Thank you for visiting our webpage. Union Presbyterian Seminary has been equipping ordained ministers, church leaders, and Christian educators for the global church for more than 200 years. UPSem’s Global Mission Center for Christian Education, established in 2018, is committed to continuing and nurturing UPSem’s commitment to the church universal by hosting students from overseas at our Richmond campus. Here, men and women seeking to follow their call to ministry are transformed by interactions with distinguished and caring professors, research in a world-class library, thoughtfully designed curricula, and innumerable learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom. We treasure and celebrate the insights and experiences international students bring to the classroom and the seminary community, as these enhance the learning/teaching environment on campus.
We offer three degree programs to international students: Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Arts in Christian Education (M.A.C.E.), and Master of Theology (Th.M.). The M.Div. and M.A.C.E. programs are designed for students who have completed a bachelor’s degree. We also offer the M.A.C.E. program in a global format, in which a candidate may complete the first year in residence at our Richmond campus and the second year in their home context. Our one-year Th.M. program, which is designed for students who have already completed an M.Div., is tailored to meet the needs of theological education in the global church.
Our Doctor of Ministry program is designed specifically for those engaged in ministry in the North American context and is not open to international students.
Welcome from the UPSem faculty and staff!
Check out an alumnus testimonial
After successfully obtaining my Masters Degree in Christian Education, I was promoted in my Church to become a Presbytery Moderator in the Upper Northern Presbytery. All that I have learned has really broadened my mind, which is having a positive impact on the execution of my work.
–Rev. Vincent Dagadu
Presbytery Moderator in the Upper Northern Presbytery Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana
I always think of the word “community” when I think of my experience at UPSem. I learned the meaning and practice of community in class, on campus, and every moment I met students, staff, and faculty in person. Perhaps, the methodology would be “Jesus Christ.” As Jesus did, it was natural for members to become witnesses of community life, learn from each other, and encouraging one another.
Of course, there were challenges and struggles to become one body. I thought that embracing otherness might result in losing myself. But, the challenges became the opportunities to grow! I’ve learned that understanding and accepting otherness does not mean losing myself. My life becomes more colorful because of otherness. In fact, just like a mosaic, “Me-ness” was defined by otherness.
PhD Candidate, Seoul Women’s University
M.Div. 2011; Th.M. 2012
- International Applicants
- Financial Aid
- F-1 Visa Information
- International Student Employment
- International Student Orientation
- Short-Term Visiting Scholars
International students are invited to apply to any of our full-time, residential degree programs on the Richmond campus (M.Div, M.A.C.E., Global Format M.A.C.E., Dual Degrees program, or Th.M.). These students should apply for an F-1 student visa through their local U.S. consulate. More information about the F-1 visa application process can be found below.
The following requirements are in addition to the basic degree or advanced degree application requirements, found here:
- English Language Proficiency: International applicants who do not speak, read, or write English as their first language are required to submit current scores from the four sections of the internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT). Scores from the paper-based test will no longer be accepted. Applicants must achieve a minimum of 20 on each section of the TOEFL iBT in order to be considered for admission. We will not accept IELTS scores in lieu of TOEFL iBT scores. Test information is available from Educational Testing Services at www.ets.org. Our institution code is 5805. Those who have completed a Bachelor’s or higher level of study in an institution in the United States of America may request an exemption from the Director of Admissions.
- Interviews: For M.Div, M.A.C.E., Global Format M.A.C.E., and Dual Degrees program, interviews with both a member of the faculty and the Director of Admissions are required. If you are applying for the Th.M. program, interviews with both the Director of Graduate Studies and a (the) member of the faculty with whom you wish to study are required. Once we have received your completed application and your TOEFL scores, we will help you schedule the interviews. There are three ways in which you may interview: in person on either campus, by Skype or Zoom, or by phone. Please email Admissions Assistant Sheridan Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 804-278-4221 to arrange your interview.
- Financial Requirements: Once a student has been admitted to a degree program and financial obligations have been met, UPSem is authorized by the United States government to issue a Form I-20. The Form I-20 is required in order to apply for the F-1 visa through the U.S. consulate in your home country. In order to issue an I-20, the government requires UPSem to certify that you already have sufficient funds to cover living and educational expenses for yourself for the duration of the program.
The two financial obligations that must be met before the I-20 can be issued are:
- Submit the Certification of Funding form and supporting documentation. The Certificate of Funding form outlines how you plan to pay for your seminary education and provide for yourself and any dependents who will accompany you to the U.S. while you are studying at UPSem.
- Pay a deposit equal to five months of estimated academic and living expenses for the student and all dependents.
Upon admission, the student should fill out the I-20 Request Form and submit it to the International Student Advisor, Elisabeth Elliott (email@example.com). Using the information provided on the form, the International Student Advisor will inform the student by email of (1) the estimated annual living expenses and (2) the amount required for the living expenses deposit. Upon receipt of these estimates, the student may complete the Certificate of Funding.
Estimated annual living expenses are based on the current year’s estimated living expenses provided by the Dean of Students, which will be provided. Students who have dependents living with them in the U.S. ought to add $5,000 for each dependent.
Living expense deposits are equal to five months of living expenses, minus UPSem scholarships.
All international students and their family members living in the U.S. are required to have health insurance through a company approved by UPSem. Students will be registered for a plan with International Student Insurance unless they request and are granted permission to choose a different plan.
You may use the worksheet provided to estimate your annual living expenses and the amount of your living expenses deposit, however the official budgets will be prepared by the International Student Advisor.
All international students begin study in the Fall term (with the exception of those students planning to complete the Summer Language term). All forms and deposits must be submitted no later than May 1 for each year of study.
Students who are admitted and qualify for need-based financial aid may receive funds for up to 100% of tuition. Particularly well-qualified international students may receive aid in the form of merit scholarships. However, international students who accept merit-based scholarships are not eligible for institutional need-based aid. Financial aid will not cover all travel or living expenses.
International students are considered for scholarship aid in the same way that domestic students are considered. Any qualified students, regardless of their country of origin, may be offered a Merit Scholarship. In addition, there are a few scholarships specifically offered to international students. Merit scholarships are awarded to full-time degree-seeking students in the M.Div., M.A.C.E., or dual degree programs who show genuine promise for exceptional leadership in the life of the church, demonstrated by excellent academic achievement and participation in the common life of their churches and/or communities. Scholarships begin at 100% of tuition and may include an additional grant. To be eligible for a Merit scholarship, an international student must have applied by December 15.
F-1 Visa Information
Applying for a Visa:
Once you have been accepted to a degree program at UPSem, the next step is to begin the visa application process. Complete information about applying for a visa is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs here. With the exception of short-term visiting scholars, all international students at UPSem should apply for an F-1 student visa. Follow the application instructions exactly as they appear on your local consulate’s website.
- As part of your visa application, you will be required to schedule an interview at the U.S. consulate in your home country. When you go to the US Consulate, you will need to take the signed form I-20, your receipt proving payment of the SEVIS fee, proof of your payment of the visa application fees, and other documents that support your case. Please consult the U.S. consulate website for information about where to pay your visa application fees and about making your appointment.
- Visa denials are rare, but they do happen. If your visa is denied or delayed, please contact the International Student Advisor as soon as possible for guidance.
- If you are an international student transferring from another U.S. institution, please complete the Transfer Request Form in addition to the steps below.
Regulations and Reporting Requirements:
Complete regulations can be found here.
- As an F-1 student, you must continuously satisfy certain requirements to remain in status. You must:
- Enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before your program of study begins.
- Contact the International Student Advisor immediately after you enter the United States.
- Attend the school authorized on your I-20.
- When you arrive at school, you need to contact the International Student Advisor again, no later than the program start date listed on your I-20.
- Be enrolled in a full course of study each year (for MACE students this is 18 credit hours per year, for MDiv students this is 27 credit hours per year.) Receive authorization before accepting employment of any kind, including internships.
- Avoid public assistance monies (welfare, food stamps, etc.)
- Keep your passport valid for at least 6 months in advance of the current date at all times.
- Students must immediately speak with the International Student Advisor before doing any of the following:
- There are certain circumstances in which you can request reduced enrollment, especially in your first semester of study, if approved by the International Student Advisor. To request reduced enrollment, fill out the Reduced Course Load Request
- Change your degree program.
- Transfer to a new school or take a leave of absence
- Travel outside the U.S.
- Request a program extension.
- Move to a new address.
- As an F-1 student, you must continuously satisfy certain requirements to remain in status. You must:
The responsibility for maintaining legal status in the U.S. belongs to the student. It is extremely important that students be vigilant about following U.S. immigration laws because violations will result in harsh consequences, such as not being permitted to complete your studies here at UPSem. We do not want this to happen and will assist students with maintaining your legal status to make sure each student’s stay in the U.S. is a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
International students should schedule an appointment with the International Student Advisor (Elisabeth Elliott, firstname.lastname@example.org) at the beginning of each term in order to verify continued compliance with the above.
- If you have an F-1 visa and are planning to travel outside the US, you will need a travel signature on your I-20 obtained within the last 12 months. To request a travel authorization, please contact the International Student Advisor.
- You will also need to ensure that your visa will be valid when you plan to return. If your visa has expired, you will need to re-apply for a new visa before you can return to the United States.
Upon Program Completion
- Once you have completed your program of study, you have 60 days from the program completion date on your I-20 to leave the United States. If you wish to extend your stay in the U.S., you must apply for OPT, transfer to another school, or apply to change to another visa status.
International Student Employment
Complete information on employment regulations for F-1 students and their dependents can be found here.
Because the primary purpose of the F-1 visa is for full-time study, the U.S. government limits the amount of time and ways in which F-1 visa holders can work. Any agreement of compensation, whether monetary or otherwise (housing, use of a vehicle, a stipend, etc.) is considered employment per the Department of Labor. In general, F-1 visa holders are only permitted to be employed in on-campus jobs. Employment is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Students may work more than 20 hours per week while school is not in session. There are a few exceptions to this rule, and all exceptions must be approved by the International Student Advisor. F-2 spouses and dependents are not permitted to work under any circumstances.
On-campus job openings are posted regularly through Blackboard, and questions regarding on-campus employment can be directed to Michelle Walker, Dean of Students, at email@example.com.
Practical training is a legal means by which F-1 students can obtain on-the-job training in areas related to their academic field of study. Practical training allows international students to work for pay or as unpaid interns off-campus while they are still pursuing their studies as well as immediately following their graduation. There are two types of practical training for F-1 international students:
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
CPT may be authorized by UPSem for F-1 students participating in employment or training that is required for their degree program. This could include CPE and supervised ministry work, and it can be paid or volunteer. In most cases, the student will not be permitted to work more than 20 hours per week total while school is in session, including additional on-campus employment. Authorization for CPT is indicated on the student’s copy of the I-20 form and will include the name of the company, beginning and ending dates, and the signature of the International Student Advisor.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
OPT is an internship or employment that is not necessarily required for the completion of the degree, but that further equips the student in his/her field of study. It can be undertaken before, during, or after the completion of the degree, for up to a total of up to 12 months. If OPT is undertaken while school is in session, it must be on a part-time basis. After the completion of the degree or during school breaks, however, students may work full time.
- OPT must be authorized by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) based on a recommendation from the International Student Advisor at UPSem. Students who have been granted permission for OPT will be issued an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by USCIS, which will contain their name, photo, and valid dates of employment. Employers should note that the average processing time for USCIS to issue the EAD is two or three months, and students may begin employment only after they receive the EAD which will indicate the starting and ending dates of employment.
- Complete information about OPT can be found here.
Social Security Number (SSN):
Social Security is the name of the federal insurance program run by the U.S. government that benefits retirees and Americans who become unable to work. An SSN is required for many official transactions in the U.S., including employment. If you are authorized to work in the U.S. and you have a job, you must have a SSN. More information on obtaining an SSN for noncitizens can be found here.
To apply for an SSN, please do the following in this order:
- Obtain a letter from your employer
- Obtain a letter of good standing from the International Student Advisor at UPSem
- Take these documents, along with your passport, valid I-20, and current I-94 to the Social Security office at 1834 W Cary St. The office is open Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm, except Wednesdays when it closes at 12pm. It is also closed on federal holidays. Social Security will send your SSN to you by US mail 7-14 days after you apply.
Taxes for International Students:
Complete information about taxes for international students can be found here.
- International students should be aware that they may be liable to pay taxes during their time in the United States. UPSem is required to report the grant money you receive in excess of tuition, fees and books to the IRS via form 1042-S. In some cases, depending on the country you are from, this may be taxable to you. Only certain countries have a tax treaty with the US excluding this scholarship income. UPSem will use form W-8BEN to gather the necessary information to report your income to the IRS.
- Students will also be required to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) with the IRS via form W-7, unless the student already has or will apply for a Social Security Number (SSN).
- Questions about what the Seminary will report to the IRS should be directed to Jennifer Britton, Controller, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Student Orientation
All F-1 visa holders are required to attend International Student Orientation on the Richmond campus in August immediately preceding matriculation. Other students who are new to higher education in the United States are strongly encouraged to attend. The program focuses on the knowledge and skills that international students will need to flourish in the seminary’s academic programs. The curriculum includes a variety of tasks and activities–communicative and interactive, academic and cultural–with a strong emphasis on written work. For questions, please contact the International Student Advisor, Elisabeth Elliott (email@example.com, 804-278-4231)
Short-Term Visiting Scholars
In addition to our full-time students, the Global Mission Center for Christian Education hosts doctoral candidates and theological educators on sabbatical leaves from around the world to pursue research in our world-class library. These visitors must apply for a B-2 visitor’s visa, which permits a stay of up to 90 days. More information on applying for the B-2 Visitor’s Visa can be found below.
Complete information about applying for a B-2 visitor’s visa can be found here.
Doctoral students and scholars at theological institutions abroad who are interested in spending time on UPSem’s campus should approach the Academic Dean, Ken McFayden (firstname.lastname@example.org) with their research agenda, curriculum vitae, and a letter from their employer or research advisor.
Forms, Links, and Documents
This link will take you to a report containing important information about campus security. A paper copy of this report is available from the seminary business office upon request. Student Right to Know Report
Union Presbyterian Seminary does not discriminate among applicants to, or participants in, its degree programs on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, national origin, or physical disability.