Visa Requirements

Please also see the Instructions and Legal Requirements for Intentional Students here: http://geo.unm.edu/students/coming_unm/undergraduate_degree/legal_requirements.html

1.      Visa Requirements

If you are currently outside the U.S., you should use the DS-2019 form to apply for a J-1 student visa at the United States Embassy or Consulate nearest your place of residence only after you are sure you will attend UNM.  If you have already applied for a visa using another school’s form, and you want to attend UNM, you will need to return to the consulate and apply for a new visa that has UNM listed as the school you will attend. Canadian citizens do not require a visa, but must present this form when entering the US from Canada and must pay the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) fee before arriving (see below).  Non-citizen residents of Canada should check with the US Consulate to find out whether or not they need a visa.  For information on the U.S. Embassy or Consulate(s) nearest you, please see: http://www.usembassy.gov/.

2.      Required SEVIS Fee

All students must pay a mandatory SEVIS fee.  This is a U.S. Government fee, not a university fee, and is in addition to any visa fee. Because the payment of the fee will be recorded in the SEVIS system and it MUST be fully processed before you arrive at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for the visa interview, you must pay it at least 3 business days prior to the visa interview, and you must bring proof of payment to the interview.  Canadian citizens must present proof of payment of the fee when arriving at the port of entry to the U.S. (they do NOT need a visa). For more detailed information on the fee payment process, please go to the SEVIS website at: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901.  You can pay the SEVIS fee in one of three ways:

a)    Online at www.FMJfee.com  Use a credit card and complete the online Form I-901. Once you have submitted the payment, please print the computer-generated receipt. This receipt will be your proof of payment. Please note that SEVP is unable to accept credit card payments on behalf of students from Ghana, Gambia, Nigeria, Cameroon or Kenya.

b)    Through Western Union Quick Pay.  This option is available in any country where Western Union offers its Quick Pay service. This service allows you to pay the SEVIS fee electronically and directly to the Department of Homeland Security in local currency.  You must fill out the I-901 form on https://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/i901.pdf before you go to Western Union and record or print the unique coupon number to submit your payment (if someone will pay for you they will also need to enter your coupon number in the Account Number field of the Western Union form to pay). To read the detailed instructions for this form of payment, please go to https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/wu-instructions.

c)    Through the mail by submitting a completed Form I-901 and a check or money order drawn from a U.S. bank. The mailing address and instructions can be found at: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/faq#_Toc81222043. The payment confirmation you can print from the FMJ fee website will serve as proof of payment for the I-901 SEVIS fee.


3.      When to Apply for the Visa and What to Bring to the Consulate

You cannot apply for the visa more than 120 days prior to the date your U.S. program begins (check your DS-2019 for the program start date).  Documents you will need to bring with you to the U.S. Consulate and to the U.S.:

  • Passport
  • Proof of payment of the SEVIS fee
  • DS-2019 form
  • UNM acceptance letter
  • Proof of finances for your studies
  • Any evidence that you intend to return home when you complete your studies (e.g., proof of property, a job or family in your home country)

​Please contact the U.S. Consulate before you go to find out how to make an appointment, what the fees are, what additional documents you should bring to the interview, and how long it generally takes to process the visa. A list of U.S. Embassy/Consulate website can be found at www.usembassy.gov. Due to recent changes to visa and immigration policy, we expect visa interview and processing times to be longer than in previous years for all students, no matter what country you come from. Be smart and get your visa appointment as early as possible within the 120-day window!

4.      The Visa Interview

If you will have an interview at a U.S. Consulate, GEO recommends the following:

  • Be ready to articulate in English briefly and clearly your reason for study in the US and your plan to use your education in your home country after program completion.
  • Know how your academic degree will fit into your home country job market.
  • Be prepared with the above information, but do not memorize a “speech” which sounds rehearsed.
  • Remain calm.
  • Ask the consular officer if s/he will review any documents you brought (even if s/he doesn't ask for them.)
  • In case of a denial, ask that the reason be given to you in writing before you leave the consulate.  Only in this way, can you address the U.S. Consulate’s concern if and when you return for a second interview. Reasons for a visa denial are found at:https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/visa-denials.html
  • You may be subject to a security check that will delay the visa application process. Therefore, we highly recommend that you apply for the visa as soon as you receive this form (but not sooner than 120 days before your program begins).
  • Once your visa is issued, you should verify that all information is correct and does not contain any typographical errors in your name, date of birth, or other biographical information. It is extremely important that your name and biographical information on the visa MATCH your passport and DS-2019.  Make sure you have the correct type of visa, J-1 (NOT F1). It is extremely difficult to correct these errors once you have left the consulate and nearly impossible once you have entered the US, so you want to get these errors corrected BEFORE you leave your home country.
  • Finally, once you are issued a visa, the consular officer may seal your DS-2019 in an envelope and attach it to your passport. You should not open this envelope!  The Customs and Border Protection Officer at the U.S. port–of-entry will open the envelope.  DO NOT PACK THE ENVELOPE IN YOUR LUGGAGE!

5.      How Soon Can I Legally Arrive in the U.S.?

New students CANNOT arrive more than 30 days prior to the reporting date listed on the DS-2019 form.  Be sure that you do not arrive earlier than that date or you may be sent back to your home country.

6.      What You Need to Enter the U.S. 

You should bring the following with you to enter the U.S. (do not pack these documents in your luggage!):

  • Passport with entry visa
  • DS-2019 form (in many cases this will be in an envelope that the U.S. Consulate has given you)
  • Proof of finances to support your stay in the U.S.
  • Money to cover initial costs (approximately $5,000 in accessible funds via an ATM, debit, or credit card; for your protection, DO NOT bring more than $1000 in cash.)

According to U.S. law, you must enter the U.S. using the DS-2019 from the institution you plan to attend first.  If you enter the United States with a form from a university other than the University of New Mexico, you will be required to report to and possibly attend that university before you will be eligible to transfer to UNM. Upon your arrival in the U.S., the official should review the form and return it to you.

At the U.S. port of entry, an official should stamp your passport and indicate the correct immigration status (J1) on the stamp. DO NOT ENTER THE U.S. on a B visitor’s visa or WB/WT visa waiver or you will be ineligible to study!!! Once you are able, you will need to print out the record of entry (form I-94) at cbp.gov/I94 and bring a copy to the GEO check-in. I-94 is an important document that records your current U.S. immigration status.

Please do not forget to read the Pre-Arrival Information from HERE.

7.      Special Information for Canadian Citizens and US Citizens

Citizens of Canada do not require entry visas, but must present the DS-2019 form, financial proof, and proof of payment of the SEVIS fee when entering the U.S. from Canada. Passports are required for all Canadian citizens entering the U.S. in student status.  Students who are receiving assistantships or plan to work on campus must have a valid passport.  Canadian students crossing at a land port need to be sure that their DS-2019 is reviewed by the immigration official AND need to carefully check that the stamp in the passport accurately indicates their J-1 status.

For U.S. Citizens, please contact Global Education Office at exchange@unm.edu if you obtain U.S. Passport.