Application for Visa Certificate Supporting Documentation
After you submit the online Application for Visa Certificate, you will need to submit supporting documents with official English translations. You can submit your documents by fax, by mail or by courier service; the fax number and addresses are listed below. If you fax your documents, we will send you an acknowledgement email 5 to 7 days later when your documents have been added to your record. If you send your documents by courier service, you can track delivery on the courier service web site. We are not able to acknowledge deliveries by mail.
GTS will generally accept faxes of your documents although the we reserve the right to request original documents. The U.S. Department of State does not accept faxed I-20 forms for purposes of visa issuance.
How to send your supporting documents
By Fax to: 212-727-3907
By Courier to: General Theological Seminary , 440 W 21st Street, New York, NY 10011
By Mail to:General Theological Seminary, 440 W 21st Street, New York, NY 10011
Everyone must submit the following documents:
- A photocopy of the identification page of your passport. If you do not have a passport, be sure to enter your name on the AVC form EXACTLY as it is on your passport application.
- A signed and dated letter from you describing how you will pay for your tuition, fees and living expenses for the first year of your studies and how you plan to pay for the following year(s)
- Documents that show that you have enough funds available now for your tuition, fees and living expenses for the first year of your studies.
Information about your funding documents
It is very important to remember that you must prove you can pay for your studies twice--first to GTS before we issue an I-20 and again to the Consular Officer who decides whether to issue your entry visa. Your funding documents must show that the estimated cost of tuition, fees and living expenses are readily available liquid assets. Readily available liquid assets include checking or savings accounts, money market accounts, or certificates of deposit (time deposits) with maturity dates of less than one year.
The following funding documents ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE under any circumstances: investment portfolios of any kind (equities, bonds, mutual funds, etc.), retirement plan accounts, tax returns or other tax filing documents, deeds to any real estate, leases with rental income, etc. If you plan to use money from the sale of investments or the sale of real estate or personal items (such as your car), you must sell the investment or property or item and place the proceeds of the sale into a checking or savings account, a money market account or a certificate of deposit (time deposit) with a maturity date of less than one year.
GTS cannot issue your I-20 until you have clearly shown that you have available funds that equal or exceed your estimated expenses for the year on the chart of Estimated Expenses.
Students who will plan to remain in the U.S. during the summer will need to document additional funds for their summer living expenses.
If you are married and plan to bring your spouse or children, you must document additional funds for your dependents. The amounts for the 2010-2011 Academic Year are U.S. $800 monthly for your spouse and U.S. $400 monthly for each child. Your dependents may join you at any time during your studies.
No applicant for an I-20 is permitted to use any expected employment in the U.S. as a source of funds for tuition, fees, or living expenses.
Students pay for their educational expenses in many ways and many students have more than one source of funding. The documents you submit will depend on how you plan to pay for your studies at GTS; you do not have to submit a type of document if that is not how you are planning to pay your expenses. The amounts on your documents do not have to be in U.S. dollars; we will do a currency conversion. If your documents are not in English, you must include an official translation into English. Please do not send original documents as we cannot return them to you. The required documents for each type of support are listed in the following chart:
Chart of Required Documents For How Your Tuition, Fees and Living Expenses Will Be Funded
Note: The name of the account holder on any bank documents must be in English.
|Source of Funds for Tuition, Fees and Living Expenses||Documents To Be Submitted|
|Personal Funds||Option 1: A letter from your bank in your own name with the exact amount of the balance(s) in your account(s) on the date it is written. The balance(s) must be sufficient to meet your expenses for the first year of your studies. The letter must be dated within the past 3 months.
Option 2: If you are in the U.S., you may submit the monthly statement(s) from your U.S. bank. Statement(s) must be within the past 3 months.
|Parents and/or Family Funds||1. A letter from your parent or relative which guarantees your support and includes the following:
a) Your relative's name, address and relationship to you
b) The program of study and degree objective for which they will provide funding
c) The amount per year in U.S. dollars that will be provided and the number of years for which it is guaranteed
2. A letter from your relative's bank with the exact amount of the balance(s) in the account(s) on the date it is written. The balance(s) must be sufficient to meet your expenses for the first year of your studies. The letter must be dated within the past 3 months. (If your parent or relative is in the U.S., you may submit the monthly statement(s) from their U.S. bank instead of a letter from their bank. Statement(s) must be within the past 3 months.)
|An international organization, government agency, foundation, another university or your employer||The official sponsorship letter stating the conditions of the award. The letter must specify the name and address of the sponsor, the total amount in U.S. dollars available to you for the Columbia school in which you will study, the major field of study and the degree objective and the period for which funding is guaranteed or a statement that funding is renewable annually for a specified number of years.|
|Private Sponsor: Be aware that U.S. Consular officers review private sponsor guarantees very carefully. You should be prepared to submit additional documentation when applying for your entry visa.||1. A letter from your sponsor which guarantees your support and includes the following:
a) Your sponsor's name and address and relationship to you
b) An explanation of your sponsor's relationship to you and why he or she is committed to providing for your support
c) The program of study and degree objective for which the sponsor will provide funding
d) The amount per year in U.S. dollars that will be provided and the number of years for which it is guaranteed
2. A letter from your sponsor's bank with the exact amount of the balance(s) in the account(s) on the date it is written. The balance(s) must be sufficient to meet your expenses for the first year of your studies. The letter must be dated within the past 3 months. (If your sponsor is in the U.S., you may submit the monthly statement(s) from their U.S. bank instead of a letter from their bank. Statement(s) must be within the past 3 months.)
|Education Loans||Sallie Mae student loan: Approval notice only. Pre-approvals are not accepted.
Citi-Assist student loan: Pre-approval notice is acceptable.
Access Group student loan: Pre-approval notice is acceptable.
Loans from banks outside the U.S.: Approval notice only. Pre-approvals are not accepted.
Additional requirement for F-1 or J-1 transfer students
If you already hold F-1 status or were in F-1 status within the last 60 days or if you already hold J-1 status or were in J-1 status within the last 30 days, you must transfer your SEVIS record from your current school to GTS. In addition to submitting the online AVC and supporting documents, you must also submit photocopies of all pages of previous I-20 or DS-2019 forms, as well as photocopies of both sides of your I-94 card. You must also submit a completed TRANSFER FORM that is signed by the international office at your current school and returned to GTS.
Application for Visa Certificate General Information
There are two immigration terms you will see often: "entry visa" and "immigration status". Entry visa refers to the visa affixed to or stamped in your passport; it is obtained only at a U.S. Consulate. An entry visa is used only to enter the U.S. and it can expire while you are here with no repercussions. Your immigration status is usually the same as your entry visa classification (F-1, J-1, B-2, etc.).
The second term, "immigration status", is the nonimmigrant classification on your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (usually called the I-94 card). You fill out the I-94 card on your flight to the U.S. or at a border crossing and the immigration inspector processes it upon arrival. The inspector stamps and dates the Departure section of the I-94 card, writes the immigration status you will hold (F-1, J-1, B-2, WB etc.) and how long you may stay in the U.S. Finally, the inspector inserts or staples the I-94 Departure section into your passport and retains the Arrival section.
The I-94 card is your most important immigration document. It is your only evidence of admission to the U.S. in a particular immigration status and for how long you may remain in the U.S. in that status.
F-1 Student Classification
Students in F-1 student status are required to study full-time during the academic year. GTS commonly defines full-time study as registration for 9 or more credits.
Students in F-1 status may work on campus part-time (up to 20 hours per week) with the permission of the GTS Office of Financial Aid. A student may apply for permission to work off campus only after 9 months in F-1 status. This requires the prior written approval of GTS and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Dependents holding F-2 status may not work under any circumstances.
Canadians do not need entry visas to enter the United States. Those entering the United States to study must request F-1 status at the border and must show the I-20 to the immigration inspector who will issue an I-94 Card upon entry to the United States. Canadian students must have an I-94 Card to confirm current F-1 status; please check that the I-94 is annotated "F-1" and "D/S" before leaving immigration inspection.
Transfer Students Currently or Recently in F-1 or J-1 Status
If you already hold F-1 status or were in F-1 status within the last 60 days or if you already hold J-1 status or were in J-1 status within the last 30 days, you can transfer your SEVIS record from your current school to Columbia. In addition to submitting the online AVC and supporting documents, you must also submit photocopies of all pages of previous I-20 or DS-2019 forms, as well as photocopies of both sides of your I-94 card. You must also submit a completed TRANSFER FORM that is signed by the international office at your current school and returned to GTS.
Nationals from Countries Requiring Currency Exchange Permits
The I-20 is a U.S. government form that tGTS may issue solely for use by the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security in establishing eligibility for F-1 student classification; it cannot be issued to you for the purpose of obtaining a foreign exchange permit. Moreover, if your country sets a maximum figure on foreign exchange that is below the minimum requirement for I-20 eligibility, you must document the availability of supplemental funds from sources not affected by exchange control. GTS reserves the right to require advance deposit of funds sufficient to cover part or all of your tuition and living expenses.
This section has some helpful New York City links, and a link to a currency converter.
Helpful Links for New International Students
|The New York Times||The Paperless Guide to New York City|
|Time Out New York||NYCTourist|
|The Village Voice||NYNow|
|Oanda Currency Converter||DNAinfo.com/New-York/|
Visa Application Process Overview
Consistency of Name Spelling: Most countries issue machine-readable passports with the name in the home country's language and in Latin letters without diacritical marks which conform to the specifications of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The ISO spelling of your name must be on your passport, your I-20 from GTS, and your entry visa. When you enter the United States, you must write your name on the I-94 card exactly as it is spelled on the F-1 entry visa in your passport.
You should apply for the F-1 visa as early as possible as visa processing can take up to twelve weeks at some United States Consulates. To obtain a visa, you must apply to a U.S. Consulate with your passport, the form I-20, and funding documents (plus passports and financial documents for each dependent). You will need two passport-size (37 mm x 37 mm) photographs of each visa applicant over 16 years of age. If your family name is different from your dependents, be prepared to show documents that prove your relationship.
You will need to present proof of the required SEVIS fee payment. This fee can be paid online by completing Form I-901.
Lastly, you must submit the online Form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application). If the Embassy or Consulate at which you will apply for your visa is NOT using the electronic Form DS-160, you must complete the paper visa application forms. These are Form DS-156 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form), Form DS-158 (Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant Visa Applicant), and any supplementary forms required by the particular Consulate. For the Form DS-156, it is very important to follow the instructions for completing the online application form. Be sure to print your complete application and bring all 3 pages, including the last page with the barcode, to your appointment.
On occasion, a Consular Visa Officer may require evidence (in addition to the certification on your form I-20) of English proficiency sufficient to pursue your proposed program of studies or evidence of ties to your country of citizenship. In most cases, applications must be made in person. You should check with the United States Consulate for any required documents before you make your application for the F-1 visa. The length of visa validity, number of entries permitted, and application fee are based on reciprocity and generally reflect your country's policies in granting visa privileges to visiting U.S. students. The Consular Visa Officer has the final word on your application; his or her judgment is not subject to review.
Because the time between requesting your I-20 and receiving the visa is unpredictable, we suggest that you wait to buy your airline ticket(s) until after you have received the F-1 visa from the United States Consulate. If your I-20 is late in arriving, contact your school to learn the last day that you can arrive and register for the semester. Do NOT enter the United States in Visitor status (B-1, B-2, WT, or WB). Those in B-1/B-2/WT/WB status are not permitted to attend class and are in violation of their Visitor status if they do so. Therefore, you must wait to obtain the F-1 visa before coming to the United States to study at GTS
The U.S. Consulate will require original documents with your application for an F-1 student visa. Consular standards for visa eligibility may be considerably more rigorous than the standards you must meet to qualify for a form I-20. You will wish to use your good judgment as to whether to submit additional information with your entry visa application.