Requirements & Deadlines
Application for Visa Certificate Supporting Documentation
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||Yahoo! 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 available at http://www.fmjfee.com.
Lastly, you must submit the online Form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application). U.S. Embassies and Consulates requiring Form-DS-160 may be found at http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/forms/forms_4230.html 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.
Living & Learning In NYC
New York City:
Theological education at GTS, the most urban of Episcopal seminaries, embodies a particular set of academic and cultural possibilities born out of its cosmopolitan environment. Deliberately, the General Theological Seminary seeks to cultivate the unique opportunities for learning offered by our location.
In addition to the city's 94 universities and colleges, the metropolitan area is home to nine major seminaries. Cooperative arrangements between General Seminary and several other schools open most elective course offerings at these institutions to full-time General students. General students wishing to take courses at Union Theological Seminary, New York Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Drew University Theological School, Jewish Theological Seminary or Fordham University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences may register for them at General. A special arrangement with the Columbia University Department of Religion exists for doctoral candidates.
Spouses and partners of students who wish to continue their education will find New York University, the Fashion Institute of Technology, the New School, Fordham University, the School for Visual Arts, City University of New York and other fine institutions a very convenient distance from the General campus.The City's libraries are also an important academic resource. General students have full privileges at the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary. In addition to the dozens of other nearby institutions with specialized collections, the New York Public Library, representing the largest public collection of bound volumes in the USA (10.7 million), is within walking distance of Chelsea Square.
New York City is home to the headquarters of the Episcopal Church, the office of its Presiding Bishop, the office of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations, the Church Publishing Company, and the Church Pension Fund. The offices of other Christian bodies here include the National Council of Churches, the Graymoor Ecumenical Institute, the Vatican Mission, and the Interchurch Center. The largest Jewish population outside the Middle East is found in the NYC metropolitan area. The Islamic Center on the Upper East Side and the Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple on Riverside Drive are national centers for these communities of faith.
For many Seminary students the close proximity to dozens of Episcopal and other congregations where they may visit, worship, and undertake field education or research assignments during their time in Chelsea Square is a primary advantage in being at the General Theological Seminary. Nearly all are communities where, since its founding, the Seminary's students, faculty and alumni/ae have made significant and lasting contributions.
For relaxation and enrichment, the cultural opportunities presented by New York's theater, art and concert offerings are world-renowned. A scholarship program gives GTS students an opportunity each term to attend a cultural performance as a part of their theological education.
The metropolitan area is home to over thirty major museums with specializations ranging from modern art to broadcasting. The largest collection of early and medieval Christian art in North America is found in the Metropolitan Museum and The Cloisters, and guided tours are available for our students, frequently conducted by GTS faculty members. And, as many of our professors will attest, New York City is a bibliophile's wonderland. The Strand Bookstore boasts eight miles of shelves on its basement and main floors alone.
The City's subway system handles over 3.4 million riders on an average workday, and the concentrated energy of rush hour is a unique New York experience. For those with a lower anxiety threshold, the possibility of finding almost anything one needs in the neighborhood of Chelsea affords a rare degree of choice about how often to take the urban plunge.
GTS students, with the help of residents and neighborhood volunteers, work in conjunction with the City's Partnership for the Homeless to help make a difference in our community.
The tremendous economic, ethnic and cultural diversity, along with unparalleled educational resources, are the reason Seminary graduates consistently point to General's New York location as one of its greatest assets.
The dynamic relationship between worship and academics is a central hallmark of life at the GTS and its concept of formation for ministry. Each day, the Daily Offices are prayed and the Holy Eucharist is celebrated in the Chapel. Chapel attendance creates a shared framework for living in the Seminary community as we experience God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In 1886, on the eve of the laying of the cornerstone for the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, Dean Hoffman spoke prophetic words when he said that the Chapel, "by its central position, its devout communions, its daily offered prayers, and its divine teaching. . . will daily remind them that in addition to, and far above the education of the library and the lecture room, there is a spiritual preparation needed for the priests of the Church."
Chapel worship utilizes the rites of the Book of Common Prayer, the new forms from Enriching Our Worship, and supporting liturgical materials. The Eucharist is celebrated according to the Lutheran rite on a scheduled basis as well. Ordained members of the community serve as celebrants and deacons at the daily celebrations of the Eucharist, and all faculty serve as officiants at Evensong. In their first year of study, students serve as acolytes, and later as readers and officiants at the Daily Office. Staff members and members of student and faculty households, including children, are encouraged to participate in Chapel services. Members of the entire community are invited to take a hand in composing the intercessory prayers of the Eucharist.
On Tuesdays, an evening celebration of the Eucharist provides an opportunity for the entire seminary community, and especially families, to come together at the Lord's Table. Tuesday's evening Eucharist is followed by a community meal in the Refectory. On Tuesdays, Fridays, and feast days, the sermons are preached by faculty members, senior students, or distinguished guests.
Evensong, a service historically beloved of Anglicans and a distinctive feature of the worship life of the Seminary over many generations, is sung four evenings each week. Heralded by ten minutes of hymns played on the tower chimes and opening with the procession of the faculty, Evensong retains a formal beauty which is at one with the chapel's architecture and furnishings, the choir-wise seating arrangement being conducive to the antiphonal recitation of the daily office.
Central to the worship life of the Chapel is the participation of three primary chapel guilds. The Guild of Sacristans maintains the chapel furnishings and vessels and makes all necessary provisions for the smooth conduct of services. The Guild of Precentors comprises the cantors who provide vocal prompting at services and gather as a group on Monday evenings to lead the community in singing Compline. The Guild of Chimers is responsible for playing the Seminary's historic set of fifteen Durfee tubular tower chimes. Rung mechanically, they may be heard each morning and evening throughout the neighborhood of Chelsea, calling the Seminary community together for the corporate worship of God.
While welcoming and accommodating a growing number of commuter students, the Seminary believes that students gain substantially from their Seminary experience by being participating residents of the Seminary community. There are dormitory accommodations and apartments available within the Close. Students must be full-time in order to qualify for GTS housing. Apartments are rented on a twelve-month basis except when the student graduates sooner. Pets are welcome in all GTS housing units.
Dormitory rooms are furnished with basic essentials: dresser, desk, chair and bed. Students need to supply blankets, linen, lamps and any other furnishings they desire. Most one- or two-bedroom apartments have a kitchen with refrigerator and stove, bathroom, and living room. However, size varies from efficiency to three-bedroom apartments. The amount and size of furniture you bring must be planned carefully. Although there are no connections in the apartments for personal washers or dryers, a laundry room with washers and dryers accommodating debit-card payment is maintained by the General Theological Seminary. Gas and electricity are included in the rent, but telephone, television, and cable television costs are not.
The cost of meals (continental breakfast and lunch) for the school year will be $2,700 ($1,350 per semester). This price will include the cost for the three special meals per year i.e. Matriculation, St. Nicholas event and Graduating class dinner. Wine for two events will be included (Matriculation and Graduating class).
All students must comply with the GTS Housing Policy as stated in the Community Life Handbook. Please refer to the Housing Policy, as included in the application, for further information. If you would like a copy of the Community Life Handbook, it may be obtained from Anthony Khani, Vice President of Operations by e-mail.