Two US federal government agencies are involved in the international travel process. The Department of State issues visas at consulates, while Customs and Border Protection (CBP, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security) grants admission at US ports of entry.

Your visa is not your immigration status. A visa is simply a “ticket” to apply for admission to the US. If the visa in your current passport has expired, or if you have changed immigration status within the US since obtaining your last visa (e.g., F-1 to H-1B, J-1 to H-1B, etc.), you must apply for a new visa at a US consulate abroad if you travel outside the US and plan to re-enter the US.

If you need to apply for a new visa while abroad, we STRONGLY advise that you travel to your country of citizenship. If you intend to apply for a visa in a country other than your country of citizenship (known as "third country processing"), please be aware that there is no guarantee that a visa will be issued, nor is there a guarantee of processing time. If your application is refused, your application fee will not be refunded. Some US embassies and consulates do not process third-country requests. Check before you go!

Before Leaving the US

  • Notify your department administrator and ISSS at at least two weeks before you leave the US.
  • Review the visa appointment wait times at various consulates.
  • Make a visa appointment. Use the DOS website for appointment scheduling and visa processing information for the US embassy or consulate where you plan to apply for your visa.
  • Visit the Department of State’s website to learn about visa fees. You will be required to pay this fee along with the reciprocity fee for your country.
  • Complete and submit Form DS-160.
  • Make sure to review the consulate’s website thoroughly and bring any necessary original documents (like degrees), photographs, and/or money orders for visa fees.

What to Take With You for Your Visa Appointment

  • Students
  • Scholars
  • Employees

  • Form I-20 signed by ISSS for travel within the last year
  • A printout of your current transcript from BlazerNET
  • Letter of Good Standing from ISSS
  • If a PhD student, a letter from your department describing your research and stating that it is unclassified.

If you are an F-1 student on OPT or STEM OPT, also bring:
  • Your EAD card
  • A letter from your current employer verifying that you are working pursuant to OPT

  • Form DS-2019 signed by ISSS for travel within the last year
  • Financial documents showing support for the remaining time on your DS-2019 (if you are self-funded or funded by your home government/institution)
  • Your three most recent pay statements printed from your Oracle Self-Service page (if you are paid by UAB)
  • Current CV
  • Chart of your past and current research projects at UAB
  • Employment letter for visa application

  • Copy of your LCA (which you should have received and signed for when you completed your I-9)
  • Your original Form I-797, H-1B approval notice
  • Your three most recent UAB pay statements printed from your Oracle Self-Service page (if concurrently employed with HSF, please also bring your three most recent HSF pay statements)
  • Current CV
  • Chart of your past and current research projects at UAB
  • Employment letter for visa application

If you need your Form I-20 or DS-2019 signed, please notify ISSS by booking an appointment so that we can serve you efficiently.

Everyone who applies for a visa undergoes screening before the visa is issued, regardless of nationality. A consular officer will conduct an initial review of the application and interview the applicant about the planned activity in the US. Please provide clear and concise information about the field of study, teaching, research, or other activity at UAB.

Issues that may cause problems or delays in the visa application process:
  • Inconsistent spelling of name on documents (passport, visa application, supporting documentation).
  • Failure to read and follow the tips and guidance on the consulate’s website.
  • The consular officer cannot understand your purpose for being at UAB and therefore cannot assess the risk/benefit of granting the visa.
  • The applicant is from a country considered to pose a risk, or is working in a sensitive research field listed on the Technology Alert List (“TAL”).
  • Someone else has the same or similar names as you. The consulate must rule out any incidents and resolve any “hits” the Consular Lookout (CLASS) system reveals on the name(s).
Check the status of your visa application.

What to Expect at a US Airport or Border Crossing

International travel is dehumanizing for everyone, but it can be especially frustrating and intimidation for non-US citizens. Please be honest, patient, and courteous with all US government officials, even if they are not so with you. You may experience:
  • Delays in domestic and international flights due to heightened security measures.
  • Fingerprinting and/or digital photography taken upon entering the US.
  • Inquiries and increased review of documents.
  • Multiple inspections by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and/or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials.
  • Photocopying of documents by immigration officials and possible videotaping of interviews with CBP and/or ICE officers.
  • Inspection of personal belongings, luggage, pockets, or other items. CBP issued a new directive on the Border Search of Electronic Devices in January 2018. Please be aware that your phone, laptop, tablet, etc. may be seized and examined upon re-entry to the US.