Travel to the United States

F-1 visa students entering the United States must have a passport valid for at least 6 months, a valid F-1 visa (except for citizens of Canada) and a valid I-20 form. They should also have ready recent proof of financial ability (bank statement) to show the officer in case this information is requested.


Initial I-20 form

If you are a new F-1 visa student entering the United States for the first time, or if you have not attended school in the United States for more than 5 months, then you will have an Initial I-20 form. It is valid as long as you are entering the United States on or before the program start date in Section 5 of the I-20 form.  

The Initial I-20 form used to enter the United States must be the same I-20 form you used to apply for your  F-1 visa (the school’s name will be noted on the visa). If the school name on the I-20 form does not match the school name on the F-1 visa for your first entry to the United States, you may not be allowed to enter the country.   

If a student has been granted an F-1 visa to start at Seattle Central, and then, before entering the United States, you decide to attend a different school, you must go to the embassy or consulate that issued the visa and request an update of your visa from the visa officer.

I-20 Forms for Transfer Students

If you are a transfer student, then you should have a Transfer Pending I-20 form from Seattle Central, with a signature on page 3. If you have the Transfer Pending I-20 form from Seattle Central, you should not use the I-20 form from any of your previous schools, as these are no longer valid.   

You may also be a transfer student whose SEVIS record was terminated or completed by your previous school. If you are outside of the United States, Seattle Central will have issued you an Initial I-20 form on a new SEVIS record.

For more information, refer to the “Applicant Transferring from Other U.S. Institutions” section on our webpage.

F-1 Visa

With the exception of Canadian citizens, all students entering the United States must have a valid F-1 visa in their passport. If you are a transfer student with a signature on page 3 of your Transfer Pending I-20 form, you still must have a valid visa to be granted entry.

Although you may have a valid F-1 visa in your passport from a previous time studying in the United States, if you have been outside the United States for more than 5 months, the U.S. State Department requires you to renew your F-1 visa at an embassy or consular post before travelling to the United States.

At the Port of Entry

While on the plane to the United States, you will complete an I-94 Arrival / Departure Record. This form is required of all non-immigrants entering the United States.

At the airport, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) will inspect all travelers coming to the United States. You must give the officer your passport, I-20 form and I-94 form for inspection (be prepared to provide your bank statement if it is requested). If the officer finds no problems or issues when reviewing the forms, the officer will return the passport and I-20 form to you, and give you the I-94 card to keep in your passport. It is very important not to lose the I-94 card, as it is a physical record of your arrival in the United States. Contact the international office right away if you have lost this card.

Beginning April 30, 2013, USCBP will stop issuing a paper I-94 card at air and seaports in the United States. Instead, USCBP will create an electronic I-94 card within its own system. USCBP will do this gradually over a 4-week period, adding new air and sea ports each week. By May 21, 2013, all air and sea ports will stop issuing a paper I-94 card. If you arrive in the United States between April 30 and May 21, 2013, you may or may not be issued an I-94 card on entry, depending on the air or sea port where you arrive. If you enter the United States via a land border from Canada or Mexico, you will continue to receive a paper I-94 card.  

In case you need a paper copy of the I-94 card for your records, you may print one from the USCBP’s website

Additional information on arriving in the United States can be found on the Study in the States website: