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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) the REQUIRED date for arrival in Charleston for the Spring 2017 semester is Sunday, January 8th, 2017. If you are going to live on campus, you must also arrive on this date. The only exception for arriving on a date other than Sunday, January 8th is that you will be living off campus and do not wish to be picked up from the airport.

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.

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.

International Student Orientation:

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017 from 9am-5pm in the Alumni Center, located in the Teacher Education Center (on the corner of Wentworth and St Philip Street). 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 Monday, December 12, 2016.

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) 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
  • 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 Office of Residence Life and 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.

Additional information is also available about the Residence Halls.

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

Mandatory Orientation Program

Spring 2017 semester: Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 9am. 
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.
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. 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. 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:

  • Spring semester coverage will last from January 1,2017 until May 15, 2017 and will cost approximately $509.00 USD. For those students attending one semester only, this is the plan you would enroll in. If you begin in the Spring semester, but will continue to Fall 2017, the Spring + Summer plan would be required. Those coverage dates are January 1, 2017 - August 14, 2017 and the cost is approximately $851.00 USD. Prior to the beginning of Fall 2017, CIE will communicate details on how to enroll for Fall 2017 coverage.
  • Provide similar benefits found in the Affordable Care Act (ACA or sometimes known as Obama care) including no cost for preventative care.
  • 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.
  • 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. Associated costs and how to enroll can be found on the PGH website  and in the policy brochure.
  • 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. Refer to the PGH website and select Waive Your School Insurance for more details. 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

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