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Student Visas

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 visas include:
  • 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.

Please Note:

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:

  1. 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 classification.


  2. 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

To apply 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.

The International 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. 

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