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Congratulations on your admission to Meredith College!
Most international students come to Meredith on F-1 student visas. In order to obtain F-1 student status, newly admitted students must first be issued a Form I-20 (I-20 is the Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 status).
After your admission, Undergraduate or Graduate Admissions will provide details on the documents needed to issue you a Meredith I-20. Once you have your I-20, you may proceed with the next steps listed below, as relevant to your particular circumstances.
Applying for an F-1 Visa
Students outside of the U.S. are encouraged to apply for their visa as early as possible to allow enough time for visa processing and any possible delays. The F-1 visa can be issued as early as 365 days before the Program Start Date on the I-20. What follows is a brief overview of how to apply for a student visa. However, please make sure to check with your closest U.S. embassy for further instruction, as they are the best source of information for local processes.
- Check that the information on page 1 is correct (name, date of birth, etc.).
- Read page 3, then sign the bottom of page 1. Your signature certifies that you understand and agree to comply with the F-1 regulations.
- The I-901 SEVIS fee is payable at fmjfee.com
- All new F-1 students must pay a one-time SEVIS fee ($350). You do not need to pay the SEVIS fee to make a visa appointment, but it must be paid at least three days prior to your visa interview. Canadian citizens must pay the SEVIS fee at least three days prior to traveling through the U.S. port of entry.
- You will need the SEVIS number (N00…) and School Code (ATL…) found on your I-20 to complete the form.
- Print and keep your receipt for your visa application and travel.
- Find visa appointment wait times on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
- It is generally best if the Embassy is in your home country rather than a third country, if possible.
- Apply as far in advance as possible; if no appointments are available before the start of school, book the first appointment available and then contact the embassy to request an emergency appointment once you are within 60 days of school starting.
- Review these 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Student Visa.
- Gather the following documents to bring to your interview:
- Meredith I-20
- Meredith Admission letter
- Funding documentation (same as used for CFR such as scholarship letter, bank account, etc.)
- Passport valid for at least six months
- Printed DS-160 confirmation page
- Receipts for I-901 SEVIS fee and visa application fee
- Passport-sized photograph – bring one in case the DS-160 upload failed
- Documentation proving strong ties to home country, such as bank accounts, family property, or other proof of your intent to return home following your program
- Any additional documentation as listed on the Consulate’s website
- Remain calm and answer all the Visa Officer’s questions openly and honestly.
- Once issued, check the information on your newly issued visa. If the information is incorrect, contact the Consulate immediately.
- If the visa is denied or subjected to Administrative Processing, please contact OIP.
F-1 Visa Transfer
If you are currently attending another school in the U.S. as an F-1 student, it may be possible to transfer your F-1 SEVIS record from your current school to Meredith. This transfer procedure takes place electronically through SEVIS and is initiated by your current school and completed by Meredith. In addition to the common scenario of withdrawing from one institution to begin studies at another, the F-1 transfer process also applies to:
- students graduating from high school in the U.S. who wish to begin their undergraduate degree at Meredith
- students who completed a degree program (e.g., Bachelor’s, Master’s) at another school and will start a new program at Meredith
- students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) who will start a new program at Meredith
- student is currently in F-1 status and has been officially admitted to Meredith
- student works with current school to transfer the SEVIS record within the 60 day grace period after program completion or the end of OPT
- enrollment at Meredith must begin within five months of program completion or the end of OPT
- student must officially “check-in” at Meredith within 15 days of the Program Start Date on the new (transfer) I-20
- Apply for and be admitted to a Meredith College Program
- Submit the I-20 request documents from Undergraduate or Graduate Admissions
- Certificate of Financial Responsibility
- Visa Clearance Form (Note: you will need to include your transfer information (see next step) on this form
- Consult with a Designated School Official (DSO) at your current school to pick a transfer date and request that your F-1 SEVIS record be transferred to Meredith on that date
- Only after that date arrives can Meredith issue you your Meredith “transfer” I-20
Note that as long as you follow the transfer procedure outlined above within the allotted time frame, you are eligible to remain in the U.S. during the “transfer pending” period. If your plans between programs include international travel, make sure to time your transfer accordingly; you will need to have the I-20 of whichever school currently has your SEVIS record when you reenter the U.S.
Change of Status to F-1 Visa
If you are currently in the U.S. in a visa status other than F-1 student, make sure that your visa allows full-time study and employment authorization (if you want to work during your studies). If you would like to change from your current visa status to F-1 student, your first step is to request a Meredith I-20 by submitting the I-20 request documents (Certificate of Financial Responsibility and Visa Clearance Form) to Undergraduate or Graduate Admissions. As part of the I-20 request process, you will need to decide how you would like to obtain F-1 status. The two ways to change visa status are:
- Travel and Reentry: Make plans to travel, apply for the F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad (preferably in your home country), and then once you receive the visa, reenter the U.S. with your F-1 visa no more than 30 days before the I-20 Program Start Date. Travel is the quickest way to change visa status.
- Application within the U.S.: If travel is not an option, you can apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for a Change of Status from within the U.S. Note that Change of Status applications can take many months (12+) to be processed, and during that time, study and work may not be possible if your previous status does not allow for those activities.
Students planning to apply for a change of status from within the U.S. should consult with the Office of International Programs (OIP) as soon as possible, as the process can be lengthy and complicated. Additionally, your I-20 must be issued specifically for Change of Status not for initial entry via travel.
A Change of Status application to USCIS generally includes the following, though students are encouraged to read USCIS’ directions carefully (note the differences between paper filing and e-filing) and consider consulting with an immigration attorney before filing:
- G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (if filing by mail)
- A cover letter requesting the change of status from your current status to F-1 and noting the documentation included in the application packet (if filing by mail)
- Completed Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, including the application and biometrics fees
- Letter from you explaining why you are requesting a change to F-1 status (for example, aging out of dependent status). This letter should include a brief overview of your immigration history (noting your original purpose and what has changed since then), as well as information about your educational goals and ties to your home country
- Copy of all pages of your Change of Status I-20 (make sure to sign page 1 before copying)
- Copy of SEVIS fee receipt
- Copy of your Meredith admission letter
- Financial support documentation (for example, bank statements and/or scholarship award letters)
- Copies of all your immigration documents (for example, most recent I-94, passport, visa stamp, etc.) showing that you are in lawful immigration status at the time of your application
Once USCIS approves your I-539, keep in mind that you will receive F-1 status, not an F-1 visa stamp. This means that if/when you travel internationally in the future, you will need to apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in order to return to the U.S. in F-1 status.