Newly Admitted Students

The ISSO typically assists students who need F-1 or J-1 visa sponsorship after they have already secured admission to the university. If you are a newly admitted international student for the upcoming term, this section of our website and the sub-links in the lefthand side bar will help you navigate the following processes: getting an I-20 from UNC Charlotte, paying the SEVIS I-901 fee, and securing an F-1 visa. You can read a short overview of each of these pre-departure steps below:

The first step on your journey as an F-1/J-1 international student at UNC Charlotte is to obtain an F-1 Form I-20 (also simply called an "I-20") or J-1 DS-2019 Form from the ISSO. This important document will allow you to apply for an F-1/J-1 visa at your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. In order to issue you an I-20 or DS-2019, the ISSO will require you to submit a completed Financial Certification Form, or FCF. The FCF is a crucial prerequisite to receiving an I-20/DS-2019, because the university cannot issue an I-20/DS-2019 unless you have proven that you have the funds necessary to undertake your education here.
After you have submitted a completed FCF and received your UNC Charlotte I-20 or DS-2019, you will have to show your payment receipt for the SEVIS I-901 fee (also simply called the "SEVIS fee") when you arrive for your visa interview, so take care of this shortly after receiving your I-20/DS-2019. F-1/J-1 students have to pay a SEVIS fee once per program. SEVIS is the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. The fee funds the operations of the U.S. government’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program, which oversees SEVIS. 


You can pay the SEVIS fee online or by mail. We recommend paying online, because it is the fastest method. It can be paid by you or by a third party, from inside or outside the United States. No matter which method you choose, your payment must be accompanied by Form I-901. Remember that paying the SEVIS fee is only the first step of the visa application process, so get it done as soon as possible.

After you have your I-20 or DS-2019 and have paid your SEVIS fee, contact the U.S. embassy (or more accurately, visit their website) nearest you as soon as possible to set up an appointment. The online form used to request an appointment is called a DS-160 -- you'll need to complete that too. It's important to do these steps as soon as you can because the wait time for an appointment and for visa issuance varies. To see how long this process takes in your country, read the Department of State’s visa wait time information.

It’s best to apply for the F-1/J-1 visa in your home country. If you are not sure which embassy you should contact, see this list of U.S. embassies.

After you've completed the DS-160 and scheduled your F-1/J-1 visa appointment, when you arrive at the U.S. embassy or consulate, you will be required to show a number of documents, including:

  • I-20 (or DS-2019, for J-1s)
  • Valid passport
  • A SEVIS payment receipt printed from your online payment confirmation
  • Visa application forms
  • Current financial documentation that lists the sources and amounts of financial support you have secured for the current or upcoming academic year. It must match the information listed on your I-20.

The embassy’s website will outline other specific documents that you should bring. For information and tips about the visa interview itself, read over this resource of trusted visa interview tips

If you are already in the U.S. in a status other than F-1/J-1, it may be possible to change to F-1/J-1 status. There is a specific process you must complete; you may or may not need to complete all the steps already noted above. You can learn more about that process here
If you are already in the U.S. on F-1/J-1 visa status, a SEVIS transfer may be the best way for you to come to UNC Charlotte. A SEVIS transfer is a transfer of immigration documentation and does not imply the transfer of any academic records. When you originally entered the United States as an F-1/J-1 status student, you were issued an I-20/DS-2019 with a unique SEVIS identification number. Transferring your SEVIS record allows you to keep your unique ID number, which is critical for maintaining legal status. You may also be able to skip some of the steps outlined above. To learn more about transferring to UNC Charlotte, click here