Visa & Immigration Information
NC State University enrolls over 3,000 international students each year. International students at NC State University come from more than 120 countries and may be in one of a dozen different visa types. This page explains a little bit about the different visas and immigration options we often see at NC State University.
Most international students who need a student visa to study in the US are here in F-1 status and have an F-1 visa. Some international students such as exchange students or sponsored students may be here in J-1 status. An applicant can only apply for a student visa after the application process is complete, an admission offer is made, finances are documented, and a record is created in the SEVIS system. Once a new student record is created in SEVIS, a form I-20 (or DS-2019) is printed and sent to the student along with the admission letter, pre-arrival information, and additional instructions. The student should follow the visa application instructions found on the nonimmigrant section of the US Embassy website in the home country. More information about obtaining a visa is explained in the Immigration section on visas.
Other students may already be in the US in a derivative status as a spouse or dependent of a family member (e.g., H-4, E-2) and still others may be working in the US in an employment visa status (e.g., H-1B or TN). Applicants who are in the US as a minor dependent (e.g., E-2, H-4, etc.,) are permitted to study in that status, but will “age out” on their 21st birthday and will generally need to change their visa status in order to complete their studies. Students who maintain their H-1B or TN status are permitted to study part-time or full-time. No clearance or approval from OIS is necessary, but we do request copies of immigration documents that have been extended or changed for our records.
Students in distance education programs, who may physically reside anywhere in the world, are not eligible for a student visa. DE students may either remain overseas or may be in a non-student status in the US if they are eligible for a different status. The University can not issue student visa documents for those in distance education programs.
Certain visa types (e.g., F-2 or B-1/B-2) do not permit study at all and nonresidents in one of these statuses must obtain a new status (either by applying for a new student visa overseas and re-entering or by applying to the USCIS for a change of status) before they can study. Applicants who need or want to change to a student visa for whatever reason should contact OIS to schedule an appointment with an advisor. Since it can take USCIS four to five months to process an application to change status, we recommend students meet with an OIS advisor at least six months before initial enrollment.
Instructions on how to apply for the actual visa (F-1 or J-1) are found in the Pre-Arrival Information handout available on this website as well as the websites of the US Department of State and the US Embassy website in each country. Procedures vary from country to country so it is imperative that each student read and follow the country specific instructions. In most countries, visa applicants must schedule an appointment for a personal visa interview (usually via an online or phone system) AFTER the student has received the visa certificate (Form I-20 or DS-2019) from the University. It is recommended that most overseas applicants apply for the visa at least 2 or 3 months before the start of classes. In some countries, where a security background check may be required, it is advisable to schedule a visa appointment 3 to 6 months before the start of classes. The University is not able to expedite a visa appointment date or security checks at embassies overseas. Each year, some applicants who are not able to get their student visa before the start of classes, must defer their admission to a later semester – usually at great cost and frustration.
To see how long it is taking the US consulate near you to process an F-1 visa application, you can enter the consulate
city name here: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html
The I-20 form (necessary for the F-1 visa) is generally issued for a period of 3 years for a masters student (5 years for bachelors or PhD; shorter for fulltime certificate programs) and you will need to submit all pages of this original form along with a copy of your admission letter, and proof of funding when you apply for your visa. You must document at least your first year of funding; it has been reported that one or two consulates are asking for funds on deposit for the entire length of study as reflected on the Form I-20. For more information on this (and to print out a memo) please see this link.
The SEVIS number (located on the visa certificate) may also be required when making a visa appointment. Other required materials will include the visa application itself (Form DS-102), visa fee, receipt of having paid the SEVIS fee (Form I-901), original valid foreign passport, two photographs, a copy of the admission letter, and proof of sufficient funding (keep an extra original set). The visa officer will usually ask a few general questions to gauge an applicant’s conversational English ability, academic preparation for or interest in the intended program, why the student chose NC State, plans for after graduation (i.e., does the student plan to return to the home country after graduation or work indefinitely in the US afterwards and apply for a green card?), if the student has been to the US before or has any immediate family members in the US. If the visa officer denies the application, it is usually because the applicant did not convince the officer that the student will likely return to the home country after graduating. The University cannot convince the officer otherwise and the student applicant can usually re-apply for a visa if there is a change in circumstances or additional evidence. Almost all students admitted to NC State, however, are successful in obtaining their visa the first time and we are aware of very few visa denials (less than ½ percent). After the student obtains the visa, other travel arrangements and preparations can be made. F-1 and J-1 students can enter the US within the 30 day window period before the report date on the visa certificate (Form I-20 or DS-2019). New students are strongly encouraged to arrive in Raleigh during the week preceding the OIS New International Student Orientation. This is when we offer airport pick-up, temporary housing, leisurely check-in processing, campus tours, etc., and is an invaluable time to arrange housing, get set-up, meet with academic advisors, register for courses, set up bank accounts, meet new friends, look for part-time jobs, etc. New students who arrive much before this period will not be able to take full advantage of our services (and may need to pay for expensive temporary housing). Those who arrive during or after Orientation will be at a distinct disadvantage in getting a good start and will miss out on the best apartments, classes, services, and programs.