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frequently asked questions

  1. When do classes begin?
  2. What documents are required by the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) in order to issue an I-20 or DS-2019 document?  
  3. How are the financial documents processed by UNC-Chapel Hill?
  4. What types of documents are appropriate for verifying sufficient funds on the financial certificate?
  5. What if I don’t have funds and am expecting a graduate assistantship from UNC-Chapel Hill? Do I still need to fill out the financial certificate?
  6. When will I receive my immigration documents?
  7. Why are international students required to fill out a financial certificate?
  8. How can I speed up the processing of my immigration document?
  9. What are the mailing options for sending the visa eligibility document?
  10. I am in the U.S. in visa category other than F or J, and I am NOT interested in obtaining a visa document from UNC-Chapel Hill. Do I still need to complete financial certificate?
  11. I am already in the U.S. studying as an F-1 or J-1 student. What are the procedures for changing from my current institution to UNC-Chapel Hill?
  12. I am currently in the U.S. in a visa category other than F-1 or J-1. I am interested in changing my status to F-1 or J-1. What are the options and procedures for changing my status?
  13. What is check-in? What do I need to bring to check-in?
  14. How do I find out information regarding housing at UNC-Chapel Hill?
  1. When do classes begin?
    The university’s registrar calendar can be found at the following website: http://regweb.oit.unc.edu/calendars/index.php.

  2. What documents are required by International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) in order to issue an I-20 or DS-2019 document?
    1. Admission letter: In order to issue an immigration document, ISSS must receive a copy of the official letter of admission from the appropriate admissions office (Graduate School, Law School, Medical School, Dental School, Summer School, Kenan Flagler Business School, Study Abroad Office, or Undergraduate Admissions).  
    2. Complete financial certificate: ISSS must also receive your completed and signed financial certificate with original accompanying financial documentation.  Students should submit the financial certificate to the appropriate school or academic department. Please do not send the financial certificate directly to ISSS unless requested to do so by ISSS. Graduate students that are not in the Dental School, Law School, Business School, or Medical School should submit the financial certificate to the academic department to which they are applying. Undergraduate applicants should submit the financial certificate to Undergraduate Admissions. The financial certificates are sent to ISSS by Undergraduate Admissions after processing the admission application, or the professional school or academic department to which you are applying after the department/school funding decisions have been included in PART B of page three of the financial certificate by the student services manager.

  3. How are the financial documents processed by UNC-Chapel Hill?
    Financial Certificates should be submitted to your academic department or if you are an undergraduate student to Undergraduate Admissions. Financial certificates for graduate students are sent to ISSS by your academic department or professional school after departmental funding decisions have been included in the financial certificate. For undergraduate students, your financial certificate will be sent to ISSS from undergraduate admissions.

    The financial documents must be evaluated and approved by ISSS prior to creating the immigration document. If ISSS has questions regarding your financial certificate, you will be contacted via email. Please do not contact ISSS regarding the verification of your documents, as answering numerous inquiries takes away from immigration document processing and delays in receiving student visas.

    Immigration documents are processed in the order in which complete files are received. You can help the processing of your immigration document by carefully following the instructions on the financial certificate.

  4. What types of documents are appropriate for verifying sufficient funds on the financial certificate?
    ISSS will accept original bank statements or original, official bank letters meeting the following criteria:
    • the document is in English,
    • the date on the document is not older than 6 months,
    • the currency type is clearly indicated by the banking institution,
    • the bank account holder’s name matches the student’s name or the financial sponsor’s name, and
    • the document is printed on official bank letterhead or has an official banking institution stamp or banking institution representative’s signature.

    ISSS will NOT accept electronic print outs of bank statements from on-line accounts, copies, scans, faxes of original banking documents, or bank statements from financial sponsor’s without a corresponding letter of financial support.

    Personal funds
    Students that plan to fund their academic program personally should submit their personal bank statement or letter (as described above) demonstrating funding to cover the first year’s expenses of the program. In addition, the student should submit a letter stating how they expect to fund the remainder of their program. If a student plans, to have a sponsor for subsequent years of study, the sponsor should also include a letter of support (see the next paragraph for details on the letter of financial support from sponsor).

    Letter of financial support from sponsor
    Financial sponsors should submit a letter pledging financial support for an estimated amount of money. The letter should contain the following:
    • name of the sponsor(s) and student,
    • relationship between the student and sponsor,
    • pledge of financial support,
    • amount of financial support,
    • duration of financial support,
    • signature of sponsor(s), and
    • date.
  5. You may download and print the Letter of Financial Support and submit it to ISSS.

  6. What if I don’t have funds and am expecting a graduate assistantship from UNC-Chapel Hill? Do I still need to fill out the financial certificate?
    Yes. All international students must fill in the financial certificate. If you do not have funds available, you may place zeros in the boxes under “Sources of Financial Support” on page two of the financial certificate. Some departments may require prospective students to demonstrate the ability to fund their program of study. Please check with your department regarding the departmental policies. Immigration documents will only be issued to admitted students that have adequately demonstrated the ability to cover the cost of attendance.

  7. When will I receive my immigration documents?
    Most immigration documents are mailed during May and early June. Prior to May, we are working on immigration documents for summer admissions. It is our goal to expedite your immigration documents as quickly as possible. Please keep in mind that U.S. embassies do not accept visa appointments more than four months prior to the start date of the academic program.

  8. Why are international students required to fill out a financial certificate?
    Unlike domestic students, international students are required to fill out a financial certificate. As indicated in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations regarding “Aliens and Nationality”, the school must obtain reliable documentation of the student’s ability to cover the estimated cost of attendance. In order to comply with this federal regulation, UNC-Chapel Hill has developed policy resulting in the creation of a financial certificate which all international students must complete. International students that are not requesting a visa document from UNC-Chapel Hill are not required t submit proof of funding but are required to fill out page one of the financial certificate and submit a copy of their current visa document. When the financial certificate is received and verified by ISSS, our office will create the visa document as soon as possible. If ISSS contacts you with a request for additional information regarding your finances, please follow the directions carefully to help ensure timely processing of your visa document.

  9. How can I speed up the processing of my immigration document?
    Many students express concerns over the time-consuming process of obtaining a student visa, especially due to the advent of security clearances at the U.S. embassies. Please understand that ISSS processes hundreds of immigration documents. Inquiries to ISSS regarding the status of your immigration document take away from time spent processing documents. Please limit your email inquiries to ISSS. However, if you have a special concern, please contact Noel Bynum (or Amanda Mills at Amanda_Mills@unc.edu if you are a MBA or MAC student) with your admission questions.

    If you are concerned about the visa process, please schedule an appointment with the consulate. If your visa document has NOT arrived by the time of your appointment, you may reschedule the appointment. Please be advised that making a visa appointment with the U.S. embassy does not guarantee that you will receive the visa document from ISSS by that date as student files are processed in the order in which complete files are received in our office.

    If the embassy requires that you have an I-20 or DS-2019 in order to make an appointment, please allow our office adequate time for its preparation. It is our goal to assist students as quickly as possible, but also to prepare visa documents in the order which complete files have been received in our office.

  10. What are the mailing options for sending the visa eligibility document?
    ISSS will send visa eligibility documents out via regular U.S. airmail which can take several weeks for delivery. Therefore, you may want to consider using an express mail service. To do so, please follow the instructions on our Mailing Visa Eligibility Document page.

  11. I am in the U.S. in visa category other than F or J, and I am NOT interested in obtaining a visa document from UNC-Chapel Hill. Do I still need to complete financial certificate?
    Yes, all international students are required to fill out a financial certificate even if they are not requesting a visa document from UNC-Chapel Hill; however, students that are NOT requesting an F-1 or J-1 visa from UNC-Chapel Hill are responsible for filling out PAGE ONE ONLY of the financial certificate. Students in visa categories other than F-1 or J-1 should attach a copy of their current visa documents to the financial certificate. This includes students that are pending permanent residency in the U.S. The information that the student provides on page one of the financial certificate assists ISSS in keeping accurate records on our student population, as well as, assist us in advising students about their visa status.

    Students that are not on a UNC-Chapel Hill immigration document are required to check in with ISSS.


  12. I am already in the U.S. studying as an F-1 or J-1 student. What are the procedures for changing from my current institution to UNC-Chapel Hill?
    After you have been admitted to UNC-Chapel Hill , your immigration document should be transferred in SEVIS to UNC-Chapel Hill. Transferring the immigration document helps to preserve eligibility for practical training, maintain the SEVIS number, reduce duplicate records in SEVIS, minimize confusion at the port of entry, and possibly prevent the need to apply for a new visa (if the visa is still valid).

    There are several different scenarios in which students would need to transfer their immigration document. Please refer to the appropriate scenario following the “General SEVIS Transfer Procedures” for additional information.

    General SEVIS Transfer Procedures
    All students that intend to transfer their immigration file in SEVIS to UNC-Chapel Hill should:
    • receive an admission letter from UNC-Chapel Hill , and
    • complete the financial certificate.

    On the financial certificate the student should indicate that they are currently studying in the U.S. and their current visa category. Students in F-1 or J-1 status may be eligible to transfer their SEVIS document to UNC-Chapel Hill .

    ISSS will send a transfer clearance form via email to the student after the financial certificate has been verified by ISSS and an admission letter from the appropriate school has been received. The student should complete the student section and then submit the form to their current foreign student advisor to complete. The foreign student advisor should submit this form either by mail or fax to ISSS. The transfer clearance form will assist in coordinating the transfer release date of the SEVIS file, at which point UNC-Chapel Hill will be able to access the SEVIS record and print a new UNC-Chapel Hill “transfer pending” I-20 document.

    Once the document has been transferred, the student should use the UNC-Chapel Hill document for travel purposes. Students are required to check in with ISSS within 15 days of the start date on the I-20. The transfer will be complete once the student has checked in and been registered in SEVIS. The student will receive a new “continued attendance” I-20 document after registration in SEVIS.

    Note: Students currently residing in the U.S. in J-1 status should read the note regarding J-1 Student Transfers below.

    F-1 Student Transfers
    Please refer to one of the following scenarios for students currently residing in the U.S. in F-1 status that best describes your situation
    • Transferring institutions during an academic program;
    • Students that have completed a degree at another institution and plan to attend UNC-Chapel Hill for a new program; or
    • F-1 students on Optional Practical Training that plan to begin a new academic program at UNC-Chapel Hill .

    Transferring institutions DURING an academic program
    Students that are transferring to UNC-Chapel Hill during their current academic program must be released in SEVIS to UNC-Chapel Hill . Since their current I-20 should be valid for the duration of status, the student may transfer prior to the start of classes at UNC-Chapel Hill .

    Students that have completed a degree at another institution and plan to attend UNC-Chapel Hill for a new program
    F-1 student information: If the new UNC-Chapel Hill program begins within 5 months of the end date of the previous academic program, the student may transfer the SEVIS document to UNC-Chapel Hill. In this case, after following the “General Transfer Procedures” noted above, the student will receive a visa document that states “transfer pending”. If the student transfers the SEVIS file to UNC-Chapel Hill and plans to travel outside of the U.S., it will not be necessary to apply for a new visa unless the visa is no longer valid.  The SEVIS file should be transferred no later than 60 days after the completion date on the current I-20 from the previous institution.

    If the new UNC-Chapel Hill program begins more than 5 months after the start of the new program at UNC-Chapel Hill , the student will not be eligible to transfer the SEVIS document and instead will need to travel outside of the U.S. and reenter on a new “initial entry” I-20. ISSS advises students to apply for a new visa since the school name on the current visa does not match the name on the new “initial entry” I-20 document.

    F-1 students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) that plan to begin a new academic program at UNC-Chapel Hill
    Students on OPT will not have legal authorization to work after their SEVIS file has been transferred to UNC-Chapel Hill . Students should consider carefully the dates in which they plan to discontinue work and initiate the transfer.

    If the new UNC-Chapel Hill program begins within 5 months of the end date of the OPT, the student may transfer the SEVIS document to UNC-Chapel Hill. In this case, after following the “General Transfer Procedures” noted above, the student will receive a visa document that states “transfer pending”. If the student transfers the SEVIS file to UNC-Chapel Hill and plans to travel outside of the U.S., it will not be necessary to apply for a new visa unless the visa is no longer valid.  The student has a 60 day grace period in which to transfer the SEVIS file post OPT; however, if the student has previously used this grace period prior to the start of the OPT, ISSS advises that the SEVIS file be transferred on the last day of OPT to ensure the ability to transfer the document in SE VIS. If the new UNC program begins more than 5 months after the start of the new program at UNC-Chapel Hill , the student will not be eligible to transfer the SEVIS document and instead will need to travel outside of the U.S. and reenter on a new “initial entry” visa document. ISSS advises that students apply for a new visa since the school name on the current visa does not match the name on the new “initial entry” I-20 document.

    J-1 Student Transfers
    An exchange visitor may transfer from one program sponsor to UNC-Chapel Hill if the purpose of the transfer is to complete the original program objective and if the exchange visitor is currently residing  in the U.S. in the  J-1 student category. J-1 students that are currently enrolled in a non-degree program are not eligible for transfer to UNC-Chapel Hill unless they have applied for a change in category with the Department of State. All students should first discuss the possibility of transfer with their sponsoring organization prior to requesting a transfer.  If you fit the criteria for transfer in J-1 student status, please contact Noel Bynum (Amanda Mills at Amanda_Mills@unc.edu if you are a MBA or MAC student) for more information.

  13. I am currently in the U.S. in a visa category other than F-1 or J-1. I am interested in changing my status to F-1 or J-1. What are the options and procedures for changing my status?
    There are two manners for changing status:
    • changing status by traveling outside of the U.S. and reentering in F-1 or J-1 status and
    • changing status within the U.S.

    Change status by traveling
    You will need to depart the U.S. and re-enter the country in F-1 status. This will require you to receive an initial I-20 document from UNC-Chapel Hill , which you will take to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa at a US embassy. ISSS recommends that you apply in your home country or country of permanent residency.

    Change of status within the U.S.
    You will apply for a change of status with the appropriate Immigration Service Center within the U.S. With this option you do NOT need to depart the country. Instead you will pay a fee to immigration services and complete an application including the I-539 form. We recommend that you check the current processing times https://egov.immigration.gov/cris/jsps/index.jsp at the appropriate Immigration Service Center in order to time appropriately the submission of your change of status application. The I-539 form is available on line at http://uscis.gov/graphics/formsfee/forms/files/i-539.pdf . ISSS should be entered under Part 1 under the “in care of” section unless you plan to submit the application yourself. We recommend that you use the ISSS address instead of your personal address to help ensure proper receipt of your receipt and approval notices from the Immigration Service Center. Immigration documents will NOT be forwarded by mail services in the case that you have moved addresses. Please contact Noel Bynum (or Amanda Mills at Amanda_Mills@unc.edu if you are a MBA or MAC student) if you plan to apply for a change of status within the U.S. You will be provided an information sheet, check list, and I-539 form.
  14. What is check-in? What do I need to bring to check in?
    Check-in is the process of appearing in person at ISSS. Check-in is required for all international students, even students that are not receiving visa documents from UNC-Chapel Hill . Failing to check-in at ISSS may result in the termination of your SEVIS document and/or holds on your university account resulting in the inability to drop, add, or register for classes.

    To complete the check-in requirements students should bring the following documents with them:
    • passport for student and any dependents,
    • visa for student and any dependents,
    • I-94 card(s) for student and any dependents or approval notices for students that have changed status within the U.S., and
    • I-20 or DS-2019 documents for student and any dependents.
  15. The student is required to fill out a PR-100 form. Students in J-1 status will be required to sign an insurance pledge which verifies the J-1 student’s knowledge that purchasing medical insurance is a requirement of the J program.

    The check-in procedures take approximately 30 minutes. Students will receive information regarding important dates, deadlines, and programs. For students on our visa documents, once you have checked in with ISSS, we will be able to register you into the SEVIS system which will allow them to maintain their visa status.

  16. How do I find out information regarding housing at UNC-Chapel Hill?
    Additional information can be found on our website under the “New Student” section. For information regarding on campus housing go to: http://housing.unc.edu
    For information regarding off campus housing:
    UNC's Housing Office
    http://gpsf-wiki.unc.edu/confluence/display/handbook/Housing

 

 


International Student and Scholar Services | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill