Step 1: Find out if you need a visa to enter all countries you are traveling through
Your country of citizenship and legal permanent residence will determine if you need a visa to enter a specific country. Check with the embassy or consulate of each country you will travel through to see if you need a visa. A good resource for finding foreign embassies or consulates in the U.S. is embassy.org. Applying for visas is costly and time consuming, so plan ahead.
If your plane is landing in another country, you may need a visa for that country even if you do not intend to exit the plane.
Step 2: Contact the U.S. consulate in the "third" country to investigate procedures
Each consulate or embassy has different procedures and timelines for visa applications. Before you finalize your travel plans, consult the U.S. Department of State to make sure they accept third country visa applications, find the specific procedures, and see how long it will take to obtain a visa appointment.
Step 3: Obtain and carry all the documents you may need to be issued a visa
- A valid passport
- A valid I-20 or DS-2019 from the school you are attending/will attend upon reentry
- A valid signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 (review travel information for F-1 students and J-1 students)
- Expired visa (if available)
- Verification of enrollment letter from Student Central
- Letter of invitation from person or organization in the third country that helps expalin the reason you are traveling to that country, if necessary
- Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover all costs of tuition plus expenses (review financial documentation requirements)
While all of this documentation may not be strictly required, it is safest to bring as much as possible with you. You will also need to have the visa application fee, photos, and other standard visa application materials as specified by the consulate.