International Advising

Visa and Immigration

With so many preparations to make before you arrive on campus, none are more important than your visa and immigration responsibilities. If you have questions about any information below, please contact us for assistance.

Certificate of Eligibility form

The International Advising office will issue you either an I-20 form (F-1 full-time student visa) or a DS-2019 form (J-1 exchange visitor visa) for SEVIS registration, to bring to your visa appointment and for entry into the U.S. If your plans to attend Union change, you must return this form.


You must have a valid passport for travel to the U.S. with a validity date at least six months into the future.


The Student and Exchange Visitor information System (SEVIS) is a central computerized system that maintains and manages data about foreign students and exchange visitors. You must register here and pay the fee at least three business days prior to your visa appointment. Be sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your I-20 or DS-2019 form. Once the online form is completed and the fee is paid, please print a receipt. This receipt is required at the visa appointment and upon arrival to the U.S. Note the SEVIS fee is separate from the visa fee. An additional visa fee is required.

More information on SEVIS is available at STUDY in the STATES.

Since Canadian citizens are not required to get a visa, they are required to pay the fee at least three days before going to the U.S. port-of-entry.

If you are transferring from another U.S. school to Union, you must have your current international student adviser transfer your SEVIS record to Union College. You do not need to register again.

Applying for your visa

If you are currently outside of the U.S. and do not have a valid U.S. student visa, you must apply for one at a U.S. embassy or consulate office. It is strongly recommended you apply through the office with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence, although you may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad. Information about visas will be available on the office's web site.

Appointments are mandatory for all student visas. Some offices require appointments to be made at least four to eight weeks in advance, and holiday periods can increase the wait times. Find out your preferred office's typical wait time and plan ahead. Visas cannot be issued more than 90 days before the start date indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.

Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain a U.S. visa to enter the U.S.

What to bring to the visa appointment

  • Passport
  • Required photo(s)
  • Visa fee or proof of visa fee payment
  • Payment receipt for SEVIS fee
  • U.S. non-immigrant visa application forms
  • Union College admissions letter (exchange students will not have this letter)
  • I-20 or DS-2019 form
  • Test scores and academic records
  • Proof of English proficiency
  • Proof of financial support that corresponds to the information on your I-20 or DS-2019
  • Evidence of ties to your home country
  • Any other documents required by the embassy or consulate

If your visa application is denied

All applicants are presumed to be an immigrant until the consular officer is satisfied that the applicant is entitled to a non-immigrant status. Ninety-five percent of non-immigrant visa denials happen because the applicant did not establish compelling ties to their home country, usually in the form of socioeconomic ties or career opportunities for you in your home country.

If your application is denied, save your denial letter and contact the International Advising office immediately. You are allowed to reapply for a visa up to three times in a year.