A student, who is not a US citizen or permanent resident (resident alien), will need a student visa in order to attend the University of Hawaii at Manoa. There are two types of student visas available for academic study at a US university:
- F-1 student visa - This student visa is the more commonly used student visa and is used by students whose academic expenses, in general, will be privately funded by either personal or family funds.
- J-1 exchange visitor student visa - Two categories:
- J-1 Student - a student admitted to study in a formal academic program and has signficant funding from a sponsoring organization, typically a government agency or international scholarship organization.
- J-1 Student Intern - a student enrolled in a formal program of study outside the US for which an internship at a US school would fulfill curricular requirements. The internship must be supervised, full time (minimum 32 hours per week), and can be up to 12 months in duration. The intern is not required to enroll in classes and funding can be from any source.
- F-1 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status - Students who have private/family funds should submit financial documentation for at least the first year of study to the appropriate admission office (Undergraduate Admissions or Graduate Admission Office) so that the I-20 form (Certificate of F-1 Eligibility) can be processed and mailed to students.
- J-1 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status - Government and/or organizationally-sponsored students who are admitted to a degree program or other formal course of study should submit evidence of full funding for the first year of study to the appropriate admission office. If a sponsoring organization does not provide full funding, some portion of the funds may be personal/private/family. Students enrolled in a university abroad who are invited by a UHM host department to be a J-1 Student Intern should provide documentation of funding for the full period of the internship. Both J-1 Students and J-1 Student Interns will receive a DS-2019 form.
The Undergraduate Admissions Office or the Graduate Admissions Office will forward the visa document (I-20 form for students seeking the F-1 student visa or DS-2019 form for students seeking the J-1 student visa) to the student, who has already been academically admitted. The student will take the I-20 form/DS-2019 form, along with financial documents and admission documents from UH Manoa, to the US Embassy to apply for the F-1 or J-1 student visa.
Students who have questions about their I-20 form should check with the appropriate admission office. ISS issues the DS-2019 for J-1 exchange visitor students and handles all visa documentation for non-degree students, who are enrolled in a foreign university and will be studying at UH Manoa for one year or less as “visiting students.”
Students currently in US on a non-student visa: Students who are already in the US and will not be departing the US prior to beginning study at UH Manoa should seek advisement from an ISS adviser to obtain information on changing to student status or eligibility to attend UH Manoa while on a non-student visa.
- TIES TO HOME COUNTRY - Under US law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular that they are not. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the Uniter States. "Ties" to your home country are the personal affiliations that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you are a prospective undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans, and career prospects in your home country. Each person's situation is different, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter, which can guarantee visa issuance.
- ENGLISH - Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview. If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country and how it will be more beneficial for you to study English in the US, rather than in your home country.
- SPEAK FOR YOURSELF - Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf.
- KNOW THE PROGRAM AND HOW IT FITS YOUR CAREER PLANS - If you are not able to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are indeed planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the United States relates to your future professional career when you return home.
- BE CONCISE - Because of the volume of the applications received, all consuls officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and effcient interview. They must make decisions, for the most part, on the impressions they form during the first minute or two of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to officer's questions short and to the point.
- SUPPLEMENTAL DOCUMENTATION - It should be clear at a glance to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time, if you're lucky.
- NOT ALL COUNTRIES ARE EQUAL - Applicant from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the United States as immigrants will have more difficulty getting non-immigrant visas. Statistically, applicants from those countries are more likely to be intending immigrants. They are also more likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the United States.
- EMPLOYMENT - Your main purpose for coming to United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their US education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the United States. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the United States. Volunteer work and attending school part-time for recreational or avocational purposes are permitted activities.
- DEPENDENTS REMAINING AT HOME - If your spouse and children will remain behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves during your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family members will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support them, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.
- MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE - Do not engage the consular officer in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and ask for the reason you were denied in writing.
During your study at UHM, you may want a family member to join or visit you. Please review the following information.
Spouse or Children Joining You:
F-1 and J-1 students may request F-2 or J-2 visa documents for their legal spouses and children under age 21. The F-1 or J-1 primary visa holder is legally responsible for providing adequate funding for these dependents. Children turning age 21 are not eligible for F-2 or J-2 status.
F-2 and J-2 visas allow spouse/children to stay with you indefinitely during your study period. Submit the completed form, Request for F-2 and J-2 Visas for Spouse and/or Children to the ISS. You will be contacted when the visa documents are ready to pick up and send to your family. Your spouse and/or children will use these documents to apply for the F-2 or J-2 visa at a US Consular office abroad. NOTE: Dependents do not pay a SEVIS fee.
Extended Family and/or Domestic Partner Visiting:
Extended family members, including parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. are not eligible for the F-2 or J-2 visa. Domestic partners are also ineligible because there is no recognized legal relationship under US law. These family members may come to the US/Hawaii as visitors.
If your visitor is from a “visa waiver country” that person may come without a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. The visa waiver process requires receiving authorization to travel under the “Electronic System for Travel Authorization” or ESTA. See https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ for further information. Note that ESTA travelers may NEVER extend their stay beyond 90 days and MAY NOT change their status in the US.
Your visitor who is NOT from a “visa waiver country” must obtain a B-1/B-2 visa from a US Consular office abroad. To facilitate your family member’s B-1/B-2 visa application, we recommend that you provide the following documentation:
Write a letter of invitation: Provide information on your student status. State the purpose of the visit, your relationship to the person visiting, and the length of time they will be visiting. A typical stay is no more than 3 months. If you are providing funding for their visit, include a bank statement or other evidence of your ability to help support your visitor. If the visitor has a job or business to which they plan to return, it is good to include this information as it will help lessen the presumption of immigrant intent. All applicants for non-immigrant visas may be subject to this presumption and may need to provide information on home country ties.
Click here for Template Invitation letter for family members.
Obtain a letter of verification of enrollment: Request this from the Registrar’s office, located on the Ground Floor of the QLC building. See http://manoa.hawaii.edu/records/verification.html
Attach evidence of financial stability: Provide evidence that you have an income (for example as a Graduate Assistant) or sufficient savings to cover the costs of your visitor(s) for the next few months. This is optional and may not be significant if your family members are able to prove their own funding.
Individual Responsibility for Visa Application, Documentary evidence, and Interview:
Providing your family members with the above information may improve their chance of being approved for a visa. However, there is no guarantee that a visa will be issued. Much will depend on an individual’s ability to assure the consular officer that the visit is temporary and there is no intention to stay permanently in the US. Note that the ISS does not issue invitation letters. ISS is not able to credibly certify any information about your family members and therefore, the US State Department has advised universities that such letters are not helpful or encouraged.