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Visas

International Student Exchange Program:

Puerta al Gran Caribe

between the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao

and The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados

 

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Visa policy

What is a visa?

Student Visas: Student applicants (for F-1 & M-1) overview

When do I need to apply for my student visa?

When should I apply for a student visa?

What are SEVIS and SEVP?  What should you know about it?

What is the role of the Coordinator of the International Student Exchange Program Puerta al Gran Caribe between the UPRH and The University of the West Indies-Cave Hill Campus in the UPRH's Exchange Office?

What documents does a foreign student returning to Puerto Rico needs?

How long may I stay on my F-1 student visa?


Visa policy

Puerto Rico is a US territory. The US policy welcomes citizens from around the world who genuinely want to study in PR. The new visa procedures reflect concern for ensuring the safety of US residents and visitors alike, not a desire to make it more difficult for legitimate travelers to enter PR. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, some changes have been made in the federal laws governing visitor entry and exit to the US and PR. The law requires additional application forms and security clearances. Visa applications take longer to process. However, better interagency cooperation and automated procedures have speeded up the clearance process. The goal is to make the visa process not only thorough but also respectful and efficient.

For detailed information, visit:

http://www.unitedstatesvisas.gov/visapolicy/index.html

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What is a visa?

If you’re a citizen of a foreign country, in most cases you’ll need a visa to enter to PR. A visa doesn’t necessarily permit entry to PR. A visa simply indicates that your application has been reviewed by a U.S. consular officer at an American embassy or consulate, and that the officer has determined you’re eligible to enter the country for a specific purpose. Consular affairs are the responsibility of the U.S. Department of State.

A US visa allows you to travel to PR as far as the port of entry (airport) and ask the immigration officer to allow you to enter the Country. Only the immigration officer has the authority to permit you to enter to PR. He or she decides how long you can stay for any particular visit. Immigration matters are the responsibility of the US Department of Homeland Security.

There are two categories of US visas: immigrant and nonimmigrant. Immigrant visas are for people who intend to live permanently in PR. Nonimmigrant visas are for people with permanent residence outside the US but who wish to be in PR on a temporary basis – for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study.

For detailed information, visit:

http://www.unitedstatesvisas.gov/whatis/index.html

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Student visas:  Students applicants (for F-1 and M-1) overview

If you are going to PR primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study of less than 18 hours per week, you may be able to do so with a visitor visa. You should inquire at the appropriate US embassy or consulate. If your course of study is more than 18 hours a week, you will need a student visa. Please read this information for general information on how to apply for an F1 or M1 Student Visa. For additional student related information, visit the  EducationUSA Web site, created by the U.S. Department of State,  Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs,  to learn about educational opportunities for graduate study, opportunities for scholars, financial aid, testing, admissions, and much more.

In most countries, first time student visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview. However, each US embassy and consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas. Students should consult embassy Web sites or call for specific application instructions.

For detailed information, visit:  http://usembassy.state.gov/

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What is needed to apply for a student visa?

It is important to remember that applying early and providing the requested documents does not guarantee that the student will receive a visa. Also, because each student’s personal and academic situation is different; two students applying for same visa may be asked different questions and be required to submit different documents. For that reason, the guidelines that follow are general and can be abridged or expanded by consular officers overseas, depending on each student’s situation.

All applicants for a student visa must provide:

Form I-20A-B, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students or Form I-20M-N, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for Vocational Students. You will need to submit a SEVIS generated Form, I-20, which was provided to you by your school. You and your school official must sign the I-20 form. All students, as well as their spouses and dependents must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) , an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students and exchange visitors and their dependents (F/M-2 visa holders). Your school is responsible for entering your information for the I-20 student visa form into SEVIS. Students will also have to pay a SEVIS I-901 fee for each program of study. Questions regarding your exchange program should be directly to your program sponsor;

  • A completed application Form DS-156, together with a Form DS-158. Both forms must be completed and signed. Some applicants will also be required to complete and sign Form DS-157. A separate form is needed for children, even if they are included in a parent's passport. The DS-156 must be the February 2003 date, either the electronic "e-form application" or the non-electronic version. Select Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156 to access both versions of the DS-156. You may also check with the Embassy Consular Section where you will apply to determine if the hard-copy blank DS-156 form is available, should you need it.

  • A passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the United States or Puerto Rico.

  • One (1) 2x2 photograph.

  • A MRV fee receipt to show payment of the visa application fee, a visa issuance fee if applicable (Please, see the Visa Reciprocity Table) and a separate SEVIS I-901 fee receipt. While all F visa applicants must pay the MRV fee, including dependents, only the F-1 principal applicants must pay the SEVIS fee.

All applicants should be prepared to provide:

  • Transcripts from the home university.

  • An official approval for conducting studies in the host institution from the home institution.

  • Financial evidence that shows you or your parents who are sponsoring you have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses during the period of your intended study. For example, if you or your sponsor is a salaried employee, please bring income tax documents and original bank books and/or statements. If you or your sponsor own a business, please bring business registration, licenses, etc., and tax documents, as well as original bank books and/or statements.

Applicants with dependants must also provide:

  • Proof of the student’s relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (e.g., marriage and birth certificates).

  • It is preferred that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder’s passport and visa, along with all other required documents.

For detailed information, visit:

http://www.unitedstatesvisas.gov/obtainingvisa/index.html

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When do I need to apply for my student visa?

Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period. Students need to plan ahead to avoid having to make repeat visits to the embassy. To the extent possible, students should bring the documents suggested HERE, as well as any other documents that might help establish their ties to the local community.

Changes introduced shortly after September 11, 2001 involve extensive and ongoing review of visa issuing practices as they relate to our national security. It is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.

For detailed information, visit:  http://usembassy.state.gov/

The consular officer may need to get special clearances depending on the course of study and nationality of the student. This can take some additional time.

Students should note that US Embassies and Consulates are able to issue your student visa 90 days or less, in advance of the course of study registration date. If you apply for your visa more than 90 days prior to your start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa. Consular officials will use that extra time to accomplish any of the necessary special clearances or other processes that may be required.

Students are advised of the Department of Homeland Security regulation which requires that all initial or beginning students enter to PR 30 days or less in advance of the course of study start/report date as shown on the Form I-20 . Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to PR.

A student who wants to an earlier entry to P.R. (more than 30 days prior to the course start date), must qualify for, and obtain a visitor visa . A prospective student notation will be shown on his/her visitor visa and the traveler will need to make the intent to study clear to the U.S. immigration inspector at port of entry. Before beginning any studies, he or she must obtain a change of classification, filing Form I-506, Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status, and also submit the required Form I-20 to the Department of Homeland Security office where the application is made. Please be aware that there is an additional fee of $140 for this process, and that one may not begin studies until the change of classification is approved.

For detailed information, visit:

http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/embassies/embassies_1214.html

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What are SEVIS and SEVP?  What should you know about it?

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is designed to help the US Department of Homeland Security and Department of State better monitor school and exchange programs and F, M and J category visitors. Exchange visitor and student information is maintained in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). SEVIS is an Internet-based system that maintains accurate and current information on non-immigrant students (F and M Visa), exchange visitors (J Visa), and their dependents (F-2, M-2, and J-2). SEVIS enables schools and program sponsors to transmit mandatory information and event notifications via the Internet, to the US Department of Homeland Security and US Department of State (DOS) throughout a student or exchange visitor's stay in the United States.

All student applicants must have a SEVIS generated I-20 issued by an educational institution approved by DHS, which they submit when they are applying for their student visa. The consular officer will need to verify your I-20 record electronically through the SEVIS system in order to process your student visa application. Unless otherwise exempt, participants whose SEVIS I-20 was issued on or after September 1, 2004 must pay a SEVIS I-901 Fee to the US Department of Homeland Security for each individual program. The fee may be paid either through a special website, via Western Union, or by mail.

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What is the role of the UPRH's Exchange Office and of the Coordinator of the Student International Exchange Program Puerta al Gran Caribe between UPRH and UWI-Cave Hill Campus, Barbados?

Once the UPRH's BA Programs that promote the International Exchange Program: "Gateway to the Greater Caribbean" recommend the admission, the UPRH's Exchange Office or the Coordinator will contact you.  In order to issue the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F1) Student Status, they will request you the following:

  • Submit, as soon as possible, evidence of adequate financial resources to meet expenses while you study in Puerto Rico in order to be issued Form 1-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F1) Student. A minimum of one (1) semester's expenses must be provided. Living expenses are estimated in $2,600.00 per semester.

  • Submit an Affidavit of Support together with the sponsor’s supporting evidence of income and resources. If you do not have a sponsor, please submit your personal supporting evidence of income and resources.

  • Visit the US Embassy in order to request your student visa, once you receive the I-20 together with the Certificate of admission and original documents of financial resources. You will also have to present these documents to the immigration officers in the port of entry.

Beginning September 1, 2004, a new U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) rule goes into effect that requires new F-1 Visa applicants pay a one-time fee of $100 to supplement the federal administration and maintenance costs of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The fee can be paid to the DHS by mail or online and must be accompanied by Form I-901. You can download Form I-901 at

www.FMJfee.com o www.ice.gov/graphics/sevis/i901/index.htm.

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What documents does a foreign student returning to Puerto Rico needs?

All applicants applying for renewals must submit:

  • A passport valid for at least six months.

  • An application Form DS-156, together with a Form DS-158. Both forms must be completed and signed. Some applicants will also be required to complete and sign Form DS-157. Blank forms are available without charge at all U.S. consular offices and on the Visa Services Web site under Visa Applications Forms.

  • A receipt for visa processing fee. A receipt showing payment of the visa application fee for each applicant, including each child listed in a parent’s passport who is also applying for a visa.

  • A new I-20 or an I-20 that has been endorsed on the back by a school official within the past 12 months.

All applicants applying for renewals should be prepared to submit:

  • A certified copy of your grades from the university in which you were enrolled.

  • Financial documents from you or your sponsor, showing your ability to cover the cost of your tuition.

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How long may I stay on my F-1 Student Visa?

When you enter to PR on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even if the F-1 Visa in your passport expires while you are in America. A student who has completed the course of studies shown on the I-20, and any authorized practical training, is allowed the following additional time in the US before departure:

  • F-1 student - An additional 60 days, to prepare for departure from PR or to transfer to another school.

  • M-1 student - An additional 30 days to depart PR (Fixed time period, in total not to exceed one year). The 30 days to prepare for departure is permitted as long as the student maintained a full course of study and maintained status. An M student may receive extensions up to three years for the total program.

  • As an example regarding duration of status, if you have a visa that is valid for five years that will expire on January 1, 2001, and you are admitted into PR for the duration of your studies (often abbreviated in your passport or on your I-94 card as "D/S"), you may stay in the US or PR as long as you are a full time student. Even if January 1, 2001 passes and your visa expires while in PR, you will still be in legal student status. However, if you depart PR with an expired visa, you will need to obtain a new one before being able to return to resume your studies. A student visa cannot be renewed or re-issued in the United States or PR; it must be done at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad.

For detailed information, visit:

http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html#public.

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