International students in the U.S. are thinking about one thing now: final exams. But those returning to their home countries after exams should make room for one more thought: a return visa.

If students’ visas expire when they are out of the country between semesters, they need to apply for new ones as soon as possible to be back on campus in time for the beginning of classes.

The good news is that the U.S. makes a priority of processing student visas. When the standard processing times won’t get students back in time, they can request an expedited interview, which will put them closer to the front of the line. If they’re applying for the same kind of visa to attend the same academic program they attended with their last visa, they may qualify for an interview waiver and not have to appear at their local embassy for the interview.

To find out who is eligible, how to apply and what documents to provide, applicants can check the visa section of the website for the embassy or consulate where they’ll apply — different rules apply in different countries.

Students who need a new visa to return to school should follow these steps:

  • Check to see if they qualify for an interview waiver.

  • If they don’t qualify for the waiver, check the wait times for the embassy or consulate where they’ll apply for a visa.

  • Add the wait time for the appointment to the wait time for processing.

  • Check their eligibility for an expedited visa interview if the total waiting time won’t allow them to return in time for the start of the new semester’s classes.

Learn More

Most visa questions can be answered by a visit to the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

You can also join an upcoming program from EducationUSA Interactive, Invest In Your Future, on December 11, which will have lots of additional information on the benefits of studying in the U.S.