The U.S. Department of State (DOS) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have increased the level of review that international visitors face at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad, at airports, and at border crossing posts with Canada and Mexico. Ultimately, each individual must decide for him or herself whether or not to travel abroad.
ISSS recommends that you visit our office with your passport and immigration documents at least 2 weeks before the date you plan to travel. We will review your documents, provide you with up to date travel advice, and sign your travel document, if necessary.
If you choose to travel
- Always consult with the ISSS staff prior to travel (at least 2 weeks prior to your departure date).
- Always carry your passport and valid immigration documents for domestic or international travel; passports should be valid for at least six months into the future.
- Always meet with you supervisor or faculty advisor to discuss contingency plans in the event you are delayed due to administrative review or security clearance issues. Note: some administrative reviews may take up to 10 weeks for clearance.
- Always carry proof of UAB employment or appointment such as an updated appointment letter or an invitation letter, and/or recent UAB paycheck stubs.
- Be honest, patient, and courteous with all government officials even if they are not so with you.
- Be aware of “special” registration procedures for nationals of certain countries and for any nonimmigrant that has made unexplainable trips to these countries. Special registrants must use specific ports when leaving the United States. Be sure to arrive at the airport early enough to complete the procedure (several hours before your flight).
Please review the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website for more information.
When applying for your entry visa stamp, please consider the following:
- You should consult the DOS website for appointment scheduling and visa processing information for any U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Be aware that Consulates may require in-person interviews before issuing visas.
- Expect changes in visa processing at some U.S. Embassies and Consulates, including mail-in or “drop box” service for visa applications.
- You may experience delays at U.S. Embassies and Consulates due to special processing requirements that have been imposed on non-immigrant visa applicants (particularly for certain nationalities). This may lead to a delay from several weeks to several months in visa issuance.
- The cost of the machine-readable visa stamp is $131. You will be required to pay this fee along with the reciprocity fee for your country.
- As of September 1, 2004, new F-1 and J-1 visa applicants must pay a “SEVIS fee.” However, if you are applying for a visa extension, you are not required to pay this fee.
- All nonimmigrant visa applicants must complete and submit Form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application) and all applicants for student or exchange visitor visas (F, J) must also submit Form DS-158 (Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant). An additional security clearancemay be conducted following review of the forms that may take one to several months.
- All male nonimmigrant visa applicants between the ages of 16 to 45, regardless of nationality and regardless of where they apply, must submit Form DS-157 (Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application) in addition to Forms DS-160 and DS-158. Others may be asked to complete Form DS-157 as well. An additional security clearance may be conducted following review of the forms that may take one to several months.
- For scholars conducting research in certain technologically sensitive fields, on the Technology Alert List, DOS is required to conduct a security clearance prior to issuing an initial U.S. entry visa or extension of visa through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Clearance may take one to several months.
- If you believe there is a possibility that a security clearance will be conducted, we recommend that you submit a letter from your faculty sponsor with your visa application. When in doubt, we suggest that you submit the letter. We recommend that the letter include the following information:
- A brief description of your research, in language a non-scientist can understand
- If applicable, the fact that you are conducting basic or unclassified research
- The fact that you are expected to return to UAB to resume your research
Go to Employment Letter for U.S. Consulate to see a sample letter template.
Be prepared when you travel for the following possibilities:
- Delays in flights within the United States and returning to the U.S. from abroad due to heightened security measures at airports and delays along the Canadian border.
- You may have your fingerprints scanned and a digital photograph taken upon entering the United States as part of the Office of Biometric Identiry Management. You may also be required to comply with new “check out” procedures when leaving the United States.
- Inquiries and increased review of documents at all ports of entry for non-U.S. citizens.
- Multiple inspections by several immigration and/or customs officials.
- Possible photocopying of documents by immigration officials and possible videotaping of Immigration, Customs or FBI interviews.
- Inspection of personal belongings, luggage, pockets, or other searches.