New F-1 Students

International students must be accepted into an MUSC program of study before beginning the F-1 sponsorship process. Contact the specific program of study or visit the Admissions page for more information on the University application process.

Initial F-1 Sponsorship Application

If you are an international student requiring F-1 sponsorship, the Center for Global Health (CGH) will receive notification once you are admitted into a degree program. We will then contact you to provide further instructions on the documents and information required for F-1 sponsorship.

We use the Terra Dotta software system for processing all F-1 sponsorship requests and managing F-1 records. Once we contact you, you will be required to follow the instructions to set up your Terra Dotta account to access the initial F-1 sponsorship application (which is called the ‘Initial I-20’ record in Terra Dotta).

In general, you will be required to provide the following documents:

  • Copy of the biographic page of your current valid (unexpired) passport
  • Current CV or resume
  • Completed F-1 Declaration of Finances and supporting financial documentation showing proof of funding for the first year of the program

An administrator in your admitting college/degree program will complete their portion of the F-1 Declaration of Finances form and will send this form to you to complete. The form contains detailed instructions on completing the form and submitting supporting financial documents. All financial documents must be certified, be in English, and contain amounts in US dollars.

An administrator in your admitting college/degree program will also be required to provide documents and information regarding the specific degree program as part of the F-1 sponsorship application.

If you are currently in the United States in F-1 status through another academic institution, you may be able to transfer your F-1 status and SEVIS record to MUSC. If you indicate that you are currently in the US in F-1 status (through the questionnaire in the Initial I-20 record), we will convert the Initial I-20 record to a Transfer I-20 record in the Terra Dotta system.

It is very important that you complete all of the required elements in the F-1 sponsorship application (Initial I-20/Transfer I-20 record) as soon as possible. This is only the first step in the F-1 process, which is why it is important to get this completed as soon as possible. We cannot issue Form I-20 for you until your F-1 sponsorship application is submitted and processed.

The processing time for the F-1 sponsorship application is variable and depends on the CGH total caseload volume at the time the complete application is submitted. Once your complete application is received by CGH, CGH will send you a notification with an estimated processing time. The general estimated processing time window is approximately 4-5 weeks from receipt of the complete F-1 sponsorship application.

Form I-20

Once you have submitted the Initial I-20 record in Terra Dotta, we will review your submission. If your submissions is approved, we will issue a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status.

The 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. Form I-20 also contains your SEVIS number, which 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 Form I-20.

The Form I-20 will be sent directly to you along with information about F-1 student status and the next steps in the process. We have the option of sending the Form I-20 to you electronically via secure email (as a PDF attachment) or sending you a paper Form I-20. You will be able to choose your delivery preference as part of your MUSC Initial I-20 application. If you choose the electronic Form I-20, you must have the capability to print the Form I-20 on US letter size paper. If you choose the paper Form I-20, please be aware that this will take additional time to reach you, depending on where you are located and the estimated shipping times.

You will not be able to apply for an F-1 visa until you have received the Form I-20 from MUSC. Also, please note that issuance of a Form I-20 from MUSC does not guarantee that you will be approved for an F-1 visa. Nonimmigrant visa issuance is at the sole discretion of the US Department of State.

The Form I-20 is a very important document. During the time of your F-1 student program, you may receive multiple Forms I-20, if any of the details on the form change. You are responsible for retaining all original copies of all Forms I-20 issued for you indefinitely as part of your US immigration records. Do not discard any previous Forms I-20. You may be required to present these documents at a later time to prove that you have maintained valid status in the US.  

SEVIS I-901 Fee

All new F-1 students must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee before applying for an F-1 visa. In addition, any nonimmigrant in the United States applying for a change of nonimmigrant status to F-1 status must also pay the SEVIS I-901 fee before applying for a change of nonimmigrant status.

You must have the Form I-20 from MUSC in order to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. The current SEVIS I-901 fee for F-1 students is $350 USD (fees are subject to change at any time). You can pay the SEVIS fee by credit card online by going to I-901 Fee. Print a receipt of payment after you have completed your I-901 payment. In order to apply for an F-1 visa, you must provide proof of your I-901 SEVIS fee payment.

Visit I-901 SEVIS Fee Frequently Asked Question for answers to frequently asked questions regarding the SEVIS fee.

Obtaining F-1 Status

F-1 status can be obtained by:

  1. 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)
  2. Applying for a change of nonimmigrant status to F-1 (students already in the US in another visa status)

In either case, you must have a valid Form I-20 and must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee in order to proceed with the F-1 visa application at the consulate or the F-1 change of status application.