sole purpose of coming to the U.S. is to be a full-time student.

You should carefully consider your purpose for coming to the U.S. before you apply for a student visa. Your application is likely to be denied if it appears that you have only partial or primary—rather than sole—interest in being a full-time student during your stay in the U.S.

Document your purpose for applying with a completed Form DS-160.


You must have both the ability and intention to be a full-time student.

Your ability can be proven with sufficient academic preparation and English-language knowledge. You can document your ability with items such as your diploma, transcripts of courses and test scores (TOEFL, GRE, GMAT, etc.).

Be aware that verbal responses and written statements you give to the officer during an interview will be considered as further evidence of your English-language ability; therefore, you should acknowledge any help you had in preparing statements written in English.

Your intention can be evidenced by specific plans for your course of study and clear academic and career goals. Your immigration document (the I-20 or DS-2019) and acceptance letter issued to you by CWRU will help to support your intention, but your verbal and written statements also will have an impact on the consular officer reviewing your application.


You must possess adequate funds to cover all tuition, health insurance, and living and anticipated incidental expenses during your stay in the U.S. without engaging in unauthorized employment.

Personal or family funds for your financial support in the U.S. can be documented by either an official statement from a bank or investment firm. The document must stipulate the country in which the funds are available as well as the amount of funding available for withdrawal for the purpose of your education.

Proof of a scholarship, assistantship, or fellowship award can be documented with a letter from the sponsor stating its ability and intention to provide funds. If you receive a financial award from CWRU, the award letter will state the amount of funding provided.

Intent to Return to Home Country

You have economic, family, social or other ties to your country that are strong enough to compel your departure from the U.S. upon the completion of your studies. You may be able to meet these criteria with documented proof of:

  • Assets in your country—property such as an apartment, a house, land, or investments—accompanied by appropriate proof of ownership (lease, deed, financial statement, receipt, etc.)
  • Dependents remaining in your country, such as a spouse, children, or elderly parents. Your claim that dependents will rely on you for financial support upon your return to your country might be supported by letters from interested parties (e.g., family members, friends, members of the clergy, social workers, etc.).
  • Employment which you may resume or begin upon your return to your country. The nature of this agreement should be detailed in a contract or letter from your employer.
  • Employment opportunities or prospects which are likely to be available in your country upon your return. The future availability of jobs in your field should be evidenced by articles or advertisements in newspapers, academic or professional publications, etc.
  • Career goals (specified in your verbal/written statements) and talent and potential (supported by letters from former instructors or academic advisors) in your field of study.
  • High social status in your country or connections to influential business people or government officials in your country. Evidence might come in the form of a letter written by the influential person to whom you or your family is connected.

Note: The most common reason for a visa denial is the applicant’s failure to prove “strong ties” to his/her home country of residence. It is crucial that you compile substantial and compelling evidence that you intend to return to your country at the end of your course of study in the U.S.