F-1 Degree-Seeking Pre-Arrival Steps

Apply for the Form I-20

The form I-20 is an immigration document required for international students to apply for the F-1 visa and attend classes at UNCW in lawful F-1 status. The I-20 must be kept current at all times during your studies at UNCW.

In order for OISS to issue an I-20, U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations require students to provide proof of financial support to cover the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses.


Documents Required to Receive your Form I-20:

  1. Copy of Passport Biographical Page

  2. Proof of Financial Support. Documents submitted must meet these requirements:

    • Dated no older than 6 months
    • The total amount of funding (bank statements/letters, scholarships, graduate student funding, etc.) you provide must equal or exceed the cost of attendance listed below.
    • Bank statement or letter from your bank must be in English and must include:
      • account holder's name
      • funds/balance currently available
      • currency in which the funds are displayed on the document(s)
      • If a bank statement or letter is not in the student's name, a Sponsorship Letter, signed and dated by the account holder(s), is also required.
    • Scholarship Award Letter, if applicable.
    • If you are a graduate student who has been awarded an assistantship or other financial support from your academic department, follow the instructions in the I-20 application to send the additional F-1 Graduate Student Funding form to your graduate department advisor to complete.

  3. Please click the Apply Now button below to begin the I-20 application. You must login with your UNCW account credentials (username without "@uncw.edu"). Your UNCW account information is provided in your acceptance letter.

2021-2022 UNCW Cost of Attendance:

  • Undergraduate Students: $39,920 USD
  • Graduate Students: $40,651 USD
    • Some graduate programs have additional fees which will increase the amount needed for the I-20 proof of funding. Please see the Tuition & Fees website to confirm if there are additional tuition/fees for your program.
  • TABSA Students Only: $15,914 USD


Transfer your F-1 Record to UNCW

If you are currently attending another institution in the United States as an F-1 student and want to enroll at UNCW, you will need to transfer your F-1 SEVIS immigration record from your current school to UNCW. F-1 students are required to have an I-20 issued by UNCW to attend classes at UNCW in lawful F-1 status. Contact your UNCW F-1 student advisor for the steps to transfer your F-1 SEVIS record to UNCW.

F-1 transfer students must apply for and receive a new I-20 from UNCW before beginning classes to remain in lawful F-1 status.

Change of Status 

If you are currently in the U.S. in another visa classification (e.g., H-4, L-2) and want to change your status to F-1 student, be prepared for this process to take several months up to a year. Please contact the OISS F-1 advisor as soon as possible to discuss the Change of Status process.

Students on Visa Types Other than F-1 or J-1

If you do not require UNCW's F-1 visa sponsorship because you have a visa that allows you to study in the U.S. (e.g. U.S. permanent resident, H-4, L-2, TD, etc.), then you do not have to submit anything to the Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS). We welcome you to attend OISS programs and events, and hope you have a great time at UNCW!

Apply for the F-1 Visa


Receive the Form I-20 Immigration Document from OISS

Once you complete the online I-20 application, a UNCW form I-20 will be issued to you within one to two weeks. After your I-20 is processed, the Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS) will send your I-20 to you so that you can begin the next steps:

  1. Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee
  2. Apply for an F-1 visa stamp
  3. Enter the U.S. and check-in with OISS.

Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee (everyone)

All students must complete U.S. government form I-901 and pay the fee associated with this application. You must show your I-901 receipt when you apply for your visa and when you enter the U.S. More information is available on the I-901 SEVIS Fee website.

Apply for the F-1 Visa (everyone except citizens of Canada)

All students, except citizens of Canada, must apply for an F-1 visa stamp at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside of the U.S. if they do not already have a valid F-1 visa stamp in their passport. It is recommended that you apply for the F-1 visa in your home country whenever possible.

  • Complete the online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160)
    • Documents required to complete the DS-160 include:

      • Passport
      • Travel itinerary, if you already have it
      • Dates of previous travel to the U.S.
      • Your SEVIS ID number listed on your form I-20
      • UNCW School Code: listed in the School Information section on page 1 of the I-20

  • Schedule a Visa Interview Appointment: Visa application processes vary by embassy. For specific instructions, check the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will be interviewed. You can check visa appointment wait times on the U.S. Department of State website.

  • Attend your Visa Interview
    • Documents to Take to Your Interview
      • Form I-20
      • UNCW Admissions letter
      • Proof of financial support - you may use same documents you submitted with your I-20 application.
      • I-901 SEVIS Fee payment receipt

    • Additional Documents
      • In addition to the required items above, you may also choose to bring additional documents as evidence that your stay in U.S. will be temporary and that you plan to return home at the end of your academic program. Additional documentation may include:
        • Proof of a residence in your home country
        • Family business in your home country
        • Spouse or children staying in home country
        • Please note: It is impossible to specify all of the documents you may need to provide at a visa interview appointment as applicants' circumstances vary greatly. Check the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will be interviewed for their specific requirements.

Enter the United States

Enter the U.S. and Check In with OISS

You may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days prior to the start date of your academic program. Please the "Earliest Admission Date" under the Program of Study section on page 1 of your I-20.

When you arrive in the U.S., the Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officer will ask to see your passport, F-1 visa stamp (for everyone except citizens of Canada), form I-20, proof of I-901 SEVIS fee payment, and financial documentation. The CBP officer will inspect your documents and then return them to you.

After arriving in the U.S., you must complete the OISS Check-In (required to register your F-1 immigration record at UNCW) and attend the OISS International Student Orientation. More details are available on the F-1 Planning Your Arrival website.