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International Students' Immigration Process

International Flags


Step 1

All International students must apply for admission to UNCP with the offices of Undergraduate Admissions or Graduate Admissions.


Step 2

After you have been admitted to UNCP, International Programs (IP) will advise you on the immigration process.

We will create your record in SEVIS once the necessary documents are provided. A Form 1-20 or DS-2019 (certification of elibibility) will be issued and sent to the student along with the admissions letter, pre-arrival information, and additional instructions.

If you are informed that you must improve your English proficiency before you are eligible for admission, please visit the website for the English Language Institute.


Step 3

When you receive your I-20 (if you are an F-1 student) or DS-2019 (if you are a J-1 student) you MUST review your document for any adjustments needing to be made. Check the spelling of your name, your date of birth (DOB), country of citizenship, birth, etc. Also check your major, the dates of your program, education level, etc. If corrections are needed please contact IP via email, Notify IP promptly and succinctly of the needed corrections. If everything is correct, sign your I-20 or DS-2019 (at the bottom of the first page). Make sure to read the second page of your I-20 or DS-2019 for important immigration requirements.


Step 4

All student visa applicants must pay the SEVIS fee prior to going to the U.S. embassy or Consulate for the visa interview.

Students will use the I-20 or DS-2019 issued by the school where they intend to study in order to pay the fee on-line. Payment will be made via the following website,

The student should print the receipt and bring it to the Consulate interview as proof of payment in order to be qualified for the F-1 or J-1 visa.

Canadian & Bermuda citizens are not required to have an F-1 visa, but they must pay the SEVIS fee and show proof of payment in order to qualify for admission at a Port of Entry (POE).


Step 5

You must apply for a student visa from a U.S. Embassy/Consulate.  (NOTE: a visa is not required for Canadians).

The U. S. Embassy/Consulate closest to your home will usually process your visa application. You can use the Study in the States website,, to assist with locating an embassy/consulate.


When should you apply? 

A student visa can be issued no more than 120 days before the reporting date listed on Form I-20 or DS-2019, and a student can enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the program start date.

When you plan your visa appointment, it is important for you to reserve enough time to attend the appointment and for your visa to be approved.

Check the embassy’s processing time to ensure your visa will arrive on time. Most Embassies/Consulates have specific hours to review non-immigrant visa applications. Applicants generally apply online, but then must to go to the Embassy/Consulate for an interview. Please check with the Consulate located closest to your home for their application procedures.


  • The Embassy/Consulate will close for both U.S. and local holidays.
  • All student visa holders are required to pay the SEVIS fee before making an appointment for a student visa.
  • Most U. S. universities begin their academic year in August, so this is a very busy month at the Embassy/Consulate.  Plan ahead so you can arrive in time for orientation and class.


See the State Department website to fill out the Online Form for a visa application and for details about visa application fees


What should you take to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate? – It is crucial that you take all of the required documents with you for your visa appointment. If you don’t, you may be required to return for a second time, which may delay your visa for several weeks.


Be sure to take:

  • An unexpired valid passport and all previously issued passports
  • The receipt of the SEVIS I-901 fee payment
  • The I-20 or DS-2019 form provided by UNCP or your sponsoring agency
  • A letter of admission from UNCP
  • Your valid passport, with at least six months validity on it from the date you will enter the U.S.
  • A copy of your TOEFL Score, if you are a non-native English speaker
  • Original proof of financial support, including your assistantship letter (if applicable)
  • Passport-sized photographs for your visa. See photo requirements here,
  • Previous school transcripts, diplomas, or records (if requested)
  • Proof of ties to your home country. The F-1 and J-1 visas are non-immigrant visas, which means you must be able to show you will return to your home country upon completion of your program of study at UNCP. Visit the embassy website where you will apply for the visa for information on what documentation will show your ties to your home country.


What happens at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate

You will be required to speak with a consular official who will quickly review your documents and ask about your plans of study. The officer will verify that you have the academic ability, English language skills, and financial resources to study at UNCP.  Since you are applying for a non-immigrant visa, the officer will require documentation of proof of intent to return to your home country.  The officer will then give you instructions about when to return to pick up your documents and your visa or when to expect them in the mail. A few applicants may receive a request to submit additional information.


Step 6

Review Your Visa and make sure that the following information is correct:

  • Your first, middle and last name is spelled correctly.
  • Your date of birth (DOB) is correct in the mm/dd/yyyy format.
  • Your visa type is F-1 or J-1, depending on your status.

The visa is the one immigration document that cannot be applied for or obtained in the U.S. This means that if you enter the U.S. and your information is incorrect you will need to exit the U.S., apply for a new visa and reenter with the correct visa. If your visa is not correct it will affect your ability to obtain a Driver’s License (DL) and/or a Social Security Number (SSN).

WARNING! Do not enter the U.S. on a tourist visa!

Since you intend to be a student, you must enter the U.S. on a student visa. If you attempt to enter the U.S. on an incorrect visa you may encounter immigration problems. You cannot attend UNCP if you enter the U.S. on a tourist visa.


Step 7

After the student obtains the visa, your travel arrangements and preparations can be made. F-1 and J-1 students can enter the US within the 30 day window before the report date on the visa certificate. 


Step 8

You must report to IP for mandatory check-in within 30 days of arrival in order to have your SEVIS record registered and validated. Failure to do so could result in the termination of your SEVIS record and jeopardize your legal ability to remain in the U.S. 

Check-in will take place at new international student orientation before the semester begins. Please bring the following immigration documents with you to the check-in session:

  • 1-20 or DS-2019
  • Passport, noting your entry stamp
  • I-94 Printout
  • Visa (if applicable) 


 Gold ArrowTransfer Students

Transferring to a new school in the US requires advanced planning. A student may legally stay in the US for the time between finishing classes at one school and starting at another school if the proper immigration process is followed. This process requires the old school to "release" the student's SEVIS record to UNCP. Once this is done, UNCP will issue a new "transfer-in" Form I-20 of DS-2019. 

If you have already been admitted to UNCP and would like more information about how to transfer your SEVIS record to UNCP click here.