International Student Services

RENEWING OR CHANGING VISAS

When you received your visa stamp inside your passport, an expiration date was also noted. If you are in F or J status and your entry visa expires while you are studying in the U.S., there is no need to renew it as long as you stay in the U.S. However, if you travel abroad you must plan to renew it, no matter how short a trip you take to your country of destination (see the section on Travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean for exceptions).

If you wish to obtain a different type of visa than the type you have now, the following instructions are generally the same but you should see the International Student Advisor for a consultation regarding timing and your particular situation. It is not possible to complete this procedure in the U.S. You may renew your visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in the country to which you are traveling (preferably your home country; countries other than your own may impose stricter requirements or may be unwilling to renew a visa for a citizen or a resident of another country). Be sure to allow plenty of time to obtain a new I-20 from the International Student Advisor before you depart the U.S. A new I-20 is always necessary for F-1 students when applying for a visa. A new IAP-66 for J-1 exchange visitors is not necessary.

Documents you should have with you when renewing your visa:

  • A valid passport
  • A properly endorsed I-20 (F-1) or IAP-66 (J-1)
  • A current photograph
  • Financial verification of your ability to pay for your education and living expenses while you study at Purchase College

For some countries, the following documents may be needed:

  • Transcripts from every school you have attended in the U.S.
  • I-20’s or IAP-66’s from all the schools you have attended in the U.S.
  • A Purchase College letter of enrollment issued by the ISA.

It is best to apply for the student visa in your home country. Once at the American Embassy, you will complete Form OF-156 for a nonimmigrant visa and possibly be charged a processing fee. (Taiwanese citizens apply through the American Institute in Taiwan; Canadian students are not required to obtain a visa at a consulate, if travelling only between countries in North America.) The amount of time needed to obtain a student visa varies, and questions should be directed to the consulate or embassy.

The consular officer may ask you:

  • Why are you studying in the U.S.A.?
  • Why do you want to study _______?
  • Why did you choose Purchase College?
  • How will your degree be used in your home country and what are your employment prospects?

We recommend that you prepare a written statement which answers these questions. You must be truthful and willing to answer direct questions. If the consular officer thinks you are not telling the truth, you may not get a visa.

Before issuing the visa, the U.S. consular officer must be convinced that you have a residence outside the U.S.A. that you have not abandoned and that you have not decided to seek permanent residence in the United States. It is important to confirm for the officer that you have strong ties to your country of residence, such as family, community or social ties, documents showing membership in professional organizations and religious groups, a family business, ownership of property, bank accounts, a job offer, or evidence that people with the kind of education you are seeking are needed. U.S. government officials like documents. Do not emphasize any ties you have to the U.S. and do not talk about working in the U.S. unless you have been awarded a graduate assistantship.

Rehearse what you plan to say to the consular officer. Practice your English! You should make copies of any documents submitted to the consul just in case a problem develops. It is important that you are courteous and clear in your presentation. You will only have a few minutes to state your case. Applications should be made as early as possible.

If you are denied a student visa: you have probably not proven to the consular officer that you are entitled to renew or obtain a student visa. In most cases the denial will be based on a failure to prove a "permanent residence" in or "strong ties" to your home country. A visa denial is not permanent and may be reconsidered if you can show further convincing evidence. We strongly suggest that you contact Purchase if you are denied a visa so that we can assist you in your second application to the U.S. consulate.

Reminder! If you fail to renew an expired visa while you are abroad, it is likely that you will be denied re-entry into the U.S. The only exception to this rule occurs when you travel to a neighboring country for a short trip. (See "Travel to Canada…").