Immigration Information for Incoming Students
Please review the information below for information on obtaining your immigration document (Form I-20), applying for your visa and entering the U.S.
Obtaining Your Form I-20
The immigration process for students admitted to Goucher College will begin in mid-March for students entering their program in the Fall and in mid-October for students entering their program in the Spring.
As a student new to the U.S., what do I need to do?
The Admissions Office will ensure that you submit the documents, including the biographic page of your passport and financial documents, necessary to issue your Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. The Office of Global Education will contact you directly with any questions or concerns about your documents.
As a student in the U.S. seeking a SEVIS transfer of my status, what do I need to do?
If you currently hold an active F-1 status (including graduating high school students and university academic transfer students), you must submit the following to Admissions in addition to all other requirements:
- Most recent Form I-94
- Image of most recent Form I-20
- Image of most recent F-1 visa
- Contact information that is not dependent on the high school or university you are currently attending
Once you are certain about the decision to attend Goucher College, share your Goucher admission letter with the Designated School Official at your institution and request that your SEVIS record is transferred to Goucher College (School Code: BAL214F00104000). If you are traveling internationally during the intervening period, be sure to obtain your Goucher I-20 for your re-entry. Although rare, you may want to discuss the timing of the transfer If you intend to engage in on-campus employment.
As a graduate student in a low-residency program, what do I need to do?
If you are participating in short-term residency, you will receive a Form I-20 only for the length of each residency. You must depart the United States after each residency ends. You will need to request a separate Form I-20 for each residency
- at least one month prior to the residency if you have a valid visa, or
- at least four months prior to the residency if you need to apply for a new visa or visa renewal.
F-1 status is granted for the sole purpose of attending the full-time, intensive residency. Completion of online coursework is not permitted while in the United States. Low-residency students will not qualify for any employment authorization in the U.S.
How will I receive my Form I-20?
Once your Form I-20 has been issued, you will receive an email message from Karen Sykes with a secure link to download your electronic Form I-20. In a second message, you will receive the password for accessing your document.
After receiving your electronic I-20 form, you will need to print a hard copy. (If possible, it would be best to print in color to capture that the DSO signature was an original signed in blue ink.) Then sign the document yourself and travel with the hard-copy in hand when you enter the U.S. Presenting your electronic I-20 form on your phone, tablet or laptop will not be acceptable for any official purpose.
Applying for the Student Visa for the First Time
Your primary source of information for F-1 visa application procedures should be the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you will be applying. Below is guidance that is generally applicable.
When can I begin the visa application process?
You may begin the visa application process 120 days prior to the program start date of your Form I‑20. Visa interview appointment dates will depend on local conditions, so you should monitor the website of your intended embassy or consulate. You can find embassy or consulate websites here and visa interview wait times here. The Office of Global Education encourages you to schedule your visa appointment as soon as possible due to anticipated backlogs and delays.
What are the steps in applying for an F-1 visa?
Applying for your first visa will involve the following steps:
- Verify that your passport is valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry into the U.S.
- Obtain appropriate photos
- Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee using the SEVIS ID number of the school that you plan to attend in the amount of $350 and print a payment confirmation. More information about this fee can be found here.
- Complete Nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160 The application fee is $160, however, there may be an additional fee based on your nationality. You can find the fee/reciprocity information and appointment wait times at U.S. Embassies and Consulates here.
- Schedule your visa interview.
What documents do I need to collect for my visa interview?
You should be prepared to present the following documents, when requested, to the consular officer:
- Valid passport (6 months into future)
- Form I-20, printed
- SEVIS I-901 payment receipt
- Nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160 confirmation
- DS-160 confirmation receipt
- Photo(s), if needed
- Admission Letter
- Academic records (e.g. transcripts, diplomas, or certificates from schools you attended as well as scores from the TOEFL, SAT, ACT or any other tests)
- Financial support documents (e.g. documents that were used to obtain your Form I-20 including bank statements, affidavits of support, and scholarships award letters)
- Evidence of intent to return to your home country (e.g. proof of your family’s residence, business or job prospects, other economic and personal ties to your home country)
How should I prepare for my visa interview?
Due to the volume of visa applications, all consular officials are under considerable pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision, for the most part, on the impression they form during the first minute or two of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success.
Anticipate that the visa interview will be conducted in English. Do not bring parents or family members with you to the visa interview, as the consular officer would like to hear you speak on your own behalf. Be prepared, but do not memorize a speech.
You should expect that the consular officer will ask you why you are hoping to study at Goucher College in the U.S. rather than your home country, how you will be able to afford the education, and what your plans are once you have obtained your degree. You should be prepared to indicate reasons for your return such as family obligations, property or investments that you will inherit or already own, employment opportunities and how you would like to use your education to improve life in your country.
For further discussion of this topic, visit the NAFSA: Association of International Educators web site on the topic, “10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Student Visa.” You may also want to visit Study in the States for guidance.
What if my visa is denied or I have a processing delay?
The vast majority of Goucher students will be successful in obtaining their student visas. Despite this, a small number of students may have their visa applications denied. The most common reasons for visa denial are failure to prove sufficient ties to your home country or adequate funding. The Consular Officer must verbally inform you of the reason for the visa denial. If your visa is denied, please notify Karen Sykes, the international student adviser by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the date and location of your visa interview, and details regarding the reason given by the visa officer for the denial.
Could I be Exempt from the visa requirement?
The most common exception to the visa requirement is made for Canadian citizens and certain landed Canadian immigrants. Please see the Department of State's page for Citizens of Canada and Bermuda. Other notable exceptions currently include citizens of the Freely Associated States or FAS (Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau) who are in direct transit from the FAS to the United States, citizens of Bermuda, citizens of British Overseas Territories, Bahamian nationals, and British subjects residing in the Bahamas who complete immigration inspection at Freeport or Nassau.
Do NOT attempt to enter the US on a visitor visa (B-2)/ESTA under the Visa Waiver Program. The US Immigration Service rarely authorizes a change of status from B-2 to F-1 and never authorizes a change of status from a visa waiver participant to F-1. You will be prevented from enrolling in school until you obtain F-1 status. Attending school as a visitor is a clear violation of US immigration law.
Entering the U.S., Arriving on Campus, and Attending Orientation
We look forward to welcoming you to the U.S. and to your new home! Please review the information below to ensure everything goes smoothly.
When can I enter the U.S.?
You must arrive in the U.S. no later than the report date listed on the Form I-20 and no earlier than 30 days prior to this date. This report date ensures that you are able to attend InterConnect, the international student orientation program, and the campus orientation program. If you cannot enter by the date indicated, you must contact the Office of Global Education by email at email@example.com request permission for late arrival.
What documents do I need to bring in my carry-on item?
You should have the following available to show the Customs and Border Protection officer, if requested.
- Valid passport (6 months into future)
- Visa stamp (unless exempt)
- Goucher Form I-20, printed
- SEVIS I-901 payment receipt
- Admission letter
- Original financial support documentation
What will happen when I am inspected at the airport?
Like all entering visitors, you will be asked the reason you wish to enter the U.S. and to provide information about your final destination. It is important that you tell the Customs and Border Protection officer that you will be a student at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.
Once your inspection is complete, the inspecting officer will take a digital photograph and fingerprints, stamp your passport, and return your documents to you.
In the vast majority of cases, there will be no difficulty; however, if there is some problem with your documents the officer may pull you aside into secondary inspection to ask additional questions. If you are issued an I-515 with an expiration date of 30 days, see Karen Sykes as soon as possible once you arrive on campus.
What if I am transferring my immigration status within the U.S.?
Students previously enrolled in F-1 student status at another U.S. institution who currently have an active SEVIS record, should have requested a transfer of their immigration status to Goucher. The Goucher Form I-20 should indicate “Transfer Pending.” Transfer students who travel internationally before the start of the Goucher semester must use their Goucher-issued immigration document to reenter the United States. If the F-1 student visa is still valid, there is no need to apply for a renewal. Secure all previous Form I-20s with all other important documents and have them accessible in case an inspections officer has any questions.
What must I do upon my arrival to Goucher?
Attending InterConnect, the international student orientation program, is mandatory for all F-1 students and includes an immigration check-in required by F-1 regulations in order to complete SEVIS registration. In addition, InterConnect is a critical aspect of your transition as an international student to the U.S. and to Goucher’s campus; it does not replace the campus orientation program or First Year Experience.
For more information about F-1 regulations that apply once you are in the U.S. as a student, click here.