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 Visa and Immigration Information

Information on Visas and Immigration

Helpful guidelines to help you in your preparation to study in the United States.

You have been accepted to Hope College and are eager to begin your preparations to study in the U.S. Immigration regulations may be a bit daunting if you are unfamiliar with the procedures of obtaining a visa and entering the U.S. Here are some helpful guidelines for visiting the U.S. embassy to apply for your visa, definitions, and suggestions to assist you in your preparation. You can also look at the U.S. Dept of State's website for more visa information.

 

F-1 and J-1

Hope College is authorized to accept both F-1 and J-1 student visa holders. These two categories are legally reserved for students studying in the U.S. The F-1 is granted to academic (degree-seeking) and language students. The J-1 is granted to exchange visitors – students and scholars - who study in the U.S. for a short period of time.

Both F-1 and J-1 student visa holders are required to be a registered as a full-time student. This is defined as taking a minimum of 12 semester hours of credit. You will be registered in SEVIS, an internet-based system that allows schools and the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) to exchange data on the visa status of international students. Once you arrive in the U.S. please be sure to check in with the International Education Office and verify your registration. It is important that you take all communications regarding immigration and SEVIS from the International Education Office and Registrar’s Office seriously and that you act in a timely manner to all our requests.

Important Documents to Keep

It is very important for you to keep track of your passport and official papers. Make several copies and keep them in a safe location. Always keep the following documents together:

1) Passport

2) Visa

3) Form I-20/DS-2019 (all pages) – The I-20 (F-1 applicants) and the DS-2019 (J-1 applicants) are valid documents which are issued by Hope College and show your eligibility to study at the college. This document verifies your authorization to be legally in the U.S. for the length of time specified on it.

4) Form I-94 – Upon arrival in the U.S., you will be asked to complete Form I-94 (small, white card containing arrival/departure record). This will be stapled into your passport and you will be asked to surrender it when you leave the country. Please note that it is a very lengthy and costly process should you need to replace a lost/damaged I-94.

5)Receipt of Form I-901 – SEVIS fee payment receipt (see below).

SEVIS I-901 Fee

Students seeking an F1 visa from an embassy or a consulate abroad for initial attendance to Hope College are required to pay a $200 application fee. While, the exchange visitor, are required to pay a $180 for the J1 application fee. It is critical that each visa applicant pay the fee prior to interviewing at the U.S. embassy or consulate. You will be required to show a receipt (proof of payment) at the time of your interview.

Payment methods can be found on the SEVIS website: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm

When paying for the I-901, you will be asked for the school code assigned to Hope College. Please list the following codes:

F visa applicants: DET214F00329000

J visa applicants: P-1-04386

Visa Application Procedure

Upon receiving your deposit and confirmation to enroll at Hope College, the College will mail to you an I-20 or DS-2019. (Again, the I-20 is sent to degree-seeking students to obtain an F-1 visa. A DS-2019 is sent to exchange students and scholars to obtain a J-1 visa.)

When you receive the I-20/DS-2019:

  • Check it for accuracy (for example, name, birth date, gender, etc.)
  • Sign and date the form
  • Make an interview appointment with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. If you delay there can be a lengthy wait in getting a visa.
  • Check with the U.S. embassy/consulate for a list of documents they require for your interview.

Here is a brief list of documents you should be prepared to show:

    • Completed visa application
    • A valid passport
    • Your signed I-20 or DS-2019
    • I-901 Receipt (SEVIS fee payment receipt)
    • Financial documents (Proof of Finances)
    • Any additional documents the embassy may request you to bring to your appointment.

Preparation for the Interview:

In addition to gathering the necessary documents and forms, we encourage you to prepare for your interview with the U.S. embassy/consulate. You may want to give some special thought to your:

  • Foreign residence and ties to a community
  • Intention to return to the place of foreign residence
  • Ability to financially support yourself (and family if included) while in the U.S.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators offers the following tips when applying for a student visa:

Ties to Your Home Country: Under U.S. law, all applicants for non-immigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants unless they can convince the consular officer that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. "Ties" to your home country are the things that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. You may be asked about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans, and career prospects in your home country. Each person's situation is different, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate or letter, that can guarantee visa issuance.

English: Anticipate that the visa interview, should there be one, will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular official will want to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf.

Academics: Know the academic program to which you have been admitted and how it fits into your career plans. If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the U.S. consular official that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should be able to explain how studying in the U.S. relates to your future professional career when you return home.

Be concise: Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute or two of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point.

Supplemental information: It should be clear at a glance to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time at best.

Not All Countries Are the Same: If you are an applicant from a country suffering economic problems or from a country where many past students have remained in the U.S. as immigrants, you will likely have more difficulty getting a visa. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be “intending immigrants.” They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the U.S.

Financial Documentation: If you are receiving funding from Hope College, a scholarship organization, your employer, or from the government, be prepared to present the appropriate letters or documents which verify this funding. If your financial support is coming from personal or family funds, bank statements alone are seldom considered credible enough evidence to demonstrate sufficient finances. Only when coupled with highly credible documentation which can substantiate the source (such as job contracts, letters from an employer, tax documents, pay stubs, or deposit slips) will a bank statement be accepted. Bank statements are most credible if they are a series of reliable computer-generated ordinary monthly bank account statements.

Employment: Your main purpose for coming to the U.S. is to study, not for the chance of work before or after graduation. While many students may work part-time during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education and should not be mentioned unless you are asked directly about this. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program.

Dependents Remaining at Home: If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family members will need you to remit money from the U.S. in order to support them, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.

Maintain a Positive Attitude: Do not engage the consular official in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and obtain, in writing, an explanation of the reason you were denied.

Transfer Students

You must transfer your SEVIS record to Hope College if any of the following apply:

  • you are currently enrolled in a college, university, or high school in the U.S.;
  • you have recently graduated from a college, university, or high school in the U.S.;
  • you have completed or are completing a period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Academic Training (AT);
  • you are currently in valid F-1 or J-1 status, even if you are outside the U.S.
You do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again!

Instructions for transferring SEVIS record
      1. Ask your current (or previous) institution's International Student Advisor to complete the SEVIS Transfer-In Form. It is also included in the I-20 or DS-2019 Request Form.
      2. Submit your SEVIS Transfer-In Form with your I-20 or DS-2019 Request Form.

SEVIS transfer deadlines:
      F-1 students: within 60 days of the program end date on the I-20 or within 60 days of the OPT end date.
      J-1 students: by the program end date on the DS-2019.

Print the Transfer in Verification Form here.

Please note: You may no longer work on your current campus after the release date.

To complete the transfer process, you are required to contact the Hope College Office of International Education within 15 days of the program start date listed on your SEVIS I-20. This obligation is fulfilled by attending the mandatory International Student Orientation program provided by the Office of International Education (OIE). At orientation, you will be asked to identify yourself as a transfer student.

All international students on F-1 and J-1 visas are legally required to attend the International Student Orientation program.

When you attend orientation, you must bring the following documents:

  1. Originals of your passport, I-94 card, and Hope College I-20 (if not taken at the US border if you travel between attending your current school and Hope College ).
  2. At orientation, we will photocopy your identity, expiry, and visa pages of your passport.

The orientation schedule is available here.

Arriving in the U.S.

Please check the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement website for arrival information: “ARRIVING AT A U.S. PORT OF ENTRY … WHAT A STUDENT SHOULD EXPECT”

Work Opportunities for F-1 Student

On-Campus Work: F-1 students are eligible to work only on the Hope College campus. Federal regulations stipulate that you work no more than 20 hours/week while classes are in session, except during vacation periods. The Hope College Student Employment Office can help you find an on-campus job. They will also regulate your hours. The amount of money you earn during the school year is usually enough for books and pocket money.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT): F-1 degree students may apply for a CPT after having completed their first year of college. The CPT must be part of your academic major and can be for no more than 20 hours/week. In order to apply for a CPT, students must see the International Education Office for an application and guidelines.

Optional Practical Training (OPT): Upon completion of your academic degree, F-1 students are permitted to apply for an OPT. This training is valid for one year; must be within your major field of study; and must be approved by Immigration and Naturalization Services. In order to apply for an OPT, students must see International Education Office for an application and guidelines at the end of their junior or beginning of their senior year.

Travel for F-1 and J-1 Students

Travel within the U.S.: Please make sure to carry your original passport and I-20 with you at all times. Note: Make sure you know which route you are taking when you travel through the U.S. – many American students traveling east from Michigan drive through Canada. If this is your route, you must follow the “Travel outside the U.S.” guidelines below.

Travel outside the U.S.: All F-1 and J-1 students traveling to other countries (including Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean) will need to have their I-20 signed by a Designated Student Official (DSO - see below). Please remember to plan ahead and set up an appointment to have your I-

20 signed. In addition to a valid passport, visa, and I-20, you may also be required to get a visa of the country you plan on visiting.

Designated Student Officials (DSO)

  • AWAD, Habeeb – International Student Advisor (DS0/ARO)
  • OTIS-DE GRAU, Amy – Director of International Education (PDSO/RO)

Affidavit of Financial Support

  • All new F-1 interntional students are required to show proof that funds are guaranteed for the first year of study.
  • All new J-1 international students are required to show proof that funds are guaranteed for the full length of his/ her program.

Please ensure that adequate funding will continue to e available from the same or equally dependable sources for subsequent years. You may be asked to show proof of this at your visa interview. This proof can come from several different sources (personal, family, university, business, etc.); however, you must be sure to have supporting documents for each of the sources of funding.

Any combination of funds is acceptable, as long as you demonstrate you can cover the full cost of the program. All funds must be liquid assets. Stock/ mutual/ retirement accounts/ properties are not considered liquid assets.

Below are the requirements for each type of documentation. Keep in mind that although you are not required to submit original documents to Hope College, you may be required to show ORIGINAL financial documents at your visa appointment, or at the port of entry.


Types of Funds:
    Personal Funds:
  • Bank statement, bank letter, or loan letter (see bank statement and letter guidelines below). An original is not required for I-20 or DS-2019 issuance purposes but is strongly encouraged for the visa application.
  • Note: Student loans are considered to be student personal funds. Proof of student loan funds (if applicable) should be included with the request.

    Family or Friend Funds:
  • Bank statement or bank letter dated within the last six months (see bank statement requirements below). An original is not required for I-20 or DS-2019 issuance purposes but is strongly encouraged for the visa application.
  • Sponser Letter of Support: All sponser names must be included on the I-20 or DS-2019 Request Form. Please fill the form out online, print, and mail to the Fried International Center.

    Hope College Funds:
  • Copy of the letter from Hope College detailing your financial aid award. If the award does not cover the total expense listed in the Financial & Program Information, you must show proof of funding that covers the remaining expenses.
  • Loans are considered a source of Personal Funds.

    Empolyer, Government or other types of funds:
  • Support letter detailing the financial support (see sponsor letter of support requirements below).

Required Documentation Details
    Bank Statement:
  • Must be dated within the last six months;
  • Name of account holder must be present;
  • Amount of money in the account must be listed;
  • Must be in English, or include a certified English translation;
  • Type of account (e.g. savings, checking, time deposit) must be included;
  • Type of currency must be included.

    Sponsor Letter of Support:
  • Must be an original;
  • Must be dated within the last six months;
  • Name of award recipient must be present;
  • Must state the period of time covered by the award;
  • Must indicate Hope College as the student's institution (if being funded by Hope College);
  • Must state the total amount of support for the given time period.

    Bank Letter:
  • Name of account holder must be present;
  • Amount of money in the account must be listed -OR- letter must state that the holder has enough money in the account to cover the estimated costs;
  • Must be in English, or include a certified English translation;
  • Type of account (e.g. savings, checking, time deposit) must be included;
  • Type of currency must be included.

Complete the I-20/ DS-2019 Request Form

All incoming international students must request an I-20 or DS-2019 through the Fried International Center. Please follow the steps listed below.

Required Documents

Proof of Admission

Only Admissions issue admitted students a letter either virtual (e-mailed) or a hardcopy. Please include an electronic copy of this letter with your I-20 Request or DS-2019 Request.

Upon submission, you will receive confirmation via email. After your request has been reviewed by an advisor, you will be sent a second email indicating if your I-20 or DS-2019 Request is complete and in process, or if the request is incomplete and needs to be resubmitted.
Please mail the documents to:

Fried International Center
257 Columbia Ave.
Holland, MI. 49423

OR you can Email them to: intladvisor@hope.edu

Incomplete applications will be sent back for correction. Processing of application will only begin when the application is COMPLETE.

Processing

Once a complete application has been submitted, it will take approximately 10 business days for the advisor to process the I-20 or DS-2019.

Please provide Admission office with an address where this document can safely reach you.

 
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