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New Students

After your acceptance to the College of Charleston (CofC), the staff of the Center for International Education (CIE) will contact you regarding appropriate procedures and timelines for completion of pre-arrival tasks. These topics are covered extensively in the International Student Handbook.

Applying for the F-1 or J-1 visa

F-1 students (degree seeking students)

Once you are admitted to the College of Charleston, you will receive a packet that contains your immigration form I-20.  You will need this form to apply for your F-1 Non-Immigrant Student visa at the nearest US consulate.

J-1 students (students on exchange programs)

Once you are admitted to the College of Charleston, you will receive a packet that contains your form DS-2019.  You will need this form to apply for your J-1 Non-Immigrant Student visa at the nearest US consulate.

For both F-1 and J-1 Applicants

STEP 1: Pay the Student/Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS) Processing Fee
The U.S. Department of Homeland requires that all F-1 and J-1 non-immigrants seeking initial attendance visas from a U.S. Embassy to pay a processing fee of $200 for F-1 students and $180 for J-1 students. For details regarding these fees please visit the I-901 Fee Processing Website.
STEP 2:  Make a visa interview appointment
Once you have paid the SEVIS processing fee, you will need to make an appointment for a visa interview. Student visa applicants are required to appear in person at the US Embassy in their home country. Click here for a full list of US Embassies. In some circumstances, it may be possible to apply in another country, but students will have ask the specific Embassy or Consulate.
The wait time to receive a visa appointment will vary by location; therefore we strongly recommend that students apply early. Click here to view the current visa wait time at your local consulate. Please note that the US Embassy or Consulate cannot issue a visa more than 120 days before the program start date listed on your DS-2019 or I-20. However, they may allow you to schedule an appointment before 120 days.
Do not make a visa appointment prior to getting your I-20 or DS-2019 form and paying the SEVIS fee.
For additional information on how to apply for your visa, please visit the U.S. Department of State’s Student Visa page.
STEP 3: Interview process
What You Should Bring to Your Visa Interview:
  •       Form DS-160 confirmation page (Online Non-Immigrant Visa Application)
  •       Official acceptance letter from the College of Charleston
  •       SEVIS I-901 fee receipt
  •       Your I-20 or DS-2019
  •       Passport valid for at least 6 months in the future
  •       Proof of financial support
The visa officer at the embassy or consulate in your home country may request additional application materials. We recommend that you contact the Embassy or Consulate prior to your interview to ensure that you have all the required documentation for your visa.
Please note that this is primarily an interview and not a document review. You should be prepared to answer these sorts of questions:
  • Why do you want to study at the College of Charleston?
  • What you plan to study?
  • How will you use your education when you return to your home country?
  • What are your plans after finishing the degree?
  • Who is (financially) sponsoring your education?
The questions above are meant to give you an idea about what you may be asked and may differ from your actual interview. You should be able to respond to these sorts of questions in a few sentences. You may want to practice your responses in English with family and friends until you become comfortable.

Arrival Information

If you wish to be picked up at the Charleston airport by the Center for International Education (a service that is free of charge for our incoming students) you must book your transportation to arrive in Charleston on the REQUIRED date for arrival set by CIE: Thursday, January 3rd before 10:00 pm. CIE works closely with the CofC campus to coordinate international student move-ins and our shuttle service goes to the airport for pick-ups on that day only. If you are going to live on campus, you must arrive on this date especially. Please note, if you choose to arrive on another date, you will need to arrange your own transportation from the airport, secure a place to stay off-campus, and arrange for transportation to your residence hall once it opens on January 3rd. The only exception for arriving on a date other than the required date is if you will be living off campus and do not wish to be picked up from the airport. Degree seeking students: you must register for CofC New Student Orientation. CIE will work with you to make appropriate arrangements, but you must complete the travel form linked below for us to be able to coordinate your arrival.

Travel to Charleston

As you begin to make plans for your travel to Charleston, you may find the following information helpful. Charleston can be reached easily by commercial airline from major ports of entry such as New York, Washington DC, Miami, Atlanta, Charlotte, Los Angeles or San Francisco. The city is also served by the Greyhound bus company and Amtrak train service. Several major airlines serve Charleston such as Delta, US Air, and United. The airport is approximately 20 minutes from the College of Charleston campus by taxi. Taxi/Shuttle service is also available from the railroad and bus station. Students regularly experience delays in the North Eastern airports (New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia) so we recommend you try to connect through the Atlanta, GA airport.

If you cannot be met upon your arrival to the airport because of unexpected schedule changes and you will be living on campus, take a taxi/shuttle from the airport to the Public Safety Office on campus. The telephone number there is 1.843.953.4980 Public Safety is located at 81 B St Philip Street in the ground floor of the St Philip parking garage. An officer will assist you with your on-campus housing.

Travel Plans:

Once you have made your travel plans to Charleston, please share them with CIE and register them here This form must completed by Friday, November 30th, 2018, even if you will not need a ride from the airport, so that we can know when to expect you and and coordinate arrangements accordingly.

Traveling to the United States:

If you are F or J status and are entering from outside of the United States, you can enter up to 30 days before the program start date listed on your SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 form.
Always hand-carry your immigration documents!  Do NOT check the following documents in your baggage:
  • Your passport
  • Your SEVIS form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Acceptance letter from the College of Charleston
  • SEVIS I-901 fee receipt
  • Name and contact information for your "Designated School Official" as listed on your I-20, or "Responsible Officer" as listed on your DS-2019. This is Melissa Ochal, Associate Director at the Center for International Education and you will receive her contact information via email. 
If arriving by air, flight attendants will distribute Custom Declaration Forms (CF-6059).  They must be completed prior to landing. Students will need to print off their I-94 record online after they have arrived in the United States.
As you arrive at the Port of Entry have the following documents ready:
  • Passport
  • SEVIS form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Arrival/Departure Record Form I-94
  • Proof of funding
  • Acceptance Letter
All visitors entering the U.S. must state their reason for wishing to enter the country. You may also be asked to provide information about your final destination. It is important that you tell them that you will be a student at the College of Charleston.
If you forget any of these documents or you have packed them in your checked luggage, you may be asked to go into secondary inspection. There is a chance that you will not be admitted to the United States because you do not have proper documentation or you may be given a I-515A. If you receive an I-515A, please notify Melissa Ochal at the CIE upon your arrival in Charleston.
You can find additional information about what to expect upon arriving the United States through the Study in the States website.

On Campus Housing

For residence hall (dormitory) rates, please refer to the Department of Housing. (By clicking on the name of each residence hall, you can see descriptions of the hall and its rooms.)

*Please note ‘single’ occupancy means the bedroom is a private bedroom, while ‘double’ and  ‘triple’ mean the bedroom is shared with one or two others. If you are J-1 exchange student with housing included as part of your exchange, your housing assignment will match the requirements set forth in your exchange agreement. If you wish to live in housing that exceeds the amount stipulated in your exchange agreement, you will be responsible to pay for the remaining costs.

CIE will contact you with further information on how to apply for housing after you have been accepted.

Mandatory Orientation Program

Spring 2019 semester: Monday, January 7, 2019 at 9:00am in the Alumni Center of the Teacher Education building on campus. 
The Center for International Education holds an orientation for new international students at the beginning of each semester.  The Orientation covers important information about CofC academics and U.S. immigration policies, as well as practical matters such a housing, meal plans, health insurance, transportation, and other topics. Please make sure to plan accordingly as every new international student must attend. CIE will send out more information as the time approaches.
International student orientation is also a wonderful opportunity to meet and make friends with other new students perhaps from your country and from all over the world.

Health Insurance

The College of Charleston has its own international student health insurance plan that all international students will enroll in and pay for which will provide coverage for the duration of studies at the College of Charleston. As this cost is outlined on your Certificate of Finance and is a requirement of the College you will need to plan your expenses accordingly. If you have an existing medical policy that has no maximum limit on injury and sickness coverage which was issued to you individually, you can request to be waived out of the College’s international student health care plan. Please refer to the Insurance Waiver Requirements Checklist and be aware you must answer YES to all questions to qualify for a waiver approval. As international students are admitted to the College, incoming student data will be uploaded to the insurance company who will then issue student accounts. The Center for International Education will be in contact with each student prior to the start of the semester to provide instructions on how to purchase health insurance or apply to be waived out of the College’s plan. We highly recommend using the College’s plan as it is compliant with the requirements mandated by the U.S. Department of State for exchange students. In many cases, travel insurance policies issued from countries outside of the U.S. do not meet these requirements and offer significantly less coverage that the College’s international student plan. Students who purchased those types of plans are therefore required to also purchase the College’s plan. Healthcare in the United States is very expensive and having sufficient medical coverage is essential.

  • Please note that unless you have an unlimited medical policy issued to you individually, you will be required to purchase the CofC plan.
  • J-1 students may also be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Additional highlights of the CofC plan:

  • Provides preventative care for no cost.
  • If you use a preapproved doctor or care facility ("in-network") the deductible is $100/policy year. This is the amount you have to pay for services before the insurance company will begin paying for your medical care. After that, the plan will cover 80% of the preferred allowance and the out of pocket maximum will $6,350. Please refer to this video for more information.
  • Prescription drugs are also covered. Please review the Brochure and or PGH website for more details.
  • The fee for your health insurance, that will cover you for the entire length of your program of study, will be due when you enroll in the plan and payable to the insurance company. Please refer to the flyer for coverage dates and costs. Instructions on how to enroll can be found on the PGH website. Please note, if you are an international student athlete, your coverage is a bit different. CIE will provide more information when it is available to all incoming students.
  • If you have an existing Health Insurance plan that you feel has similar or better coverage, you can request to be waived out of this health care plan. You will need your current health insurance policy to complete your waiver request. If your waiver is granted, you must also submit your personal health insurance policy to the CIE to keep on file and it must be in English. It can take some time to receive documentation in English from your insurance company, so you may want to request this documentation before departure.

For current students, the College of Charleston offers the professionally staffed Student Health Services to provide treatment for basic medical conditions. They do not, however, conduct major surgery, treat major illnesses or provide overnight care. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Twenty-four hour care is available at several nearby hospitals. For life-threatening emergencies dial 911 on any telephone.

Mandatory Documentation Review

After you have arrived in Charleston, you will need to come to the CIE office for us to review your immigration documents and to make copies. Please bring in the following documents:
  •       passport
  •       print out of your I-94 record
  •       copy of your visa
  •       I-20 (for F-1 students) or DS-2019 (for J-1 students)
  •       If you have been waived out of the College of Charleston health insurance plan, you must also submit proof of health insurance in ENGLISH