Center for International Education

TRUAX E1874 
1701 Wright Street
Madison WI 53704 

Hours: Monday - Friday: 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

International Admissions
Email / (608) 243-4108

International Student Services
Email / (608) 243-4108

Study Abroad
Email / (608) 243-4108

CIE Main Office
Call: (608) 246-6201 
Fax: (608) 243-4445

Downtown D115
211 North Carroll Street
Madison WI 53703

Call: (608) 243-4108

Hours: Limited staffing on Wednesday and Friday, please call first.

Visa Information

The first step in getting a student visa is to complete your admission to Madison College through the Center for International Education. Madison College has U.S. federal government permission to host F-1 and M-1 visa-holding students. F-1 and M-1 visa-holding students may also request documentation from Madison College to apply for F-2 and M-2 dependent visas for a spouse and/or children. These visas types are categorized as “non-immigrant student visas” by the U.S. government.

  • Applying Abroad for a Student Visa

    NOTE: Please use this page as a general guide only. It is important to also get F-visa application information directly from the U.S. Embassy/Consulate where you will apply for a nonimmigrant visa since additional or different documents may be required and the application submission method may differ. Contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate nearest you for more information.

    Schedule an appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a visa interview. This may only be done after being admitted and receiving the form I-20 from Madison College. Visa interview appointments must be scheduled using the online system provided by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.

    Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. You will complete an online form and, in many cases, be able to pay the fee online as well. You will then be able to print a receipt, which should be shown at the visa interview and when entering the U.S. on the student visa. 

    Prepare and gather supporting documentation to present to the visa officer at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate when applying for a student visa. Supporting documentation generally includes, but may not be limited to:

    • Student visa application Form DS-160, completed and signed. Blank forms are available with charge at all U.S. consular offices and may be available online.
    • A passport valid for at least six months after your proposed date of entry in the U.S.
    • One photograph 1.5 inches square (37x37mm) showing full face, without head covering, against a light background.
    • A receipt or payment for the visa processing fee.
    • All three pages of the form I-20, provided by Madison College after being admitted. The I-20 must be signed and dated (preferably in blue ink) by the applicant at the bottom of page one in section 11.
    • Financial evidence demonstrating that either the applicant or the financial sponsors have sufficient funds to cover tuition and living expenses for one full year with renewable funding available each subsequent year of study. The financial documentation should match what was provided to Madison College, as listed on the form I-20 in section 8. Financial documentation may include bank statements (with affidavit of support letters as needed), scholarship letters, sponsor employment letters, or other documents showing liquid assets available for educational support.
    • Transcripts of diplomas from previous education institutions attended.
    • Scores from standardized English tests required by the educational institution, such as the TOEFL, IELTS, ACT Compass, etc.
    • Proof of your binding ties to a residence in your home country which you have no intention of abandoning.
    • Receipt indicating payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee.
    • For applicants with dependents only: Proof of the student's relationship to his/her spouse and/or children (i.e. marriage and birth certificates). It is preferred that families apply for F-1 and F-2 visas at the same time, but if the spouse and children must apply separately at a later time, they should bring a copy of the student visa holder's passport and visa, along with all other required documents.

    Learn more about preparing for your Visa interview (PDF, 33 KB).

  • Changing Visa Status in the United States

    Applying for a visa in the U.S. is commonly referred to as “changing visa status,” since an applicant must be in a legal U.S. visa status in order to be eligible to apply for another visa status while remaining in the United States.

    To apply for a visa while remaining in the United States, an applicant must:

    • Currently be present in the U.S. in a legal U.S. visa status,
    • Remain in the U.S. while the change of status application is pending.
    • In many cases, the current visa status must remain valid until the student visa status is approved. That is, a gap between statuses may result in visa denial.

    Please review the differences in this process as compared to applying from abroad:

    • When changing visa status in the U.S., the application is submitted through mail to the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), a branch of the Department of Homeland Security.
    • There is no in-person interview at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate and no direct contact with the visa officer,
    • The decision on the change of status application typically takes 3-4 months,
    • If approved, the student visa status is granted on paper, but a visa stamp/sticker is not physically placed into the passport,
    • An applicant may—and must!—remain in the U.S. while the application is pending, so the cost of traveling abroad and re-entering the U.S. is avoided.

    Below is a detailed list of the application materials and steps necessary to apply for a change of visa status within the U.S. This information is available in a printer-friendly format: Changing Visa Status in the U.S. (PDF, 48 KB)

    Required Documentation and Procedure:

    The first step with applying for a change of visa status:

    • Must be admitted to Madison College. The visa application process cannot be started until after admission has been finalized, so it is important to apply for admission several months before the desired semester of study to allow sufficient time to apply for the visa. PLEASE CHECK APPLICATION DEADLINES.
    • All new international students are required to attend International Orientation, so plan to be on campus at that time.
    • After you have been admitted, you will receive an I-20 form, which must be mailed to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with the following items:
    • A cashier’s check or money order for $290.00 payable to the Department of Homeland Security
    • I-539 form (available from USCIS under “forms”)
    • A letter (signed and dated) explaining your reasons for changing status
    • A photocopy of the I-20 issued by Madison Area Technical College. This document has 3 pages, and must be signed and dated on page 1 at item # 11. Photocopy all 3 pages of the I-20 to send with the application, but keep the original I-20 for your own records. The I-20 is referred to as the “Certificate of Eligibility” in the application instructions.
    • Original I-94 card, if you were issued a paper I-94 card upon arrival to the U.S. or during a change of visa status. If you do not have a paper I-94 card, follow the directions for printing one
    • Photocopies of your identity, expiry, and U.S. visa stamp pages from your passport
    • Photocopies of your current visa status documents, such as the visa stamp and/or adjudication approval notices and/or previously issued student visa documents, including I-20s or DS-2019s
    • Evidence of financial support for your continued stay
    • Proof of paying the SEVIS I-901 fee, which is done by completing an online form. You will then be able to print a receipt, which should be included in your change of status application packet.
    • If changing to or from a dependent visa status, such as H-4 or F-2, you must also include:
      • Photocopies of the primary visa holder’s (spouse or parent) current visa documentation, including I-94 card, visa stamp, and/or adjudication approval notice, etc.
      • Photocopies of the primary visa holder’s (spouse or parent) current visa documentation, including I-94 card, visa stamp, and/or adjudication approval notice, etc.
      • A photocopy of the primary visa holder’s (spouse or parent) passport identity/expiry pages(s)
      • Proof of your familial relationship, such as:
        • A certified copy of your marriage license (for a spouse)
        • Birth certificate (for a child)
    • If you have studied in the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 visa status previously, you must include transcripts from the U.S. educational institutions attended.

    Special Considerations:

    • An F-2 visa holder changing to F-1 status should not begin a program of study prior to obtaining the approval for the change of status from USCIS.
    • A J-1 or J-2 visa holder with the "Two Year Home Residency" requirement [212(e)] is not eligible to change status within the U.S. However, you may apply to obtain the new visa status by applying at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your home country with a letter of no objection. Please note: If you have been approved for a waiver of the "Two Year Home Residency" requirement, you may apply for a Change of Status in the U.S., but you must include proof of the waiver approval with your application.

    After making copies for your records, mail all items with return receipt requested to one of the following addresses:

    If using the U.S. Postal Services:
    P.O. Box 660166
    Dallas, TX 75266

    If using an express mail or courier service:
    ATTN: I-539
    2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
    Suite 400
    Lewisville, TX 75067

    While Your Application Is Pending

    Save your “return receipt” as proof of when you mailed your application to USCIS. The USCIS will later send you an official Receipt Notice acknowledging your application and fee. Keep all these documents for your records.

    If your current visa status does not permit study, you should not begin studying until your status to F-1 has been approved. You are not eligible to receive any benefits of the F-1 status (such as on-campus work permission) until the F-1 status has been granted. If your change of status has not been approved by the term in which you had hoped to begin studying, please discuss deferring your admission with International Student Services:

    If you leave the U.S. while your application is pending, the USCIS will consider your application abandoned and will no longer review your application. If you depart the U.S. after the “date certain” expiration date given to certain visa types (such as B-2, B-1, H-1B, H-4, etc.), this abandonment could seriously affect your eligibility in future visa applications, as you can be seen as overstaying your previously granted period of stay.

    After Receiving Your Approval Notice*

    USCIS will mail you notification of the change. The approval (and its effective date) will be stamped on the I-20 in the upper right corner and on the I-797 Notice of Approval; your revised I-94 card will also note the approved status.

    After receiving the I-797 Notice of Approval, please bring your approval notice (which includes the new I-94 card in the bottom right corner) and stamped I-20 to the Center for International Education, as we must update your record in the college database. Failure to do this may jeopardize your new visa status.

    If you were previously in a dependent visa status, the principal visa holder will need to update his/her records. For example, if your spouse is an F-1 or J-1 student at Madison College or another institution, your spouse must request your F-2 or J-2 record be canceled and removed from his/her I-20.


    If you have questions on this process or if the change of status is denied, please contact us to discuss available options.

    For information on how to apply for a non-immigrant student visa abroad, rather than changing visa status in the U.S., please refer to Applying for Student Visa Abroad above.

  • Canadian Student Visa

    Canadian citizens do not need an F-1 visa stamp to enter the U.S. as an F-1 student. Instead, F-1 status is reviewed and granted by an immigration officer at the U.S.-Canadian border. You will need to have the original I-20, a receipt for the I-901 fee payment and a valid Canadian passport to enter the United States.

    The first step to obtain an I-20 is to be admitted to Madison College in a program or certificate program. Plan 3-4 months before the start of the semester for  processing. All new international students are required to attend the International Orientation, so plan to be on campus at that time. After you have been admitted, you will receive an I-20 form, which must be presented when entering the U.S.

  • Transferring F-1 Visa To Madison College (Transfer In)

    Transferring F-1 Visa to Madison College

    • The first step with transferring your F-1 visa status to Madison College is to be admitted to Madison College.
    • The visa transfer process cannot be started until after admission has been finalized, so it is important to apply 3 - 4 months before the start of the semester that you wish to attend to allow sufficient time to transfer the visa.
    • Once you have been admitted and submitted all documents required for I-20 issuance, you will be emailed a SEVIS Transfer-In Form.
    • Complete the top section of the form and then submit it to an international student advisor at your current institution with a copy of your Madison College admission letter.
    • The completed form must be returned to CIE. Detailed directions are included on the form.

    Please note the following requirements to legally transfer your F-1 visa status to Madison College:

    • If you will be traveling abroad after you have finished studying at your current institution and before the semester begins at Madison College, you must notify the Center for International Education about your travel plans. You are strongly encouraged to request and obtain your new Madison College I-20 before leaving the U.S., since you will need to use the new Madison College I-20 when re-entering the U.S. You are required to attend International Orientation, so please plan your travels accordingly.
    • If you will remain in the U.S. while transferring between institutions, you will receive your new Madison College I-20 after attending International Orientation.
    • You must attend International Orientation in order to legally complete your visa transfer.
    • There can be no more than a 5 month gap between your programs of study. This means that you must continue to be enrolled full-time at your current institution (or on an approved period of Optional Practical Training “OPT”) until at least 5 months before our semester begins.
    • Your current institution must transfer your SEVIS I-20 record within 60 days from the date you finish studying there (or end OPT), so be certain to request the transfer in a timely manner.
    • It is strongly recommended that you keep your current health insurance plan active until the first day of the semester at Madison College, which is the date our insurance coverage begins.

    If you have any questions on the F-1 visa status transfer process, please contact International Student Services.

    Transferring Visa From Madison College  (should be current students)

    If you are a current Madison College student on the F-1 visa who wishes to transfer-out to another college, please read the Information About Transferring Out (PDF 39KB) directions.

  • Academic Requirements

    Full Time Enrollment Requirements

    To maintain visa status, F-1 students must be enrolled in, and actively participating in, at least 12 credits each fall and spring semester. Keep the following in mind to ensure full-time enrollment:

    • Any “non-degree” skill-building or remedial English or math credits will be counted towards full-time enrollment.
    • At least 9 of the 12 credits must be “in person” courses with the instructor. There is a limit of only 3 online credits per semester, unless you are enrolling in more than 12 credits total.
    • Enrollment alone is not sufficient to maintain valid visa status; active participation for the duration of the course is required, as well as making satisfactory academic progress by primarily obtaining passing grades.

    Dropping below 12 Credits is a Visa Violation, CIE Authorization Required:

    Taking fewer than 12 credits without obtaining prior authorization from CIE will result in a visa violation and loss of legal F-1 visa status. To protect the F-1 student a precautionary hold is placed on your account to maintain the 12 credits, contact CIE’s International Student Services to request permission to drop a class based on the following allowable reasons:

    To apply for dropping below required credits based on academic needs (difficulty with English, initial reading requirements, U.S. teaching methods, or incorrect placement level):

    • Academic difficulties or when needing fewer than 12 credits to graduate, the Reduced Course Load (RCL) Recommendation Form (PDF 227 KB) must be completed.
      • The course instructor should complete (if seeking permission to drop a course)
      • An advisor for your program (if seeking permission to enroll less than full time before or shortly after the start of the semester, or if you have fewer than 12 credits remaining for degree completion). 

    NOTE: Complete RCL Recommendation form and obtain approval from CIE before enrolling in fewer than 12 credits or dropping below full-time enrollment. Please allow one week for review as other factors must be considered before granting final authorization.

    To apply for dropping below required credits based on Medical Needs:

    • If you have a medical condition and unable to maintain 12 credits, submit to CIE a letter from a licensed medical doctor or clinical psychologist.
      • These required Medical RCL Details (PDF 66 KB) should be provided to the doctor or psychologist to ensure they are included in the letter. 

    NOTE: The letter must be reviewed by CIE for final approval before enrolling in fewer than 12 credits or dropping below full-time enrollment. Please allow one week for review as other factors must be considered before granting final authorization.

    How Often Is A Reduced Course Load Allowed?

    • Academic Difficulties may be used for only one semester at the associate degree level.
    • Medical Condition may be used for up to three semesters, but the authorization must be requested each semester with a new letter from a doctor or psychologist.
    • Completing the course of study may only be used during the final semester of study.

    IMPORTANT: Poor class attendance could be a Visa violation.
    Active participation for the duration of the course is required. Students who do not attend regularly, stop attending, or never attend a class may be given a grade of “N” (“Non-Attendance”). This results in withdrawal from the class and could result in loss of legal F-1 visa status if the withdrawal causes less than 12 credits of enrollment. Solution: attend class regularly and for the entire duration of the class!

    Need Help? Madison College offers a variety of services to help students succeed.

  • Traveling on F-1 Visa

    Before you travel outside of the US, you should make sure that you have a valid travel signature on the I-20 most recently issued by CIE. The travel signature is:

    • Located on page 2 of the I-20. Valid if it will be less than one year old when you return to the US after your visit abroad. (For example, if the last travel signature was given on July 7, 2015, it can be used for re-entry to the US if you arrive before July 6, 2016.)

    When You Need a New Travel Signature

    Simply bring the most recently issued I-20 to CIE at least one week before you will travel abroad. CIE staff will review your records to verify you have been maintaining valid F-1 visa status and email you when the I-20 has been given a new travel signature.

    • The F-1 visa regulations allow students to travel abroad for less than 5 months while enrolled at a college or university.

    Requirements to Return to the U.S.

    When returning to the US after a visit abroad of less than 5 months, be prepared to show the following documents upon your return:

    • Passport valid for at least six months after the date of reentry
    • Valid F-1 visa stamp*
    • Most recently made I-20 with valid travel signature
    • Recommended: Financial documentation showing proof of tuition and living expenses

    *NOTE: A valid F-1 visa stamp is not needed if returning from a visit of less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean islands (excluding Cuba), as long as valid F-1 visa status has been maintained and will continue after your return. To take advantage of this “automatic extension of visa validity” you must have only visited one of these countries (for example, you cannot travel to Asia before trying to use an expired visa to enter the US from Canada; reentry will be denied in this case) and citizens of the following countries are not eligible for an automatic extension of visa validity: Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba.

    Considerations Before Traveling Abroad

    • Do you need an entrance visa for another country?
    • If your F-visa has expired, have you allowed sufficient time to apply for a new visa while abroad? Schedule your visa interview before you depart the US.
    • Have you checked with CIE to make sure an updated I-20 is not waiting to be collected?
    • Will the travel signature on Page 2 of the I-20 be less than a year old upon your return? If not, bring your I-20 to CIE at least one week before you travel abroad.
    • If you need to travel during the semester (which is generally not recommended), have you notified your instructors and made plans to make-up all missed assignments?
  • Transferring F-1 Visa Out of Madison College

    For F-1 visa international students transferring from Madison College to another college, the first step to transfer your SEVIS I-20 record to another educational institution is to be admitted by another college.

    After being admitted, provide to CIE the following items by email to or in-person:

    1. Copy of your admission letter to the new college.

    2. Your desired transfer release date for SEVIS. Please consider the following information when determining which date you would like your I-20 record to be transferred to your new college in SEVIS:

    • The transfer release date must be after you have completed all course requirements for the semester at Madison College.
    • If you are working on-campus or with an off-campus work authorization, all paid employment must end before the transfer release date.  
    • If you will be completing/graduating from your current program of study at Madison College, the transfer release date must be no later than 60 days after your graduation/completion date.
    • If your I-20 is expiring (see item #5 on page 1 of your most recently issued I-20) and you will not be completing/graduating from your current program of study at Madison College, the transfer release date must be before your I-20 expiration date.
    • SUGGESTION: If you will be travelling abroad after you have finished at Madison College and before you begin at your new college, you should use the I-20 from your new college when returning to the U.S. This means that you may wish to provide CIE with a transfer release date that falls immediately after you have completed all course requirements, so the new college will be able to give you a new I-20 before you travel abroad. If you are unable to get your new I-20 before leaving the U.S., you should arrange for your new college to mail it to you abroad. Please understand that the new college will only be able to make you a new I-20 after the transfer release date you provide to CIE.

    3. Possibly: Some colleges may provide you with a form to be completed by CIE. This form is generally used to gather information about your current visa status, dates of enrollment at Madison College, and your requested transfer release date. CIE will return the form directly to the new college, unless requested otherwise. 

    With the above information, CIE will schedule your I-20 record to transfer in SEVIS on the transfer release date or, if additional processing time is needed, as soon as possible after this date. You will be notified by email after the transfer has been successfully scheduled.

    If you change your mind and wish to either remain at Madison College or to transfer to a different college, please notify CIE immediately. SEVIS only allows us to cancel or change the transfer before the originally scheduled release date.

    If you have any questions about this process please email or visit CIE to meet with the International Student Specialist.