Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the
United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for
temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. You must have a
student visa to study in the United States. However, sometimes you change your
plans once you have entered the US, as plans
change you may need to change your visa status to accommodate your situation.
Student Visas allowed by the Student
and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP):
Many U.S. visa types allow those
visa holders to study. There are only a few visas, however, that are
specifically intended for non-US citizens to come to the US to study. These
- F-1 - for full-time, degree seeking students;
- J-1 - for full-time degree or non-degree students;
- M-1 - for vocational school students (not available at Winthrop).
These student visas are managed by
the US government through an online database called the Student and Exchange
Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Both F-1 and J-1 students have
immigration records created by the International Student Advisor in
SEVIS. The International Center staff helps international students by
keeping the SEVIS record accurate and updated with regard to personal
information and academic information.
An international student admitted to
a Winthrop degree program can apply for an F-1 student visa. Exchange
non-degree students must apply for a J-1 non-degree category visa.
International students will be issued either an I-20 form (for F-1 visa
applicants) or a DS-2019 form (for J-1 visa applicants) by Winthrop
University, depending on the type of academic program they are admitted to at Winthrop.
While there are differences in the F-1 and J-1 student immigration regulations,
there are many similarities as well.
For more information on SEVIS:
Non-SEVIS Visas that Allow
Internationals to Study in the US:
An international students
can also hold a different visa status, such as an H-4, A-1, J-2, etc.
This usually happens when the international student is already in the US as a
dependent of a parent or spouse who holds a work or exchange visa.
You are still considered an "international student" at Winthrop, and
must check in with our office when you arrive on campus.
We can also offer general
information on what study and employment options you may have, and when it
might be best to switch to an actual student visa. An example might be - if you
are going to turn 21 years of age - and you can no longer be eligible for your
dependent visa status. Another example might be - if you need to do an
internship, and your dependent status does not allow employment.
We encourage you to contact us if you have any questions!
Non-SEVIS Visas that DO NOT Allow
Study in the US:
There are two visa types that
specifically prohibit study at the post-secondary (College or University)
level in the US:
- F-2 dependent status: F-2 children may legally attend
elementary and secondary school. They may not attend post-secondary
schools. F-2 spouses may not attend school.
- B-1 or B-2 Visitors: These are tourist visa
statuses. B-1 or B-2 tourists, or those from visa waiver countries
admitted under the visa waiver program may not legally study.
If you are currently in the US under
a visa status that does not allow full-time or part-time study, you will need to
change your visa status to enroll at Winthrop University. It is common for students to learn that they need
to be on an F-1 or J-1 visa in order to be a full-time student. It is very important to note that you must
be lawfully maintaining your current visa status in order to be eligible for a
change of visa status.
There are two ways to apply for a change of status to an F1 or J1 visa. You may either:
- Travel out of the U.S., apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate
for a new type of visa, and then re-enter the U.S. using the new visa
- Submit a Change of Status application to USCIS while
remaining in the US. You can apply while remaining in the US unless you
are a J-1 visa holder who is subject to the two year
home residence requirement. If you are subject to this two-year
home residency rule, you must travel out of the U.S. to change your status
or get a waiver of the requirement.
Contact the International Center to verify if a change
of visa status is needed to study at Winthrop University. If you are admitted to Winthrop and eligible to file a change of status application, the International Center will assist you in this process.
Change to Lawful Permanent Residency
for Lawful Permanent Residency in the US, the applicant must be sponsored by an
by an employer or a family member who is
already a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. Additionally, the US
Department of State annually sponsors a Diversity
Visa Program which allows foreign nationals to countries with low
immigration rates to the US to apply for Lawful Permanent Residency status.
Center is not able to assist students in filing Lawful Permanent Residency
applications. Consult the USCIS website
for information about eligibility criteria and how to make an
application. The International Center recommends that the sponsor of the
application consult an immigration attorney for assistance on preparing lawful
permanent residency applications.
If you are an F-1 or J-1 student who has applied
for Lawful Permanent Residency status, please make an appointment with Winthrop’s International Student Advisor to discuss how the application affects your SEVIS
record, travel, and work benefits.
Once admitted to Winthrop University, you must contact the International Center to discuss your current visa status and the options available to you.