Travel to the United States
If approved for a visa, you are allowed to enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date listed on your SEVIS I-20 form.
Before traveling to the United States, review the information below:
Documents required to enter the country
F-1 visa students must provide the following documents when entering the country:
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry.
With the exception of Canadian citizens, all students entering the U.S. 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 must still 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 U.S., if you have been out of the country for more than 5 months, you are required to renew your F-1 visa at an embassy or consular post before travelling to the United States.
Initial I-20 form or Transfer Pending I-20 form
- If you are a new F-1 visa student entering the U.S. for the first time, or if you have not attended school in the U.S. for more than 5 months, you will have an Initial I-20 form. It is valid as long as you enter the country on or before the program start date listed on your I-20 form.
The Initial I-20 form used to enter the U.S. must be the same one used to apply for the F-1 visa. If you use a different initial I-20 form, the school name listed on the I-20 form will not match the one noted on the F-1 visa, and you may not be allowed to enter the country. If you decide to attend a different school before entering the United States, you must go back to the embassy or consulate that issued your visa and request an updated visa.
- If you are a transfer student, 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, do not use I-20 forms from previous schools. They are no longer valid.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 details, see the “Applicants Transferring from Other U.S. Institutions” section on our webpage.
In addition to the above items, it is strongly recommended to hand carry the following:
- Evidence of financial resources
- Evidence of student status (tuition receipts, acceptance letters, class schedule)
- Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee, Form I-797
At the port of entry
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) will inspect all travelers coming to the United States. F-1 students must give the officer their passport and I-20 form (also be prepared to provide your bank statement if it is requested). If the officer finds no problems or issues when reviewing the documents, the officer will return the passport and I-20 form to you, and create an Arrival and Departure Record, referred to as the I-94 Admission Record.
If you arrive in the United States by air or by sea, you will have an electronic I-94 Admission Record. If you make your initial entry to the United States through a land border (for example, drive into the country from Canada), you will be issued a paper I-94 Admission Record. In both cases, the USCBP Officer will stamp your passport with the date of entry, visa class of admission, and the date you must depart the United States. The electronic record will include your name and the same information indicated with the passport stamp. Note that F-1 students are admitted for Duration of Status, which allows them to stay in the U.S. as long as their I-20 form is still valid.
If you need to view your electronic I-94 Admission Record, or print a copy, access it on USCBP’s website: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/consent.html. If you have a paper copy of your I-94 Admission Record, keep it stapled in your passport opposite your F-1 visa.
Additional information on the I-94 Admission Record can be found on USCBP’s website: http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/i-94-instructions.
Other items to bring
Please find below a list of items you should bring to Seattle:
Clothing: A selection of clothing items for all seasons and weather conditions. Click here for more information on Seattle's climate.
Shoes: Comfortable shoes. Sandals and boots may be useful too.
Money: Combination of cash, traveler’s check and credit cards. Make sure you can cover at least your first month’s expenses and first quarter tuition (about $4,500). Never carry a large amount of cash!
Medicine, Eyeglasses and/or Contact Lenses: Bring extras! If you have any health concerns or medical conditions, bring a copy of medical, dental and immunization records.
Personal Items: pictures of your family and friends, small gifts, traditional clothes, maps, posters, music and items that represent you or your culture. These items will be helpful for you to introduce yourself to people who you meet here and keep you feel close to home.
Food Items: Although there are strict rules on customs, you may want to pack a few non-perishable foods, sweets, and/or cooking spices.
Official secondary school and university transcripts: Students enrolling for the College Transfer or Fast Track / High School Completion programs may be asked by the university where they apply to transfer to provide official transcripts from schools they have attended outside the United States. This includes official records of your secondary school or university classes, grades, and diploma (if you earned one) beginning with Grade 9. These can be original documents or copies your secondary school has certified. Since it can be difficult to get your secondary transcripts once you are in the United States, we recommend that you bring with you multiple originals or copies your secondary school has certified as official, so you can include them with your university application if required.
Reminder: Most airlines only allow one check-in luggage and one personal item for carry on. Check with the airline prior to deciding what to bring with you on the airplane.