International students wishing to pursue a doctoral or master’s degree at the Graduate Center, the Craig Newmark School of Journalism, or the School of Labor and Urban Studies, must obtain and maintain either F-1 Student Status or J-1 Exchange Visitor Status.
To be eligible for an F-1 or J-1 visa, you must:
- Have an admissions letter confirming acceptance into a degree program at your preferred institution and be prepared to matriculate as a full-time student.
- Part-time and non-matriculated/non-degree students may not apply for F-1 or J-1 status.
- Have adequate financial resources to meet your expenses during the period of your study in the U.S.
- Financial support must be documented to guarantee the first year, and must be documented to project where support will come from in future years of study. See more about documentation requirements
- Have a U.S. residential address
- New students must report their U.S. address within 10 days of their arrival in the country.
- Have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements)
- Have sufficient competence in the English language to pursue a regular course of study at CUNY
Applying for F-1/J-1 Status
Please note: Before applying for F-1 Student Status or J-1 Exchange Visitor Status, you must apply and be accepted to one of the programs offered by the Graduate Center, the Craig Newmark School of Journalism, or the School of Labor and Urban Studies.
The instructions below are intended for new international students without a current visa.
Applicants who currently hold another visa and would like to change to F-1 Student Status or J-1 Exchange Visitor Status should consult the Office of International Students for information on the correct procedure to follow.
Please note that change of status within the United States is not guaranteed. A student will not be eligible for employment authorization incident to F-1 or J-1 status (including employment pursuant to a financial aid award) until the request for change of status has been approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These requests require a minimum of 7 to 12 months to adjudicate.
If an applicant has an immigration status other than F-1 or J-1 and intends to keep that status, appropriate documentation must be provided to the Office of International Students before registering for classes.
International students who are admitted into a degree program must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 for F-1 students or Form DS-2019 for J-1 students) in order to enter and/or remain in the U.S. in valid student status. This applies whether you are a new student, a transfer student from another U.S. university, or a transfer student from another CUNY college.
The Certificate of Eligibility will be issued only if you have received an admissions letter and if you have properly completed and returned the application form along with required documentation of financial support.
Financial Support Requirements
Financial support must be documented to guarantee the first year, and must be documented to project where support will come from in future years of study.
- New doctoral students at The Graduate Center must provide documentation of financial support to cover a minimum of the first four years of study.
- New master’s students at The Graduate Center must provide documentation of financial support to cover a minimum of the first two years of study.
- All students at the School of Journalism and the School of Labor and Urban Studies must provide documentation of financial support for the full length of the program of studies.
- Continuing/transfer students must discuss the minimum period of support with an international student counselor in the Office of International Students at The Graduate Center.
To assist students in their financial planning, the Application PDF includes a table of estimated yearly expenses. Please note these estimates show a minimum figure, and that actual costs may vary. University financial assistance for which international students are eligible to apply is limited and is usually not adequate to fund a student’s total expenses. Students are asked to review their financial situation carefully because the cost of living in New York City is high, and immigration regulations restrict employment.
How to Apply
Complete the Application for Certificate of Eligibility and Declaration & Certification of Finances and email it directly to the Office of International Students at email@example.com with all required documentation:
- Application for Certificate of Eligibility
- Financial Aid Letter (if applicable)
- Copy of the Passport ID Page
- Financial Documentation
- Affidavit of Support (if applicable)
- Data Protection Form (EU Country students)
- Dependents’ Documents (if applicable)
- Transfer Students also please submit:
- Transfer form
- Most recent I-94
- Copies of all previous I-20s or DS-2019s
- Copy of your most recent visa
- SEVIS payment receipt
- Copy of your EAD card (if applicable)
Please note: This documentation may also be requested by United States consular officials upon application for an entry visa, by U.S. immigration inspectors at ports of entry into the United States, or by immigration inspectors when applications are made for extension of stay or change of status in the United States. When preparing documents for submission of the application for certificate of eligibility, we recommend preparing an additional set for use when applying for your visa.
The U.S. government regulates the immigration status of international students through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). All international students and exchange visitors must pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee, which funds the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and SEVIS. This fee is separate from visa fees and can be paid online or via check or money order.
F-1 and J-1 students must receive their Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 for F-1 students/Form DS-2019 for J-1 students). You will need the SEVIS ID and school code/program number from your certificate to submit payment.
- F-1 Students: The SEVIS ID Number is printed on the top (left side) of the Form I-20. The School Code is printed in Section 2 “School Information” on the first page of the Form I-20.
- J-1 Students: The SEVIS ID Number is printed on the top right corner of the Form DS-2019 form. The Program Number is printed in Section 2 on the first page of the Form DS-2019.
- Pay your SEVIS Fee online
- Learn more about the SEVIS Fee
After making your I-901 SEVIS Fee payment, please print your receipt and keep it for your records. You will need to bring the SEVIS fee receipt to your visa appointment at the U.S. Consulate and with you when you travel to the United States.
Complete and submit the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160. After completion, be sure to save and print the application form confirmation.
Visa interviews are required of most applicants and should generally be scheduled at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
Be prepared to bring all necessary documentation showing successful completion of steps 1-3 along with your valid passport.
You may also need to pay your nonrefundable visa application fee in advance of your interview. If required, be sure to print and bring your payment receipt to your interview.
See how to schedule and prepare for your visa interview
During the interview, a consular officer will review your documentation and determine whether you are qualified to receive a student visa. You must establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive a visa.
The consular officer may ask you to submit additional academic, financial, or personal documentation, and may determine that your application requires further administrative processing.
After the visa is approved, you may need to pay a visa issuance fee (if applicable to your nationality).
Maintaining Status and Managing Changes
After obtaining F-1 Student Status or J-1 Exchange Visitor Status, you are responsible for complying with all government regulations relating to your visa for the duration of your stay in the U.S. and must maintain the accuracy of your personal and academic records.
SEVIS requires reporting within 10 days to the Office of International Students of any changes in an international student’s personal or academic information.
Specifically, this includes changes to your legal name (as shown on your passport), U.S. residence address, academic level, academic program, or planned changes to your immigration status.
You must inform the Office of International Students if your legal name as shown on your passport changes. You must provide a copy of your new passport to the office, either in person or by PDF email attachment.
You will be required to submit a new Application for Certificate of Eligibility and obtain a new Form I-20 (F-1 Students) or DS-2019 (J-1 Students) to verify the name change in your SEVIS Record.
Please Complete and submit a SEVIS Data Verification Form with your new US address or new foreign address within 10 days of moving. This can be done by downloading and completing the PDF form and submitting by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Download the SEVIS Data Verification Form
Please note: When updating your address you must submit this form to the Office of International Students and you must update your address in CUNYFirst to change the information on your SEVIS record. When updating your US address in CUNYFirst, please enter your US address in the home address field. Your permanent address in CUNYFirst must be your address in your home country. If your permanent address in CUNYFirst needs to be edited, please email the SEVIS Data Verification Form to our office and we will edit your permanent address in CUNYFirst.
To maintain valid immigration status in the United States, international students must be registered full time each semester. Full time is defined as 7 credits per semester for Doctoral Students and 9 credits for Masters students. Please contact our office to ask about full-time requirements for certificate programs.
Dropping below a full-time registration during the semester may put an international student in danger of violating U.S. government regulations. To this end, any and all changes to academic standing, level, or program must be discussed with an international student counselor before they are processed. This includes:
- Registration status
- Leaves of absence
- Course withdrawals
Your counselor will discuss your plans and available options and assist you in determining the proper next steps and procedures for continuing with your education.
You must consult with an international student counselor before proceeding with any changes to your immigration status.