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Visa Applications and Intial Entry

Applying for a Visa

You can apply for a visa after you have received the appropriate documents from our offices.  NOTE:  Not all visits require a visa (see below).  Students will either receive an I-20 or a DS-2019 from Caltech.  Scholars may receive a DS-2019, an I-797A approval notice, or another appropriate document.

The first step is scheduling an appointment at your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  Each consular post has a different process for scheduling an appointment.  Follow the instructions on the consulate's website, review the list of documents to bring to the interview, and pay attention to the timeline for visa appointments and issuance

If you are applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa, you will need to pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee before you go to the visa appointment.  There is additional information about the F-1 visa application process and the J-1 visa application process for students on our website.

Note:  An arrest or criminal record may impact your visa eligibility.  Contact the International Offices for a referral to an immigration attorney.

Travel to the United States Without a Visa

International travelers who seek to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) as business visitors must apply for authorization and pay the relevant fee through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization Web Site (ESTA) prior to travel to the United States. Please confirm with the International Offices that this is an appropriate status for your intended visit to Caltech.

Canadian citizens are exempt from the general requirement to have a U.S. visa.  Citizens of Bermuda are also visa exempt under certain circumstances.

Time Limits on Initial Entry to the United States

Once your visa is placed in your passport, you are ready to enter the United States.  The following classifications have special considerations:

F-1 students may enter the United States up to 30 days before the I-20 program start date. 
J-1 exchange visitors may enter the United States up to 30 days before or after the DS-2019 program start date.
H-1B scholars may enter the United States up to 10 days before the start date on the H-1B petition.  However, H-1B scholars may only commence employment on the start date of the petition.
Dependents may not enter the United States before the principal student or scholar.

NOTE:  Please advise the International Offices of any changes to your original intended arrival date.