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Visa and Immigration Information

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

As an F-1 visa holder, the US federal government must be informed of the educational institution you are attending in the US. If you have been studying at another US educational institution and now plan to attend Hope College, your SEVIS record must be transferred.

After you have been admitted to Hope College and have made your decision to attend Hope College, you must begin the process of transferring your SEVIS record by completing the student portion of the "Transfer in Verification" Form. Next you will submit this form to the International Office at your current education institution. A Designated School Official at your current school must complete part II of the form and submit it to the Office of International Education at Hope College. The Office of International Education will be able to produce your Hope College SEVIS I-20 after the release date noted in SEVIS by your current school. You must begin your studies within five months of completing your studies at your current institution or within five months of the expiry date of your EAD card if participating in Optional Practical Training (OPT). Your current institution must release your SEVIS record to Hope College no later than 60 days from the completion of your studies or expiry of your EAD card.

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)