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1. Passport: Once you have submitted your admissions applications, it is never too early to check that your passport is valid and up-to-date. Your passport is essential to your travels, and you will need it every step of the way. If you need to get a new passport, doing this sooner rather than later will lessen the stress when you are applying to schools and will be one less thing to think about when applying for a visa. If you are a British citizen, visit the Directgov website for more information on applying for or renewing your passport.
Note: If needed, the British Embassy in Washington DC offers visa services for British nationals once in the States.
Note: In the case of British passport holders, the US government's requirement that passports be valid for six months before applying for a visa is waived. Please see this list of other countries in that list.
2. Get your Police Certificate (if needed): If you have been arrested (even if you haven't been charged), you must report this when applying for a visa. Make sure you obtain a certificate from the Association of Chief Police Officers. The earlier this step is taken, the less you will have to worry about during the visa application stage.
3. Familiarise yourself with the Visa Process: Check out our Pre-Departure page, as well as familiarise yourself with the US Embassy website to ensure you are more knowledgeable about the process when it is time to apply for your visa.
4. You can get your visa photographs taken in advance. It is recommended that you visit a professional service for this photograph, as you will need a hard copy to take to the Embassy and a digital copy to upload for your DS-160. The requirements are strict, so review them extremely carefully if you are planning on taking your own photographs. Remember, it has to be a formal photograph, so not one taken from Facebook, for instance.
5. Gather any admissions letters and letters of confirmation for financial aid from the university you will be attending. Make sure you print these out, and bring them to your interview.
6. You can actually begin the DS-160 online visa application up to 120 days before entering the US. However, you cannot complete this form without your SEVIS number, which can only be obtained with an I-20/DS-2019. However, you can still fill in your sections on education, background and other required personal information.
7. You can also book your visa interview appointment without the I-20/DS-2019, but must have these forms by the time you attend your appointment.
Note: This page is meant to be a general guide to the visa application process. Local US Embassies are the official source of information on visas, and any information provided to you by the US Embassy supersedes information on this webpage.
For more information on visas visit the US State Department website. They have sections on
F Visas and J Visas. You may also want to review the information provided by the US Embassy in London. Additionally, talk with your US university or visa sponsor for further information. If you are not a UK citizen, we encourage you to also read the US Embassy London's webpage on visas for non-residents.