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 U.S. However, sometimes you change your
plans once you have entered the U.S., 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-U.S. citizens to come to the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 students must apply for a J-1 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 please visit the Student & Exchange Visitor Information Program website
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.
Dependents are still considered "international students" at Winthrop, and
must check in with our office when arriving on campus.
The International Center is a great resource and will provide general
information on employment and obtaining a visa separate from a dependent status. Two important items to remember is that all dependent children must obtain their own visa status prior to their 21st birthday and some dependent status' do not allow for employment authorization.
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 visas. B-1 or B-2 tourists, or those from visa waiver countries
admitted under the visa waiver program may not legally study.
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. If an individual is currently in the U.S. under
a visa status that does not allow full-time or part-time study, this person will need to
change their visa status to enroll at Winthrop University. Please note: an individual must
be lawfully maintaining their current visa status in order to be eligible to request a change of visa status.
There are two ways to apply for a change of status to an F1 or J1 visa. An individual 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. An individual can apply to change their status while remaining in the U.S. However, if they hold a J-1 visa holder and are subject to the two year
home residence requirement, they must travel out of the U.S. to change their status
or get a waiver of the requirement.
All individuals are encouraged to contact the International Center to verify if a change
of visa status is needed to study at Winthrop University. If admitted and eligible to file a change of status application, the International Center will assist in this process.
Change to Lawful Permanent Residency
for Lawful Permanent Residency in the U.S., the applicant must be sponsored by an
by an employer or a family member who is
already a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. Additionally, the U.S.
Department of State annually sponsors a Diversity
Visa Program which allows foreign nationals to countries with low
immigration rates to the U.S. 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 an individual is an F-1 or J-1 student who has applied
for Lawful Permanent Residency status, they should make an appointment with Winthrop’s International Student Advisor to discuss how the immigrant application could affect their non-immigrant SEVIS
record, travel, and work benefits.
Once admitted to Winthrop University, the individual must contact the International Center to discuss their current visa status and the options available to them.