The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.


A growing number of countries are developing Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) programs indigenous to their culture and language. The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) encourages and supports these developments. At the same time, some persons choose to come to the United States for a portion of their CPE training.

The steps involved for an international student to do CPE at an ACPE accredited
program in the United States are as follows


1. The prospective student should send an application directly to an ACPE Center(s) of his/her choice. Some centers do charge an application fee.  General information on how to apply to an ACPE Center is on our Frequently Asked Questions page. For a complete listing of ACPE Accredited Centers, go to our online Directory. Click here to download a CPE application.

2. Once accepted by an ACPE Center, send a copy of your letter of acceptance to the ACPE office and a visa application packet will be sent to the student and the ACPE supervisor. Some forms have to be completed by the student; the others by the supervisor.


3. When the all application forms are received, ACPE will send the student an eligibility form (DS-2019) to take to the US embassy in his/her country to request the visa.


Students who are currently in the US on another visa who want to request a transfer to ACPE's sponsorship, must also submit Form I-539, which can be downloaded from Their current sponsor must also sign the student's current form DS-2019 indicating approval of the transfer.


4. The embassy will either issue the visa, deny the request, or ask for more information.  ACPE does not have any control over this step or how long it may take.


ACPE is currently recommending that students be accepted and get the visa application materials to ACPE no later than six months before the start date of the CPE program to which he/she has been accepted .


Contact if you have additional questions.



Tobey Willis

Alternate Responsible Officer

Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.

1549 Clairmont Rd, Suite 103

Decatur, GA 30033

ph 404-320-1472

fax 404-320-0849







•  What kind of visa does the ACPE sponsor?


The ACPE sponsors only one kind of visa the J-1 trainee visa.


There are many other kinds of J-1 visas, for visiting scholars, research assistants, etc. but the ACPE does not sponsor any other kind of visa.


As the visa sponsor, ACPE provides you with a Certificate of Eligibility (Form DS-2019) for the J-1 visa . The certificate must be presented in person at the US embassy or consulate office in your home country to request the visa.


•  What are the time frames involved in a J-1 visa?


The J-1 visa can be issued for no less than 3 months and nor more than 18 months.

There is a lifetime maximum of a total of 18 months under ACPE's sponsorship on a single J-1 visa and several J-1 visas (over several summers for example).


•  Can I do CPE with any other kind of visa?


The F-1 student visa is acceptable for units of CPE with no stipend.

The B-1 visitor visa is acceptable for units of CPE with no stipend.


The F-1 student visa with a work permit ( OPT -Optional Practical Training or CPT -Clinical Practical Training) is acceptable for CPE with or without a stipend.


The R visa (religious worker) visa is acceptable for CPE with or without a stipend, but the visa sponsor must approve in writing for the international to be in CPE as their religious work. The R visa is usually for 3-5 years. ACPE cannot advise on obtaining this kind of visa.


There is an H visa (special employee) that sometimes can be used for CPE (especially supervisory education) if the international is actually being hired by the institution . ACPE cannot advise on obtaining this kind of visa.


In all cases, the critical thing is that the visa be valid for the entire period of CPE.

If the visa expires before CPE ends, the international will have to seek an extension from their visa sponsor (school, denomination, employer). The ACPE cannot help with this.

If no extension is possible, the international can apply through ACPE for a Change in Category. This process must be started at least 45 days before the current visa expires.


More information on all types of visas can be found at


•  What are the recommended deadlines for applying for the visa sponsorship from ACPE?


ACPE should have all your materials no later than six months before the starting date of CPE. We will accept applications after that, but cannot guarantee that we can complete the process in time for CPE or even if we will have an eligibility certificate to issue you. Each year the ACPE has a limited number of certificates and will issue them on a first-come, first-served basis to qualified international students with a completed application on file. Others will be placed on a waiting list.



•  How do I apply?


A visa application packet can be sent to you and the ACPE Supervisor after you have been accepted into CPE . Both must complete several forms and submit them and other documentation to ACPE.


ACPE does not send out this packet until a student is accepted.


ACPE cannot do anything until all paperwork is complete.


There is no fee to the international student for this service.


  What happens after I turn in all my paperwork to ACPE?


As the visa sponsor, once your application is complete, ACPE provides you with a Certificate of Eligibility for the J-1 visa. The certificate is sent to you by Express Mail, Federal Express, or DHL. The certificate must be presented in person at the US embassy or consulate office in your home country to request the visa.


A fee of $100 dollars must be paid online through the SEVIS system before you can make your interview appointment with the embassy. ACPE will send instructions on how to pay this fee with your certificate.


•  What if it is a long time before I can get an appointment with the embassy or they deny me the visa?


ACPE cannot do anything to expedite the interview appointment schedule of the embassies.


Denials cannot be appealed. ACPE cannot do anything to change a denial.



•  What do I do once I go to the embassy?


You should immediately notify ACPE and the ACPE Center of the decision of the embassy. If you are approved, please send ACPE a copy of all your visa paperwork . If some of the paperwork is in a sealed envelope, you can send ACPE a copy of it after you arrive in the US.


•  What if I am coming from Canada?


The paperwork is the same. Instead of going to the embassy however, you must pay your fee online and then on the day of your entry into the USA, present your passport, SEVIS receipt, and Eligibility Certificate (DS-2019) at the border for approval.


•  How soon can I come to the USA?


You can enter the USA 30 days before your CPE begins. It is highly recommended that you do this and use this time to orient yourself to the USA and to apply for the Social Security Number, which is necessary to get paid your stipend. In order to apply for number, you must first notify ACPE of your arrival in the USA, then you must wait 10 business days, and go to the local Social Security Administration to apply. They should give you a confirmation of your application. You can take this to your CPE center and use it until you get your actual number.


•  Can I bring family with me?


Spouse and children (under 21) can come at the same time or later during your CPE. Your must submit their passport and other information along with your application to ACPE. Their visas will end when yours ends. Work is not permitted for any of them.


•    What if I need to work?


ACPE must approve in writing any work you do while in CPE. Typically only part time work that is financially necessary will be approved.


•    How long can I stay in the USA after CPE ends?


30 days. No exceptions, unless you have obtained another kind of visa.

•    What if I want to travel outside of the US while I have my visa?


Any and all travel outside of the US must be approved by the ACPE in advance and we must sign your DS-2019 form. You will need this form with the travel validation signature in order to reenter the USA.






Sources for purchasing International Student insurance at the levels required by the federal government:


1. American College Student Association


2. Visit USA Healthcare


3. Compass Benefits Group


4. Health Plan Administrators, Inc.



If your CPE Program is going to provide insurance, please obtain a letter from the supervisor detailing the coverage that will be provided.


The US embassy or consulate may require you to show proof of insurance coverage.



The importance of being competent in the English language cannot be overemphasized. Students must be able to express themselves and pick up subtle feelings in others. This is a major part of the CPE experience. Possessing an adequate English vocabulary to communicate in pastoral, clinical and theological contexts is essential for CPE in the United States.

Students whose primary language is other than English are advised to take the TOEFL (The Overseas English Foreign Language) test. A score above 500 is expected. A lower score indicates additional language study and experience will be needed before entering a CPE program. A frequently helpful remedy is a period of study at a seminary, perhaps near the CPE center in the United States, which provides exposure to the culture and language under less pressure than in the context of CPE.

Most international students find that even when a stipend is provided it is often inadequate or barely adequate to cover necessary living costs. Additional financial resources are usually needed to supplement the stipend. International students are also required to have health insurance.
When inquiring or making application to CPE programs, the following questions and concerns may be important in deciding on a training center.

Location: In what part of the country is the training program located? Factors of location such as climate, accessibility, and living expenses may be serious considerations.

Nature of Setting: Programs are located in a variety of institutions such as hospitals, prisons, psychiatric facilities and parishes. The type of institution may be significant for both long and short range ministry goals.

Finances: Financial arrangements and other compensation benefits vary considerably from center to center. In some centers stipends cannot be given to non-citizens. Most centers charge a training fee.

Supervision: The CPE supervisor's previous experience with other international students may be valuable to know. Has the supervisor worked or studied in another culture? What about the nature of the supervisor's style and program content?

Transportation: What is the availability and cost of public transportation near the training center? Is a car required? What are the added costs of transportation from the U.S. entry city to the CPE center? Some places in the United States are more difficult and more expensive to reach than others.

Community: Is a church community of the same denomination or theological family available for support? How does the community relate to people from other cultures? Being in a supportive community environment and keeping in touch with persons from the same cultural tradition or spiritual family can strengthen the learning experience.

Copyright 2008, The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc.    All Rights Reserved.