F-1 visa status is granted to nonimmigrant students temporarily in the United States to study full-time at an academic or language institute. Students in F-1 status must be enrolled full-time at an academic institution certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), US Department of Homeland Security. F-1 students are admitted to the US for the duration of their status. This means that as long as an F-1 student is in possession of a valid form I-20 and valid I-94 record (with admit until date of D/S), is enrolled full-time at a SEVP-certified school, is making academic progress towards his/her degree, and is not violating any of the terms of his/her status, the student can legally remain in the US.
I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status
Once you have been accepted into a program of study at MUSC and you have gone through the internal visa sponsorship application process with the Center for Global Health (CGH) at MUSC, you will receive from MUSC a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status. Form I-20 contains information about you and your academic program of study and indicates that your information has been added to the SEVIS system.
You will need form I-20 to apply for a visa and to enter the United States in F-1 status. You will also need form I-20 if you are applying for a change of status to F-1. In addition, you must have your form I-20 in your possession each time you enter the US. Form I-20 also contains your SEVIS number, which you will be asked to provide during the visa application process. Your SEVIS number will begin with the letter “N” and is typically followed by 10 digits (example: N0000000001). This number can be found in the upper left-hand portion of page 1 of the I-20.
Obtaining F-1 Status
All prospective F-1 students will need a valid form I-20 and will be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee in order to be granted F-1 student visa status. F-1 status can be obtained by:
- Applying for an F-1 visa at a US embassy or consulate abroad and requesting to enter the US in F-1 status at a port-of-entry (students not in the US)
- Applying for a change of nonimmigrant status to F-1 (students already in the US in another status)
Once you have obtained an F-1 visa, you can enter the US up 30 days before your I-20 start date. In addition, you are permitted to remain in the US for 60 days following the completion of your program of study or the completion of an authorized period of post-completion optional practical training. This grace period is intended for students to be able to settle their affairs in the US before returning to their home country. During the 60-day grace period, you cannot do the following:
- Apply for re-entry into the US in F-1 status
- Apply for a program extension
- Work or study
Obtaining F-1 Sponsorship Through MUSC
International students must be accepted into an MUSC program of study before beginning the visa sponsorship process. To learn more about the admissions process for international students, please refer to the International Student Admissions page.
Once an international student is accepted into an MUSC program, the MUSC college will contact the Center for Global Health to initiate a visa sponsorship case. The international student will then be contacted by the Center for Global Health and will be provided with instructions on what information and documents are required.
Generally, international students will be required to provide copies of the biographic page of their passport, their CV, and original documents showing proof of funding for the first year’s expenses, including tuition and living expenses. All financial documents must be certified, be in English, and contain amounts in US dollars.
Once our office has received all of the necessary information and documents and we have determined that the international individual is eligible to hold F-1 student visa status, our office will issue a form I-20 for the international student. The specific college or degree program is responsible for mailing the I-20 to the international student. The student will need the I-20 in order to apply for an F-1 visa at a US embassy/consulate or to apply for a change of status to F-1 while in the US. If you are already in the US in F-1 status, you may be eligible to transfer your F-1 status to MUSC.