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Visa and Immigration Information for Exchange Students

Visa Application Process

Step 1:  After you have been nominated by your home campus, complete all fields of the online application. SUNY Geneseo will issue you an admission letter and a “Certificate of Eligibility” (DS-2019).  Read the information on the DS-2019 carefully. 

Step 2:  You must pay a one-time SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee before you can have your visa interview.  To learn how to pay the SEVIS fee, go to:

Step 3:  After you have received your DS-2019 and paid your SEVIS fee, you can apply for a J-1 student visa with a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your country of residence. Appointments for an interview are now required for all student visa applications.  This process can take time and may require the completion of additional forms and the payment of other fees.  You should plan to apply for your visa well in advance of the date you wish to depart your country.

Step 4: Visa Interview

Step 5:  Once granted, your visa will be placed in your passport, and the DS-2019 Form and supporting documents will be placed in a sealed envelope for you to present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at your port of entry when you arrive in the United States.

Step 6: Purchase a round-trip flight to Rochester, New York (airport code "ROC").  This is the airport most easily accessible to Geneseo.

Step 7: Continue exploring course possibilities on KnightWeb for the term you will study at Geneseo.

Step 8: Pack. Be sure that your passport and your sealed envelope containing your DS-2019 and supporting documents are in your carry-on luggage and not in your suitcase!

Online Application Forms

Visa Interview Details

You will be interviewed in English by a Consulate Officer regarding your educational plans and intention to return to your home country. Be sure that you have prepared precise and concise replies. As an applicant for a J-1 visa, your purpose for coming to the United States is to study for a semester or year and then to return to your home country to complete your education. The Consulate Officer will ask you for evidence of your enduring ties to your home country, such as your family’s employment or owning property.

At the time of your visa interview, you will need to present the following documents:

  • Receipt showing your SEVIS fee payment, if you are required to pay a fee (see above).
  • U.S. Department of State Visa Application Form (Online) (Form DS-160).
  • Visa Fee Receipt (if required)
  • Original DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility issued by SUNY Geneseo
  • Letter of Admission from SUNY Geneseo (the original letter, not a copy).
  • Passport, valid at least six months after the completion of your Geneseo program.
  • Other documents supporting your intention to return home, if available.
  • Other documents and forms as required by the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in the country you are applying.
  • Photos
  • Note: This list is not exhaustive. The Consulate Officer may require further documentation.

Plane Ticket Details

  • Do not buy a plane ticket until after your visa request is approved.
  • As an international exchange student on a J-1 visa you cannot enter the United States earlier than thirty (30) days before the starting date on your DS-2019.
  • For specific arrival and departure dates, please go to the Term Dates page.
  • Forward your full flight itinerary to Geneseo’s Office of International Programs (, subject line: Flight Itinerary).

Maintaining Legal Status

Visa Denial

Common reasons for a visa denial are insufficient evidence of enduring ties to the home country OR insufficient evidence of financial resources.

If you are denied a visa, please inform the Study Abroad Office at SUNY Geneseo (, including the reason the visa officer gave you for the denial.

If you have scheduled another visa interview and would like our office to write a letter to the Consulate on your behalf, please email and provide the following:

  • Date of your scheduled visa interview
  • Your home address (we will send the letter to you)
  • Name of the head of the Nonimmigrant Visa section of the Consulate
  • Address of the Consulate where your interview will be held

NOTE: The letter will need to remain sealed.