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New Students

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
  •       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

Recommended date for arrival in Charleston for the Fall 2015 semester is Friday, August 21,2015. Undergraduate students who have not attended freshmen or transfer orientation should plan to arrive on Wednesday, August 19 2015 as undergraduate freshman orientation will be held on August 20th and 21st.

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 bus, train or 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. Several major airlines serve Charleston such as Delta, US Air, and United.  The airport is only a few minutes from the College of Charleston campus by taxi. Taxi/Shuttle service is also available from the railroad and bus station.

Early Arrival

Students who will be living on campus and decide to arrive before August 21st, may be able to move into their room early but there will be a fee. Students can also look for alternate accommodation, such as hotels or the local Youth Hostel ( 

Residence Halls (on campus dormitories) officially open on Friday, August 21st.

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

International Student Orientation: Monday, August 24, 2015 You must be in Charleston before this date in order to attend this mandatory orientation.

Travel Plans

Please share your travel plans with us through the following link: International Student Arrival Form. This form must be completed by August 1st if you are requesting an airport pickup.

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
  • Paper receipt for the SEVIS form I-797
  • 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) and Arrival/Departure Record Forms (I-94).  The 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
  • Acceptanc 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.

Mandatory Orientation Program

Fall 2015 semester: Monday, August 24th

The Center for International Education holds an orientation for new international students at the beginning of each semester.  The Orientation covers important information about academic and immigration policies, as well as practical matters such a housing, meal plans, health insurance, transportation, and other topics.

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.

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)
  •       Proof of health insurance in ENGLISH (required for J-1 students, recommended for F-1 students)

Health Insurance

If you are studying at the College of Charleston on a J-1 visa, as part of your visa requirement you will need to make sure you have adequate J-1 health insurance coverage.

As of May 15, 2015, the requirements of the J-1 visas are:

  • Medical Benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of Remains in the amount of $25,000
  • Expenses associated with any medical evacuation to the home country in the amount of $50,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness
  • J-1 students may also be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act

The Center for International Education is currently looking into a health insurance plan that all international students will be required to enroll in. More details will be sent out to incoming students soon.

The College of Charleston offers professionally staffed Student Health Services to provide treatment for basic medical conditions for current students. They do not, however, provide major surgery, major illness or 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.

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