Getting ready to study in the US

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

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Today's column is the second in a two-part series of frequently asked questions to help you get ready for studying in the United States.

QHow early may I arrive in the United States before I begin my studies? Am I allowed to travel on my B1/B2 visa if I will be studying on an F-1 visa?

A: When you come to the United States on your F-1 student visa for the first time, you may not arrive earlier than 30 days before you begin your studies. So if you want to arrive in the United States earlier than that (for vacation or shopping or visiting relatives) you will have to apply and qualify for a separate visitor visa (B1/B2) in addition to your student visa. Please note that you may not begin attending school while travelling on your B1/B2 visitor visa.

If you do enter the United States on a B1/B2 visitor visa with plans to begin or continue studies, you will need a valid F-1 student visa and you either have to leave the United States and re-enter on your F-1 student visa or you will have to contact the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ( to apply for a change of status from within the United States. You may not begin your studies until the change of status is approved. You should be aware of the possibility of lengthy processing times.

Q. I have completed my programme of study. Do I have to return to Jamaica before starting a different university programme in the United States?

A: As long as you remain a full-time student, your F-1 student visa will be valid at your new school. If you remain in the United States, you may go directly to the new school and begin your new program. Be sure to get a new form I-20 from your new programme. If you decide instead to return to Jamaica before beginning your new programme, for example for the summer holiday, you will need to apply for a new F-1 student visa at the US Embassy before going back to the United States.

Q. I would like to take a trip outside the United States while I am on school break, and I have relatives in Canada I'd like to visit. Can I use my student visa to travel to Canada?

A: You are certainly welcome to come and go as you please while you are on school holidays. Be sure to get a new, signed copy of your I-20 form every time you leave the country so that you can present it at the border when you return to the United States to continue your studies.

Your F-1 student visa is only valid for travel to the United States. If you wish to travel to Canada, you will need to apply for a separate Canadian visa. Consult the following website for more details on obtaining a Canadian visa:

Q. I know I need to demonstrate my financial plan for school in order to qualify for an F-1 student visa. Can my American fiancé(e) be my financial sponsor?

A: One key element when applying for an F-1 student visa is that you have sufficient funds to cover your school and living expenses while you are studying in the United States. In addition to any scholarships you might receive, friends and family, both in Jamaica and abroad, can be your financial sponsors. Please remember, however, that an F-1 student visa is still a nonimmigrant visa. To qualify for such a visa, you must show that that you have a permanent residence outside of the United States that you intend to return to upon completion of your studies.

You can find more information about how to travel to the US on our website, Keep on top of embassy news on our Facebook page, pages/US-Embassy-Jamaica and by following @USEmbassyJA on Twitter. We also answer general visa questions on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

The embassy staff in Kingston will answer questions you may have regarding the US Mission, including consular law, regulations and/or practice. In order to respect privacy, staff will not answer questions about specific visa applications. The embassy employs a visa appointment system, so it is only necessary for visa applicants to arrive 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment. Send your questions to: and we will forward them to the embassy.

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