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A visa is an entry permit that allows you to enter the U.S. You will receive a U.S. visa valid for 1-5 years. Your visa is allowed to expire provided that your immigration document (i.e. I-20/DS2019) is valid. You will need to consult your country's local U.S. Embassy for more information on how to apply for a U.S. F-1/J-1 visa once you are admitted and after receiving your I-20 or DS2019. Visa application times vary from country to country. Please consult your local embassy ahead of time for your visa application. If you are in the process of obtaining your F-1 or J-1 visa, the following websites may be of help to you as you prepare for your visit to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate:

U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Visa Wait Times