What is a non-immigrant visa?

A non-immigrant visa is an immigration document that permits a citizen of a foreign country to enter into the U.S. for a temporary period of time. It also determines what a non-immigrant is allowed to do while in the U.S. There are many different types of visas, depending on the primary purpose for coming to the U.S.

When non-immigrants apply to visit the United States, they must declare their primary purpose for visiting. Non-immigrants must declare this purpose at least twice: once when applying for a visa at a United States embassy or consulate and again at the U.S. port-of-entry (POE) where they arrive in the United States. The declared primary purpose determines the type of visa needed and the non-immigrant class of admission when admitted at the POE. For example, if your primary purpose for entering the U.S. is to study, it is in your best interest to get an F-1 student visa.

However, the Technical College of the Lowcountry will accept non-immigrants already in the U.S. with a visa type other than an F-1 student visa as long as the specific visa has no restrictions to prevent the non-immigrant from studying in the U.S. and as long as fulfillment of visa obligations continues.

To find out whether your current visa status allows you to study, please read Non-immigrants: Who can Study?, a document published by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

If you are currently in the U.S. under a visa status that does not allow full-time or part-time study, you may need to change your visa status to that of an F-1 student.

Individuals who are in B-1 or B-2 status must first acquire F-1 (academic student) status before enrolling in classes. Enrolling in classes while in B-1/B-2 status will result in a status violation. Individuals in B-1 or B-2 status who have violated their non-immigrant status by enrolling in classes are not eligible to extend their B-1/B-2 status or change to F-1 status. These federal regulations provide no exceptions.

If you wish to pursue academic study at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, you should not enter the country as a B-1/B-2 visitor, but as an F-1 student. If you are already in the United States on a B-1/B-2 visa, we recommend you leave the U.S. to apply for an F-1 student visa at your local U.S. embassy, or you may apply to change your status with USCIS.

To change your non-immigrant status from B-1/B-2 to F-1, you must complete the Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status (Form I-539), and include the required fee and documents listed in the filing instructions on the USCIS webpage.

Admission Requirement for Non-Immigrant Visa students

Admission Requirement for Non-Immigrant Visa students:

  • Completed application
  • Copy of passport, visa, I-94 form and any documentation or notice from Immigration regarding your visa status, must be submitted with application
  • Only if on J-1 visa: Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for exchange visitor (J-1) status
  • Qualifying test scores for the Technical College of the Lowcountry Placement Test, or qualifying SAT/ACT scores. If you have taken equivalent English and math courses at another U.S. college, you may be allowed to exempt all or part of the placement test if transcripts are provided. A degree earned abroad does not waive the placement test.
  • Documentation of the equivalent of high school graduation/secondary education. We will require an evaluation report.

All other general Admission requirements for the college apply.

Important Information

Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the U.S.

The I-94 form can be accessed at www.cbp.gov/I94. You should receive an instructional paper on how to use the website once you enter the U.S. Always carry your I-94 form with you. Print your I-94 after each return to the U.S. to check for accuracy and preserve travel history.

Spouses and children who have a dependent status may not remain in the United States beyond the period approved for the principal visa holder in order to continue studies.

Children lose their dependent status at the age of 21. They will have to leave the U.S. or apply for a change of status prior to their 21st birthday.

The college assesses tuition and fees in accordance with South Carolina law and Commission on Higher Education regulations. Individuals in some visa categories may be granted in-state tuition, but only if all other residency criteria are satisfied. See whether your visa status qualifies: Determination of Rates of Tuition and Fees.

Applicants that have refugee or asylum status and can show proper documentation will be accepted under out-of-state residency classification until DHS grants permanent resident status. The admissions requirements are the same as for permanent residents.

The Office of Admissions monitors the legal status and enrollment of all international students by placing a hold on a student’s account, which will prevent the student from registering for or withdrawing from classes. You may call 843-525-8208 to make an appointment or you may send your questions to admissions@tcl.edu if you have a hold on your account and provide documentation about your status.

When to notify the International Admissions Coordinator:

  • To report a change of address and/or phone number
  • To report a name change or receipt of a Social Security Number
  • Before changing your major or program of study
  • To report a change in enrollment status
  • When changing to another visa status
  • When applying for permanent residency
  • If you have a hold on your account

Office of Admissions International Student Coordinators:

PDSO: Allison Canning (acanning@tcl.edu)
DSO (New River Campus): admissions@tcl.edu