Visa and Immigration Information

All non-immigrant international students (with the exception of Canadians) who wish to study in the United States must obtain the appropriate F-1 visa before being allowed to enter the country. Hartwick understands that the F-1 visa application process can be complicated, and we would like to provide you with all the information you need to successfully navigate this process. In addition to the information provided below, you are always welcome to e-mail the International Student Advisor with any questions you might have.

Visa Basics
Applying for your Visa
Visa denial or visa delay
A special note for citizens of Canada
If you are currently living or studying in the U.S.
All other non-immigrant Visa classifications
What is SEVIS?
Visa and Travel
Working in the U.S.
Maintaining F-1 Status

A student F-1 visa or exchange J-1 visa is necessary to enter the United States to study. If you are accepted to Hartwick, an I-20 AB student certification will be mailed to you from our Designated School Official. Specific application information can be found on the Admissions' Web page.

If you are coming to Hartwick as an exchange student or as a degree student on home-country government sponsorship (other than personal or family funds), your Certificate of Eligibility is Form DS-2019, which is necessary for acquiring a J-1 visa. If you have been awarded a fellowship or scholarship from an international organization or the U.S. government, you will receive a Certificate of Eligibility DS-2019 from your sponsoring agency. Your Certificate of Eligibility indicates the latest date by which you should report to Hartwick College. This date is generally the first day of the Orientation period for new students.

Important Note: If your plans change, and you decide not to attend Hartwick College, return the Certificate of Eligibility to Global Education and notify the Admissions Office of your decision. If you wish to defer your admission to a subsequent semester, you will need to put the request in writing when you contact these offices.

Unless you are a Canadian citizen, you must obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa before you will be permitted to enter the United States. Please note that visa procedures and the timeframe for applying and receiving a visa vary from one country to another. Before you apply for your visa, check with the U.S. Embassy in your country to learn what supporting documents are required and how long the process will take. That information can be found in detail at the Department of State Web site: You will need to go to or mail in the appropriate forms to the United States Embassy or, in some cases, the U.S. Consulate closest to you. You also can refer to the U.S. Immigration Web site here for more information on pursuing international study in the United States.

Once you receive your I-20 form from Hartwick (or DS-2019 form from a sponsoring agency) and review the information, you can proceed to the U.S. consulate or embassy with jurisdiction over your place of residence. If you are currently abroad, and do not yet have a valid U.S. student visa, you generally apply for one at the U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence, not necessarily the nearest embassy or consulate. You should apply for your student visa well in advance of the date you would like to depart for Hartwick.

Holiday and vacation periods are very busy times at the U.S. embassies and consulates world wide, and it is important for you to have your visa in time to arrive and begin orientation and registration activities no later than the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019. Appointments are now mandatory for all student visas, and some U.S. embassies and consulates require that appointments be made at least four to eight weeks in advance. The actual visa interview may be as early as 120 days prior to your planned arrival date in the United States. For more information about your visa application or to locate the nearest embassy or consulate, visit the official visa information Web site of the U.S. Department of State. Please also review this Web site to learn more about the visa application interview.

In order to support your request for a visa you will need:

1. An I-797 Form Confirming the Payment of I-901 Remittance Fee. The remittance fee of $200 has been established to support the F and J immigrant reporting system (Student Exchange and Visitor Information System, SEVIS), which collects and stores data on persons who enter the U.S. on non-immigrant visas. The remittance fees must be paid prior to applying for a J-1 or F-1 visa or prior to requesting any changes in visa status. It may be paid by mail or via the Internet. In order to submit the payment you have to fill out the I-901 Form. Note that the fee is non-refundable and a failure to submit documents with correct information will result in return of the forms and delay in processing.

After the payment has been received, you will be sent an I-797 Form and a confirmation of payment. You will get a paper receipt in the mail for all payments. You also can print a paper receipt immediately if you file online and pay with a credit or debit card. Other acceptable payment methods include:

By Mail - The only acceptable forms of payment are checks or money orders. DO NOT MAIL CASH. All checks and money orders must be made in U.S. dollars and drawn on a bank located in the United States. Make the check payable to the “I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee.” Also, write your name and SEVIS identification number on the check. The SEVIS Identification number can be found in the top right corner of your I-20 or DS-2019; it is a long number starting with the letter “N.” Mail the form along with a check or money order to:
I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee
PO Box 970029
St. Louis, MO 63197-0020

Or courier the form and the payment to:
I-901 Student/Exchange Visitor Processing Fee
1005 Convention Plaza
St.Louis, MO 63101

By Western Union Quick Pay Service - Nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors in more than 130 countries will be able to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee locally using the Western Union Quick Pay service.

This initiative allows Western Union to collect the SEVIS I-901 fee, in local currency, along with the needed Form I-901 data and electronically transmit the payment and data to SEVIS. The properly completed Western Union receipt serves as immediate proof-of-payment for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate and for admission at a U.S. port of entry. This option is available in any country where Western Union offers its Quick Pay service.

The instructions along with a completed sample of the Western Union form can be found on the SEVIS FEE Web site. After receiving your I-797 Form you should take it to the consulate or embassy nearest to you along with the following immigration documents in order to apply for your U.S. visa.

2. An Application Form (DS-156)
- All male applicants between the ages of 16-45 must fully complete the supplemental DS-157 form. (You may obtain these forms in person at the embassy, or get them from the Web site of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you are applying.)

3. Visa Processing application fee
- This information is available on the Web site of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you are applying.

4. An Acceptance Letter - sent to you by Hartwick College

5. Test Scores and Academic records

6. Proof of English Proficiency

7. An I-20 or a DS-2019 Form

8. Financial Verification Documents
- These documents are proof of your ability to cover the costs of education and living expenses during your period of stay in the United States. They can include bank statements and other verifications of sources of income, or letters of support from your sponsor or scholarship organization. You may use the Hartwick College International financial aid form that you have already sent to Hartwick College.

9. A Passport
- The passport must be valid at least six months into the future at all times while you are staying in the United States.

10. Recent Passport Photograph(s)
- For number and specific sizes of photos needed you may contact the consulate or embassy to which you will be applying for your visa.

11. Proof of residence outside the U.S.
- This document should confirm that the student resides at an address outside the U.S. to which he/she intends to return after completing the temporary period of study (usually the family's home address).

12. Evidence of ties to your home country

Except under unusual circumstances, the U.S. consular official will review the above documents and evidence presented and will issue a visa within a few hours or days of the submission of the application. After approving the visa application, the consular officer places a visa in the applicant's passport, noting the period of its validity and the number of entries allowed.

Most Hartwick College 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
• failure to provide sufficient evidence of financial support

Other reasons for visa denials include health-related issues such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, etc., criminal background, security risk, previous illegal entrance to the United States, immigration status violators previously removed from the United States, and unlawful voters.

The visa officer must verbally inform you of the reason for the visa denial. If your visa is denied, please notify the Director of Global Education, and provide the date and location of your visa interview, and details regarding the reason given by the visa officer for the denial.

Much more common than a visa denial is a visa delay. This is why it is so important to apply for your visa EARLY! Here are some of the most common reasons for visa delays:

- Closings or reduced hours at U.S. visa issuing posts abroad due to security concerns or political instability in the host country.

- Student or scholar's record does not appear in the SEVIS system at the U.S. embassy or consulate, even though the student or scholar presents a SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019.
If you are told that your record does not appear in the visa officer's SEVIS system, immediately contact Director of Global Education, and provide the date and location of your visa interview. We will contact the appropriate authority to have your SEVIS record re-submitted directly to the visa post.

- Student or scholar not presenting proof of Federal SEVIS Fee payment.

- A finding based on Section 221(g), which means that the visa officer found that the information provided at the visa interview was insufficient to support approval or denial of a visa. The applicant will be asked to return with additional information.

- The need for a security advisory opinion prior to visa issuance if the visa applicant is determined to be pursuing a "sensitive area of study" as indicated on the State Department's Technology Alert List. The fields usually include the sciences and engineering.

- The need for a security clearance prior to visa issuance if the visa applicant has ever been arrested in the United States, or if the applicant has a name identical to or similar to a person with a previous arrest record.

- The need for a security clearance prior to visa issuance if the visa applicant fits a particular description and is a citizen of or born in one of the designated countries requiring security clearances .

- The new U.S. Department of State requirement that all applicants for non-immigrant visas be interviewed. This new policy has created delays at visa issuing posts around the world.

Similar to a visa denial, the visa officer must verbally inform you of the reason for the visa delay. If your visa is delayed, please notify the Director of Global Education, and provide the date and location of your visa interview, and details regarding the reason given by the visa officer for the delay. The U.S. State Department has prepared information on student visas on its web site that may be useful to you.

Citizens of Canada are not required to obtain a U.S. visa to enter the United States. However, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will inspect your papers, either at a pre-inspection site in Canada or upon entry to the United States. You must have with you:

• your Canadian passport
• your admission letter to Hartwick
• proof of Federal SEVIS Fee Payment (I-797 Form)
• your Hartwick Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019)
• proof of financial support that corresponds to the information on your I-20 or DS-2019

It is essential that you enter the United States in the appropriate status, so be sure to have complete documentation with you.

F-1 and J-1 Students: If you already have valid F-1 student or J-1 student status by being enrolled at another school, college or university in the United States, by now you have already completed the required Transfer In Form and requested that the international student advisor at your current school release your SEVIS record to Hartwick College. Your new Hartwick I-20 or DS-2019, endorsed for pending transfer, is mailed to you as soon as the release date for your SEVIS record (as determine by your previous school) is reached.

Once you are enrolled at Hartwick College and we have confirmed your registration, the transfer process will be completed. If you are in F-1 status, a new I-20 will be issued to you. Be sure to report to the Center for Interdependence as soon as possible after your arrival.

If you are currently in the U.S. in a visa classification other than F-1 or J-1, you should contact the Center for Interdependence for information.

SEVIS or the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is an Internet-based system that allows schools and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to exchange data on the visa status of international students. Accurate and current information is transmitted electronically throughout an F-1 or J-1 student's academic career in the United States. U.S. embassies and consulates also have access to SEVIS.

While you are welcome to travel within the United States without restriction as long as you have maintained your visa status in SEVIS, if you intend to travel outside of the United States at any point, you need to be aware of the proper procedures so that you are not denied re-entry. This information is provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and can be found here. You also will need to contact the International Student Advisor every time you plan to travel outside of the United States while you are a student at Hartwick, so that you can receive an updated I-20 form with the appropriate authorization signatures.

While a student maintaining F-1 status at Hartwick College you are eligible for on-campus employment. These positions are typically advertised at the beginning of every new semester. You can also contact individual departments at Hartwick to inquire directly about possible employment. The International Student Advisor can assist you in obtaining a social security number after you have located a job on-campus. Off campus employment is not permitted to F-1 or J-1 students unless it falls under CPT or OPT guidelines.

CPT (Curricular Practical Training)
CPT is an option for international students who wish to complete an internship as part of their course of study. CPT can be performed as long as you maintain status as an F-1 student, as long as the internship or work falls within your current major, and as long as the work is:

A) Required for your degree – such as an internship that is a required part of the curriculum that must be completed in order to achieve a degree

B) Integral to the curriculum – while an internship may not be required, it is perceived as an integral part of the academic experience

In order to be eligible for CPT a student must be in valid F-1 status and have been a full-time student for one academic year (Fall and Spring semesters) before participating in the CPT.

OPT (Optional Practical Training)
OPT is an option available to students who have maintained F-1 status and want to gain experience in their field of study through employment in that field. OPT is a temporary employment authorization that lasts for 12 months and is generally taken after completion of a Hartwick degree (though it is possible to perform during summers as well). OPT must be recommended by the Center for Interdependence after consultation with your International Student Advisor.

Students eligible for OPT will meet the following requirements:

A) An in-status F-1 student who has been enrolled for at least one full academic year (Fall and Spring)

B) Intending to obtain employment in a field directly related to the student’s field of study at Hartwick College

C) Have not completed more than 364 days of full-time CPT

D) Have not utilized a combination of 12 months of prior OPT work authorization

E) Have not already completed a degree at this level (Bachelor’s) or a higher level

For more information on CPT and OPT eligibility and requirements, please schedule an appointment to speak with the International Student Advisor.

In order to maintain status as an F-1 student, you must:

1) maintain a valid passport and carry your I-94 card at all times

2) report any changes to your local address to the Center for Interdependence within 10 days of moving

3) report any changes to your name, major field of study, or program level

4) be enrolled in classes by the date specified by Hartwick College

5) maintain a full course of study (at least 12 credit hours)

6) obtain prior authorization from the International Student Advisor if you have to reduce your course load below 12 hours

7) not engage in any unauthorized (off-campus) employment during their stay or work more than 20 hours per week (on-campus) while school is in session

8) not let your I-20 expire if you are still working towards completing your degree program of study

9) obtain a travel signature on page 3 of the I-20 if traveling outside the U.S.

10) leave the U.S. within 60 days of completing your degree or program-related employment.