A visa is a permit placed in your passport by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate official that gives you permission to travel to the United States. There are many different categories of visas. The visa given to you is determined by the purpose of your trip to the U.S.
Each visa category has a set of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service regulations that govern the activities you may engage in while in the United States. The length of time required to obtain a visa and the method of applying vary at each U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Check with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for information on the process currently in effect. If you pursue a degree at Catholic University, it is likely that you will need a Student Visa F-1.
As an international student currently studying at another American educational institution or as an international student currently on a period of Optional Practical Training wishing to continue your studies, you must transfer your F or J status to Catholic University if you will be studying here on a full time basis. This requires communication and coordination between your current school and The Catholic University of America.
You are eligible to transfer your F-1 or J-1 status from your current institution to Catholic University if you have been maintaining your status. If you have violated the terms of your student status either by failing to maintain your enrollment as required under immigration regulations, through unauthorized employment or some other reason, you must discuss your situation with the staff of International Student and Scholar Services. You may either need to apply for reinstatement or need to travel outside the U.S. and return on a new F or J program. Since each case is different, a discussion with ISSS is necessary.
With proper planning, it is possible to travel when changing schools.
Travel abroad before coming to Catholic University: If you are traveling before you are scheduled to begin your studies, you should bring both pages of the new Form I-20 or Form DS2019 with you when you travel. The precise procedure you will follow will depend upon whether or not you have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport at the time you plan to re-enter the U.S.
Need to apply for new visa in passport: If your visa stamp has expired or if you have used up the allowable number of entries for that visa stamp, you must make plans to apply for a new visa stamp at a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. You should follow the visa application procedures outlined above.
Visa in passport is still valid: If your visa stamp from your previous school is still valid (i.e. it is not expired and the maximum number of allowable entries have not already been used), then you will not need to apply for a new stamp, regardless of the name of the school noted on your visa. Instead you will take all pages of the Form I-20 or DS-2019 with you and present them at the port of entry when you return to the U.S. INS will stamp the form and process your transfer accordingly.
No travel outside of U.S. before coming to The Catholic University of America: If you will not be traveling, you must finalize the transfer procedures within the U.S. To do this, you will be required to sign the appropriate pages of your Form I-20 or DS-2019. Catholic University's Office of International Student and Scholar Services will finalize the transfer process and notify the relevant government agencies.
Students who transfer from another U.S. academic institution to The Catholic University of America are required to legally complete their transfer within 15 days of the start of the new semester. Failure to do so will render the student out of status and will require him or her to apply for re-instatement. Under new immigration rules, it must be shown that the failure to transfer in a timely manner was absolutely beyond the student's control.
Upon arrival on the Catholic University campus it is imperative that the student check in with the International Student and Scholar Services office to formally complete the transfer process. Even though they may have already gone through orientation at their previous school, transfer students should be prepared to attend the orientation session for new students.