Student Visa and Immigration

The International Center at Winthrop University wants to provide the best information on applying for and receiving your student visa. This page has a lot of information but it is important information so please read as it will help you be prepared for your journey to the United States as an international student.

There are five sections below -

If at any time you have a question about the information provided below do not hesitate to contact the International Center.

Types of Student Visas

F1 Non-Immigrant Student Visa

F1 visas are for students who are coming to the U.S. to study and earn a degree. Once admitted, international students are required to show proof of funding for one year. After providing this proof of funding, you will receive Form I-20 that is required when applying the U.S. Embassy for your F-1 non-immigrant student visa. 


J1 Non-Immigrant Exchange Student Visa

J1 visas are for students who are coming to the U.S. to study as an exchange student or to earn a degree. J1 students come to Winthrop as part of an exchange agreement. Once admitted, J1 students are required to show proof of funding for one semester or one year, depending on the length of their exchange program. After providing this proof of funding, you will receive Form DS-2019 that is required when applying the U.S. Embassy for your J1 non-immigrant student visa.

The information below references the F-1 student visa but some students come to study at Winthrop University on the J-1 exchange visitors visa. The J-1 exchange visa application process is the same as the F-1 visa application process except the DS-2019 is the form you must receive from Winthrop University instead of an I-20 and the J-1 SEVIS I-901 fee is $220 whereas the F-1 SEVIS I-901 fee is $350. Other than these two items, the visa application process is the same.

 Please note the following: 

  • Student visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview at the U.S. Embassy closest to their permanent residence. Students should consult with the U.S. Embassy at which they plan to apply for specific visa requirements prior to their appointment. For a full list of U.S. Embassies please click here.
  • Students should know that U.S. Embassies are unable to issue your student visa more than 120 days in advance of program start date listed on the Form I-20 (F-1) or on the DS-2019 (J-1). If you apply for your visa more than 120 days prior to your start date or registration date as provided on the Form I-20, the US Embassy will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa. Embassy officials will use that extra time to accomplish any of the necessary special clearances or other processes that may be required.
  • All initial or beginning students are not permitted to enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the program start date listed on the Form I-20 or on their DS-2019. Please keep this in mind when arranging travel to the USA.  


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Statement of Financial Responsibility and Affidavit of Support

The Form I-20 is a form issued by a college/university to an admitted student that allows them to apply for the F1 student visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. To receive the Form I-20, students are required to show access to funding for their first year of study in the U.S. At Winthrop, we require a completed Statement of Financial Responsibility and Affidavit of Support along with original bank statements or original bank letters showing access to the funds required by the University. Please note: proof of funding is not an admission requirement but is a requirement of the U.S. Government to receive the Form I-20 or DS-2019.

When applying to Winthrop, your application must be accompanied by a bank statement or letter from the sponsor's bank dated within six months of the start date at Winthrop University showing the amount of money guaranteed. If your sponsor is not your parent or yourself, please include a brief letter from your sponsor indicating their intention to support all of your expenses related to your education for the duration of your program. If you are sponsored by a private organization or government agency, provide an official copy of your award.

Information on the amount required to be shown for the Form I-20 and DS-2019 can be found by visiting Cost & Required Proof of Funding for International Students.


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Transferring a SEVIS record to Winthrop University

If you are currently studying in the USA and have a SEVIS record and Form I-20/DS-2019, you must request to have your current SEVIS record transferred to Winthrop University. We require you and your current International Student Advisor to complete and submit our Transfer Verification Form. This form can be faxed to 803/323-2340 or e-mailed to the International Center.

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Applying for the F-1 or J-1 Student Visa  

In most countries, first time student visa applicants are required to appear for an in-person interview at the U.S. Embassy closest to where you live. However, each U.S. Embassy and Consulate sets its own interview policies and procedures regarding student visas. Students should consult  US Embassy websites in their home countries or call for specific application instructions.

Due to extensive and ongoing review of visa issuing practices as they relate to U.S. national security, it is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date. Keep in mind that June, July, and August are the busiest months in most consular sections, and interview appointments are the most difficult to get during that period. Students need to plan ahead to avoid having to make repeat visits to the US Embassy. To the extent possible, students should bring all required documents to the U.S. Embassy, as well as any other documents that might help establish ties to their local community.


SEVIS, or the Student Exchange Visitor Information System, is designed to provide more efficient immigration services to international students and professors entering the U.S. The SEVIS system was developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is monitored by the United States Citizenship and Information Service (USCIS) and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (USICE). The I-20 that you receive was created through the SEVIS system. During your time as an international student in the U.S., you are required to maintain and active SEVIS record.

All student applicants must have a SEVIS generated I-20 issued by Winthrop University, which they submit when they are applying for their student visa. The consular officer will need to verify your I-20 record electronically through the SEVIS system in order to process your student visa application.

SEVIS I-901 Fee  

As of September 1, 2004 all persons applying abroad for an F-1 visa must pay a $200.00 fee before being allowed to apply at a U.S. Embassy for an F-1 visa.  This fee is different from the Visa Application Fee that is also required in order to apply for the F-1 visa.  Information on the SEVIS I-901 fee can be found on the DHS website 'Study in the States.' Individuals wanting to apply for an F-1 visa must pay the fee and print the receipt stating the payment was made before beginning the process of applying for the visa.  Paying the fee and receiving the receipt can all be done online through DHS. The SEVIS I-901 fee receipt is also referred to as Form I-797.

Note: Students coming from Canada do not have to apply for an F-1 visa at a US Embassy or Consulate.  You will apply for entrance into the U.S. using your I-20 when you arrive at the USA/Canadian border. However, if you are a Canadian coming to the U.S. for the first time on an F1 visa, you are required to pay the $200 SEVIS fee before crossing into the U.S. from Canada. Make sure to have your payment receipt with you when entering the U.S.

Applying For Your F-1 Visa  

An F-1 visa is a stamp in your passport that allows you to request entrance into the USA as an F-1 student. Visas to enter the U.S. are issued by the U.S. Embassy in your home country and cannot be issued or renewed in the U.S.
In order to successfully apply for your F-1 visa, you will need to contact the U.S. Embassy closest to where you live and make an appointment for a personal interview. Information on the visa application process can be found at the
DHS website 'Study in the States.'

Important Reminders:

  • You should also be prepared to establish intent to return home after you complete your studies. If an Embassy official believes your intent is to come and live permanently in the U.S. your student visa application will be denied.   
  • If you are coming to the U.S. on an athletic scholarship, it is important to stress your academic goals to the Embassy official. You can mention that being involved in athletics will help you achieve your educational goals - but do not focus entirely on coming to the U.S. to play a sport.  Athletics are important but the primary reason to come to the U.S. on an F-1 student visa is to study.
  • Your Form I-20 was issued by Winthrop University and allows you to study at Winthrop University only. You may not use your Winthrop I-20 to enter the U.S. for study at another university. If you do not intend to attend Winthrop University, you must return the I-20 to us. The form may be mailed to the International Center of Winthrop University, 701 Oakland Avenue, 218 Dinkins Hall, Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA 29733.

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Maintaining Legal Student Status While in the U.S.

All international students on F-1 and J-1 visas are obligated to meet certain DHS requirements in order to maintain their legal visa status during their stay in the U.S. Information on maintaining your F/J visa status can be found on DHS 'Study in the States' page. Before you sign your I-20 or DS-2019, you should read and understand your responsibilities for maintaining legal F-1 visa status found on page 2 of the I-20 and DS-2019 and listed below:

  • Maintain a valid passport.
  • Attend the school you are authorized to attend as noted on your I-20/DS-2019.
  • Pursue a full course of study (12 undergraduate credit hours, 9 graduate credit hours) and make normal progress towards the completion of your course of study.
  • If needed, apply for an extension of program before the expiration date on the current I-20/DS-2019.
  • Follow USCIS procedures for changing from one program (major) or educational level to another (from Bachelor's degree to Master's degree).
  • Follow USCIS procedures for transferring from one school to another.
  • Limit on-campus employment to 20 hours a week while school is in session. 
  • Refrain from off-campus employment without authorization.
  • Report a change of address to the International Center within 10 days.

The International Center will give you more information on your visa classification and responsibilities during the New Student Orientation. Failure to comply with these rules will result in the loss of your legal immigration status.  Losing your immigration status will prevent you from attending Winthrop University and could lead to your deportation.

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If you have any questions regarding the application process for your student visa or your responsibilities while studying in the U.S. contact the  International Center.