International Student Information


Disclaimer: The following informal information is provided for international students interested in studying in the master’s program in Computer Science at UNCG. While we make every effort to keep this up to date and correct, the Department of Computer Science does not have immigration or visa experts on staff, and students are referred to the appropriate office at UNCG for more information.

Q: What is the difference between an immigrant and a non-immigrant visa?

A: An immigrant visa is the visa issued to persons wishing to live permanently in the United States. A non-immigrant visa is the visa issued to persons with permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wish to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis, for example, tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study.

Q: What visa do students need?

A: There are very many different kinds of visas, but usually foreign students coming to UNCG will hold an F-1 or J-1 visa. To obtain a student visa (either F-1 or J-1 visas, and certain other visas) the following holds: “Student visa applicants must establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they will depart the United States when they have completed their studies.” This quotation was taken from this web page (note that this is a US Immigration information web site, but is not run by the U.S. Government). Because of this requirement, F-1 and J-1 visa holders seldom have the capacity to become legal residents of North Carolina. HENCE North Carolina in-state-tuition status is NOT usually available for students holding either an F-1 or J-1 visa or any visa which explicitly states an intention of the visa holder to return to the country of origin. Even for U.S citizens of other states, obtaining North Carolina in-state-tuition status is a complex process requiring, among other things, legal residency in North Carolina for one year prior to the semester in which in-state-tuition status is sought.

Q: What about an H1 visa?

A: An H-1B visa is granted for a person who wishes to work temporarily in the United States in a specialty occupation which requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge. People on the H1 visa may go to school part time in the USA, but not full time, since the visa is for the specific job. If a person wants to go to school full time (e.g., to receive an assistantship), the visas needs to be changed to F1, which probably can be done, but since the H1 allows (requires) the person to work, few holders of the H1 visa want to change their visa status. For reasons unknown to me, the H-1 visa applicants (and the L-1, a classification that applies to intra-company transferees) need not show proof of binding ties to a residence outside the United States which they have no intention of abandoning. Thus, if an H1 visa holder has been in North Carolina for over a year, there is the possibility to become a legal resident of North Carolina (the first step towards obtaining in-state-tuition status) especially if the visa holder has paid NC state taxes. However, determining legal residence and in-state-tuition status are legal matters — not university policies — and does not hinge on any one or even any list of items, but is decided by taking all the evidence into account.

Q: What is the F-1 visa?

A: The F-1 visa is for non-immigrants to enter the United States solely for the purpose of study and that on completing studies the individual will return to the foreign country of permanent residence.

Q: What is a J-1 visa?

A: The J-1 visa is for the non-immigrants to come to the U.S. for: teaching, studying, researching, consulting, demonstrating special skills or receiving training. Here is more detail about the J-1: The Immigration and Nationality Act provides two non-immigrant visa categories for persons to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. The “J” visa is for educational and cultural exchange programs designated by the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), and the “Q” visa is for international cultural exchange programs designated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

The “J” exchange visitor program is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. Participants include students at all academic levels; trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and agencies; teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools; professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning; research scholars; professional trainees in the medical and allied fields; and international visitors coming for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.

The “Q” international cultural exchange program is for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the participant’s home country in the United States.

Both “J” and “Q” applicants must demonstrate to the consular officer that they have binding ties to a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning, and that they are coming to the United States for a temporary period.

Q: What is Form I-20?

A: I-20 is shorthand for the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services Form I-20 A-B/ID (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – for Academic and Language Students). This form will be issued to you by the university after you are accepted for admission. In the case of UNCG, the form is issued by the UNCG International Programs Center. Only our designated school official (DSO) can give you a BCIS Form I-20 . If you require a visa, then you should take the BCIS Form I-20 to the nearest U.S. consulate to obtain a student visa. Only bring the BCIS Form I-20 from the school you plan on attending for visa processing at the U.S. consulate. You must also prove to the consulate that you have the financial resources required for your education and stay in the United States. We have a bit more about the I-20 on another page. Please see the State Department Websites below for more information on visa processing.

For more information about visas see this visa information from the U.S. State Department.

For further campus information about applying to UNCG and Form I-20 contact the UNCG International Programs Center.