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Immigration and Visa Information

Students and Scholars presently outside the U.S. will need to take their I-20 or DS-2019 and passport to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest to your current residence to apply either an F-1 or J-1 visa. This is a stamp (or sticker) placed in your passport by a consular officer, which permits your entry to the U.S.  For more visa information please visit.

All family member(s) who will accompany you will also need to go with you to the Consulate with their I-20 or DS-2019 and passport to apply for a F-2 or J-2 visa.

You will also need to take proof of your financial support for the entire time you and your dependents will be in the U.S., as well as evidence that you are maintaining a residence outside the U.S. to which you intend to return once you complete your program.

Canadian citizens do not need a J-1 visa stamp to enter the U.S.; the I-20 or DS-2019 form and passport should be presented to Immigration at the Port of Entry.



All travelers are required to be inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prior to admission to the United States. There are two inspection levels: primary and secondary.

Secondary inspection allows Port of Entry officers access to a full review of your SEVIS record.  Secondary inspection may add a couple of hours to the process. It is important to keep this in mind when making arrangements for connecting flights and airport pickups.

Travelers can prepare themselves by allowing extra time and ensuring they have all required documents in order.  F and J visa holders should have their passport, valid visas, and I-20’s or DS-2019’s with a travel signature from the last 6 months.  Students may also wish to carry proof of good academic status, such as transcripts.  Anyone who has had a SEVIS record terminated in the past should consult with ISSS regarding recommended documentation.

A description of secondary inspection can be found at: http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/what-is-secondary-inspection.  DHS recommends that you have the phone number for ISSS with you.  During non-business hours, officials can call the Vanderbilt University Operator, who will contact ISSS staff.   The ISSS number is 615-322-2753 and business hours are Monday – Friday 8am – 5pm.  The VU Operator number is 615-322-7311.